Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’: An Unusual History

In 2008 I went to the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time and was entranced by another newcomer – the stunning red Clematis ‘Rebecca which was being launched at the show by Raymond Evison.

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The magnificent Clematis Rebecca named after Raymond Evison’s oldest daughter

Clematis Inspiration

On the stand it was paired with Clematis ‘Artic Queen and the combination of the red and white intertwined large flowers was breathtaking. I returned home determined to grow the two climbers together and to create a flowerbed which also showcased other red and white flower combinations.

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One of the amazing displays which inspired my love of clematis – Raymond Evison Clematis display at Chelsea 2010

New Garden

In 2010 I finally bought a house with a garden big enough to have a flowerbed and work started on creating a red and white border. I also created a space for clematis to climb up the pole which supports my apple espaliers. I bought ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Marie Boisselot’ (a large single flowered variety) as I couldn’t source an ‘Artic Queen’.

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Huge flowers on ‘Marie Boisselot’

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Rebecca and ‘Marie Boisselot’ happily co-existing

We enjoyed these lovely plants for a couple of years – and then the ‘Marie Boisselot’ disappeared and ‘Rebecca’ was left alone.

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This year Rebecca has been better than ever

Clematis Mystery

I visited our local nursery and bought a clematis labelled ‘Snow Queen’ which is another large single flowered variety. When it flowered later that year I was surprised to find the white flowers had a mauve flush and were fully double, not at all what I was expecting.

Belle of Woking

Mystery clematis

I didn’t think much of it – I assumed the ‘Snow Queen’ was a mislabelled ‘Artic Queen’ (which has double flowers) and ignored the mauve flush. Then this year I visited Chelsea again and when I was enjoying the display at the Raymond Evison Clematis stand (always one of my first ports of call in the Great Pavilion) I noticed the ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Artic Queen’ combination and my odd clematis came to mind.

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Rebecca and Arctic Queen on the Raymond Evison Clematis display at Chelsea 2016

Clematis Investigations

I turned to ask someone about my clematis and by chance Raymond Evison was standing behind me. I explained how I’d bought the clematis and what it looked like. I also had a few pictures I’d taken that week on my phone (always full of images of flowers and cabbages!) He suggested it might be a sport of ‘Artic Queen’ and offered to take a look if I sent him some more photos after the show.

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Rebecca and her new mystery companion

The following week I sent lots of images of the buds, flowers and foliage. Raymond was kind enough to study the images and identify the plant as Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’. He was working during the week on his former clematis collection, which is now curated by The Guernsey Group of Plant Heritage and which contain some specimens of ‘Belle of Woking’. The identification was a surprise, however, because he didn’t think that this cultivar was still in commercial production. Quite how it arrived at the nursery remains a mystery.

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Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’

A Rare Chance

Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’ was raised by Jackman’s of Woking in 1875 and is reported to have been raised by crossing Clematis lanuginosa ‘Candida’ with ‘Fortunei’. ‘Candida’ is very rare these days but a plant is flowering at present in Guernsey at the Saumarez Park Walled Kitchen Garden (Raymond gave this plant to the garden some years ago). ‘Fortunei’ was thought to be a species from China although it is listed as a cultivar.

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Delicate colour with endless petals

Raymond also sent me some excerpts from Dr Magnus Johnson’s book The Genus Clematis explaining that Dr Johnson’s description of ‘Belle of Woking’ fitted his understanding of the plant and the way it looked when he visited the clematis collection a couple of weeks ago.

Extracts from The Genus Clematis

Clematis Celebration

Although this chance meeting and spur of the moment question hasn’t uncovered a new sport, it has been a fascinating investigation into the history of an unusual clematis. I’ve enjoyed learning about the different cultivars and hopefully I’ll be able to treasure my old, rare ‘Belle of Woking’ for many years to come.

Some of the red and white plants in my flowerbed inspired by the Rebecca/Arctic Queen combination

If you have come across a ‘Belle of Woking’, or have any red or white clematis to recommend, or any comments on your own clematis experiences I’d be interested to hear. Please leave me a comment and/or subscribe to my blog to follow my plant explorations in future…

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7 thoughts on “Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’: An Unusual History

  1. VP says:

    We both have had a mystery Clematis solved by the lovely Mr Evison :)The striking C ‘Josephine’ is another of my favourites from him, though strictly speaking that’s more pink than red. If you want a stronger red, then look no further than C. ‘Rouge Cardinal’ or C. ‘Kermesina’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dogwooddays says:

    I do love ‘Rouge Cardinal’, but haven’t used ‘Kermesina’ – thanks for suggesting it. Yes Raymond Evison sent fascinating information about ‘Belle of Woking’. I’m really grateful that he took such an interest and helped us identify our clematis. Which cultivar did he help you identify?

    Like

  3. John Kingdon says:

    This is one of the great joys of gardening – the surprise. Plants mis-labelled when you buy them or the “mutations” when two plants decide to get together. That’s a beautiful clematis; long may it thrive.

    Liked by 1 person

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