I had to ask. I had to make a bloody fool of myself! "Do you say CLEM-a-tis or clem-AT-is?" I asked the eminent Raymond L. Evison, whose clematis nursery in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, is internationally famous. As soon as that popped out of my mouth, I knew what a dumb question it was. Of course, he was as gracious as could be. "CLEM-a-tis," he replied.
Dressed in a stunning navy blue suit, Ray - can I call him that? - talked a little about his exhibit at the show. It's called Clematis for Small Spaces, the title of his 2008 book and the focus of his recent breeding work. It's located toward the back of the Convention Center, behind the PHS exhibit, which is also one to explore. More on that later.
If you think clematis, however you say it, is only good for climbing up and around mailboxes, you'll be pleasantly surprised by what Ray can show you. His plants were fully intertwined inside large evergreens and flowering trees, used as ground covers, and arranged in troughs and planters. "I want to show people they can grow clematis up in trees, in pots and containers, on trellises and archways and in a mixed border," he explained. "A lot of people don't know you can do that."
Ray had a much smaller exhibit in the 2004 and 2005 shows. This is the first time he's had a full-scale garden here. He came because the show's got a British theme and because he's one of 10 VPs of the Royal Horticultural Society, which has a new partnership with PHS.
"It's always good for the leading societies to work together," he said.
Ray has lots of awards and honors listed after his name, including the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour and OBE, the Order of the British Empire, for his contributions to British horticulture. He's introduced more than 100 clematis varieties. This one is 'Chantilly,' a good size for containers.