“Disaster”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 About three weeks ago, I was working in the garden planting a small rose bush when disaster struck.  Have you ever inadvertently cut down, stepped on or otherwise destroyed a favorite plant?

 I was working in rather tight quarters while planting Caldwell Pink, a gift rosebush from Phillip of Dirt Therapy, and I was trying to be careful.  As I was just finishing up planting, my foot got caught on the Swamp clematis (Clematis Crispa) and broke off the only stem on the plant.  This is a plant I have had only since last spring after trying for over four years to find one. 

 One of the reasons this is so hard to find is that only one vendor here has it, and she usually only sells wholesale.  I just happened to find her at a March Garden show with only one left which I quickly scooped up. 

 As soon as I saw what had happened, I almost died.  I couldn’t believe what had happened.  I quickly grabbed the broken off stem and made a bee line for the potting soil to try and root another clematis.  I ran inside and found the seeds I had saved from early winter and quickly planted some.  I researched the Internet for info on growing clematis from seeds and couldn’t believe my eyes when I read it can take over a year to germinate seeds from this particular clematis.  No wonder it was so hard to find.


Swamp Clematis in better days.
Swamp Clematis in better days.


If the cuttings didn’t take or the seeds germinate, would this mean I had lost this beautiful flowering vine?  I have faithfully kept the cuttings moist and warm.  I have also looked after the seeds (just in case they would happen to want to germinate sooner).  Neither look too promising at this point, but I am not giving up hope.

Then, today, I went looking for the short remains of the original plant to see if there was any new growth which would let me know it was still alive.  I figured it would be too early or maybe the hard freeze we had a few days ago would knock it back, but I just had to check anyway.  Well, I was rewarded with this sight.




New, tiny leaves showing!  It’s not dead!  It’s alive!  I can’t express the relief I felt when I saw this favorite vine making a comeback.  I’m going to keep on tending the cuttings and seeds, but if they don’t make it, it seems I still will have the original plant.  Thank the good Lord.



  1. January 24, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    phew, I was relieved to hear there was a happy ending, hope it continues to thrive.

    • Jan said,

      January 24, 2009 at 9:45 pm

      Karen, thanks, I am sure it will continue to do fine, but it was a little worrisome with it happening in the midst of winter.

      Jen, I thought it might still be fine because they are supposed to die back in the winter, but this one still had green leaves. I was afraid that the shock of losing all its leaves in winter when it hadn’t gone dormant might be too much for this young vine.

      Jared,what a shame about your butterfly bush. It is very hard to garden sometimes in an established area. Trying to maneuver around other plants can be difficult.

  2. Jen said,

    January 24, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Sometimes when the clematis here have winter dieback, we tell customers not to be too quick to turf them. They usually come back from the root, who knows, this may encourage the plant to send out even more new shoots.

    Good luck with your little beauty. And yes, it is the favorite plants that always suffer damage.


  3. Jared said,

    January 24, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    What a relief! I managed to stomp on a tiny butterfly bush with my big, fat feet last spring. I had bought it from Bluestone Perennials last spring and was nursing it along. Yup, bought it last spring, tromped it last spring. Poor little thing didn’t have a chance. Very sad . . .

    But I am happy your swamp clematis is alive. It looks beautiful!

    Those clematis stems tend to be very brittle, I DO know that.

  4. Tessa said,

    January 24, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    My heart almost stopped when I read this- I have been looking everywhere for this! I can’t even remember where I saw it, but I knew I had to have it. You have inspired me to keep looking! The clematis I have right now, is kind-of similar in color, which is why I got it :). I just love clematis!

    • Jan said,

      January 25, 2009 at 2:05 am

      Tessa, my heart almost stopped, too, when it happened. This is a lovely clematis, and I would have been so disappointed if I would have killed it. It’s never the cheap, common plants is it.

      Racquel, you and I both are glad it seems to be coming back. I still can’t believe I moved my foot, and wham, the stem was cut in two.

      Chandramouli, I have been a little depressed until I saw the new leaves. Yes, the clematis garden fairies have smiled down on me with this plant.

      Anna, happy endings need to be around more. There are several plants in my garden that I wish were still here, but due to one thing or another, they are history. 😦

  5. Racquel said,

    January 24, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    They are so much tougher than they look Jan. I’m so glad it bounced back quickly, that is a gorgeous Clematis. 🙂

  6. January 25, 2009 at 12:04 am

    I was depressed on seeing the post title and was a bit disappointed when you said that its only stem was broken and seeds take too long to germinate. I too was excited on seeing the sprouts in the cutting. That’s hope. Don’t worry now, you’ll soon see a beauty this Spring!

  7. January 25, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Oh wow! I almost had a heart attack for you. I would write every story with a happy ending like this if I could. And yes, I’ve done it too. Maddening isn’t it?

  8. andré said,

    January 25, 2009 at 3:51 am

    That was an exciting story with a happy ending! 🙂 I was stupid enough to move a young clematis in the middle of the summer last year… That story didn’t have a happy ending. Luckily, it wasn’t rare in any way, but still…

    • Jan said,

      January 25, 2009 at 8:08 am

      Andre, I have done the same thing – moving a plant at the wrong time. I lost a beautiful hydrangea that way, and like yours it wasn’t rare, but I hated to lose it anyway. At least this episode seems to be turning out well.

  9. January 25, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Phewwww, what a relief. It goes to show that some Clematis are tough as old boots!

    • Jan said,

      January 25, 2009 at 3:28 pm

      Yolanda, one of the reasons I was so concerned is that I do not have a lot of experience with clematis. I have had the sweet autumn clematis for years because it is a native here. Many clematises don’t do well here because of our summer heat and humidity, which is why I wanted the Swamp Clematis (another native here) to survive. So I guess your are right some are very tough.

      Blossom, I think all gardeners have had a similar experience, some with good and some with sad results.

      Linnie, I am so glad this incident does seem to have a happy ending, too. I guess some plants are a lot tougher than their delicate looks indicate.

      Brenda, I usually have that relief you speak about when I see something coming back after being frozen to the ground, and I am so happy to have that feeling about my sweet, little clematis.

      Tina, thanks. You and me both.

  10. blossom said,

    January 25, 2009 at 9:00 am

    I know what you mean. Really can relate to that. I had similar experience a couple of times…

  11. linnie said,

    January 25, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I love happy endings! It never ceases to amaze me how some of the most delicate looking plants can survive incidents like the one you had with your precious clematis.

    Linnie in Destrehan, LA 1/25/09

  12. Brenda Kula said,

    January 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I know that gardener’s relief well! I have thought all hope was lost. Only to one day find green where the day before there was brown.

  13. tina said,

    January 25, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    So glad it is growing back!

  14. January 25, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Jan, In what zone are you living? This was a wonderful story and I’m so happy and relieved for you!!! It’s a beautiful clematis. We can now understand why it would be hard to find. (And you got a special deal???) 😉

    • Jan said,

      January 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm

      I am in zone 8 in south Louisiana. I am so fortunate to live in an area where we can garden just about year round. I first saw this clematis about four years ago, but it was not for sale then. I was very lucky to find the same vendor at the garden show selling her plants.

  15. January 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I’m so glad this story has a happy ending! What a beautiful clematis it is.

    • Jan said,

      January 26, 2009 at 5:42 am

      Thanks, Kylee. I am hoping for a bigger plant this year with more blooms.

  16. Jon said,

    January 26, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Glad your story has a happy ending. After several similar accidents as yours when much to my regret I stomped on or damaged a favorite plant while working in tight quarters, I have learned to always take off my baseball cap or use my gardening bandana to cover or tag a nearby delicate plant BEFORE I start digging or whacking to remind myself to watch out and be careful while I’m working. We all learn from our mistakes. I once had a clumsy yardman who was like a bull in a china shop and I had to use a roll of that plastic bright yellow surveyors’ tape to tag/mark shrubs and plants I did NOT want him to prune or touch. It looked tacky but was temporary and this warning trick did keep him off and away from prized plants he otherwise would have thought were weeds to cut down or pull up. (I was actually glad when he “retired” and moved to Jackson even though he was very helpful in some ways.)

    Ah, the trials and tribulations of gardening….guess we have all been there, done that, huh?

    Jon at Mississippi Garden

  17. Jan said,

    January 26, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Hi, Jon. That is a good idea to somehow mark a special or delicate plant when working around in tight quarters. I knew the clematis was there and had been gingerly moving around the lone, bare stem. If I had marked it in some way like you suggest, I know I would not have broken it off when I went to get out of the flower bed.

  18. January 26, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Phew! What a relief when I finally finished your post! That is a beautiful flower on that clematis vine. I’ve never seen such a pretty shape…now I’d like one. I’ll keep alert for one…for you of course, then I’ll take a seed, or a broken of piece, whatever:)

    I have several varieties of clematis and I have found that I can cut them back every year and they grow even thicker and taller the next year!!! On a couple vines that I left up, there are still leaves hanging on, and although the woody vine looks totally dead, it’s actually still alive!

    I don’t know much about anything related to gardening so I’m no expert–but those are my thoughts:) You probably knew that already from all of your experience.

    • Jan said,

      January 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm

      Jan, I don’t have too much experience with clematis like I wrote. Before this one, I only had Sweet Autumn Clematis. I haven’t tried growing them before because I have read that the large flowered clematis do not do well here in the Deep South with our high heat and humidity. I think this one will make it now.

  19. Melanthia said,

    January 28, 2009 at 12:06 am

    So glad to hear it survived. I’ve had many a plant trampled and when you lose one it can be painful. I hope your clematis comes back healthy and strong.

    • Jan said,

      January 28, 2009 at 5:27 am

      I feel more confident it will come back better than ever since I have seen the new leaves. It is amazing how resilient plants can be.

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