Queen of climbers occupies pride of place at Expo 2019 Beijing

Author: Penelope Tomkins

Always putting his best foot forward, the founder and chair of the Guernsey Clematis Nursery Ltd. and the eponymous blue-label brand, Raymond J Evison plays more than his part in keeping the horticulture industry moving apace. His Clematis rises to prominence at the Expo 2019 Beijing which will be held until October 7, 2019.

Located on the island of Guernsey, in the English Channel, the nursery breeds, propagates and sells Clematis young plants to wholesale producers and specialist nurseries to grow on for local distribution.

As one of the world’s largest specialist nurseries, they produce almost 25 % of the global supply of Clematis. Two million plants per year are intensively produced in 2.3ha of glasshouses on ebb and flood roller benches. The glasshouses are screened to prevent light pollution and harvested rainwater affords 3-4 months of self-sufficient water supply. Exports are shipped to 19 countries: 45% to the US, 35% to the UK and the rest to Europe and Asia.

Unique product offering

The nursery’s unique and popular offering is it’s small, compact, free flowering varieties which are perfect for patios, baskets, window boxes, pots and containers and for small urban gardens.  ‘No-fuss pruning’ also contributes to the plants’ popularity.

Together with Poulsen Roser A/S, renowned Danish rose breeder, the partnership established a strong reputation for Clematis breeding. “Bringing new cultivars to the market takes 8-10 years and 75% of our stock comes from own breeding programme,” says Raymond. The Poulsen Breeding Joint Venture finished in 2008 and in 2014 the nursery began its own breeding programme.

“Of the 2,000 seedlings evaluated this year we’ve kept 180 for further evaluation. We’re looking for short, compact varieties with strong colours similar to the award-winning 30cm tall flowering C. Bijou ® Evipo030 (n). We also aim to achieve more scent for larger flowers.”

Asked if Clematis Wilt is still a concern Raymond replies: “In 35 years I’ve never seen it our nursery. It appeared following intense propagation from the 1850s but with modern, hig-tech production methods it’s no longer a problem.” With equal certitude Raymond adds: “Our biggest challenge today is education. Teaching customers how to care for Clematis is the best promotion we can give these beautiful plants.”

Expo 2019 Beijing
An opportunity to disseminate knowledge is ‘Expo 2019 Beijing’ where Raymond has been invited by Florascape to build a Clematis show garden.  The garden features: a central, winding stone path with a low wall running alongside to display Clematis; a Georgian façade to exhibit Clematis in window boxes; a large patio presenting potted cultivars and archways, obelisks and trees to support an array of Clematis, roses and other climbers. Some Clematis included are native to China such as including some scented varieties of Clematis heracleifolia, an unusual species that is classed as herbaceous sub-shrub as their growth habit is different from the rest of the genus.

“Our plants will also be on sale at the Expo” says Raymond. “140 native species of Clematis exist in China, but garden Clematis is unfamiliar to the market. This is a unique opportunity to introduce our varieties to millions of visitors.”

This is not his only cause for excitement.  “Whilst working in China this April Clematis acerifolia, a 15cm tall flowering Clematis species will be in flower so I can’t wait to visit the rock face where it grows for a sighting,” he adds with his characteristic enthusiasm. With boots always at the ready, he’s never one for standing still!

AIPH-approved Expo 2019 Beijing

Over 100 countries participate in the AIPH-approved Expo 2019 Beijing that will run until 7th October 2019 in Yanqing district of Beijing, China. Covering over 500 hectares this is the largest ever A1 International Horticultural Exhibition approved by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH).

Organisers expect to attract over 15 million visitors to the Expo which is taking place close to the foot of the Great Wall in Badaling. Countries and international organisations take their place at the Expo alongside many gardens from provinces across China.

AIPH granted approval to the Expo in 2012 and have supported the project through annual inspections and reporting. It subsequently gained the recognition of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).

www.horti-expo2019.org