If you are one of my loyal subjects I’m sure it comes as no surprise for you to hear that over the years I have amassed a collection of every clematis book written in English that I could get my hands on. The overwhelming majority of these books have been written by British authors. The others authors are from Holland, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States. Some of the books I have only looked at a couple of times while others I like to refer to as a source of inspiration. However, I realize that my reason for purchasing a book solely about clematis may be very different yours. My primary purpose for continuing to buy newly published clematis books is that I’d like to (hopefully) learn something new and exciting about my favorite genus and not just a rehashing of what has already been written.
Here are some of the criteria I look for in a book to make it eligible to be listed as a “Queen’s Favorite”. The first and foremost is that it has to contain lots of colored pictures of clematis (they should be big enough for easy viewing) and of good color quality (albeit it is hard to capture some clematis perfectly in print). I also look for clematis profiles that include: history, highlights, tidbits and/or anecdotal facts about the spotlighted clematis. Since the majority of the authors reside in Europe (primarily in zones comparable to USDA Zone 7-9), I personally don’t put too much significance in their height suggestions or blooming times since they don’t apply to all of our American garden’s growing zones (USDA Zones 4-13). I too really enjoy the authors who use humor and/or are willing to go out on a limb and speak their mind freely. Even though the information in many of my older books is no longer relevant, it is enlightening to see what they thought was important back then. It’s like being able to be a clematis time traveler. So, with these things in mind here are my top 4 favorite clematis books (in alphabetical order):
Fretwell, Barry. Clematis. Deer Park, WI: Capability Books, 1989. Mr. Fretwell meets the criteria of having lots of pictures and he says what he thinks. He gets bonus points for introducing me to Clematis crispa.
Howells, John. Trouble Free Clematis: The Viticellas. Woodbridge, England: Garden Art Press, 1998. This is a really nice book about one of my favorite clematis groups: Viticellas. Lots of pictures! He also has some great anecdotal facts.
Lloyd, Christopher. Clematis. Deer Park, WI: Capability Books, 1989. The renowned Mr. Lloyd was ahead of his time with his views of soil pH, not to mention he was a very clever and witty writer. I do wish though that it contained more colored photos.
Snoeijer, Wim. Clematis Cultivar Group Classification with Identifying Key and Diagrams. Netherlands: Wim Snoeijer, 2008. I may be a bit partial because Mr. Snoeijer is my clematis hero, but his book is indeed clearly on the cutting edge. It serves as the most up-to-date reference book for accurate clematis cultivar groups as well as a source for the correct spelling of clematis names. It also contains lots of nice pictures.
One obvious choice would be my book, Simply Clematis: Clematis Made Simple, because I believe it meets all the above criteria for a good clematis book. But, I can’t in good conscience include it in the mix because I am clearly biased. So, reluctantly I left it off my list. Hopefully, if you haven’t already, you will add it to yours.