(Family Features) - There are few sights as lovely as a trellis or fence smothered in roses, unless it's a rose and a clematis growing together intertwined, bringing out the best in each other. Most clematis are vines that need the support of a structure or a plant. But the support needn't be vertical; the plants will grow along a low fence or wind their way through other sturdy plants. Even shrub and ground cover roses make good partners, so the possibilities for combining these two stars of the garden are endless.
Bloom time is the first consideration. Decide if you want both plants to bloom at the same time or at different times to prolong the flowering on the fence or arbor. If your rose has just one flush of blooms, you can choose a clematis on the same blooming schedule. Or you can choose a clematis that blooms earlier or later. Or you can really extend the show by planting three different clematis alongside your rose -- one that blooms before the rose, one that blooms simultaneously, and one that blooms later. That way, you'll be sure to have color all summer.
Both clematis and roses are available in a many different colors, and you can create exciting combinations by selecting varieties in colors unique to each plant. Clematis, for instance, come in many shades of blue, which is unheard of in roses, and roses come in many warm colors, such as orange, salmon, and mango, which are unseen in clematis.
Both roses and clematis need a full sun location away from wind, which can tear both plants from their supports. Clematis need their roots to be well mulched, or another plant growing near the base to shade the roots. Both plants need a lot of water, but clematis are more likely to suffer from lack of it. Provide each new plant with at least 1 gallon of water per week, more in hot weather.
The best time to plant both roses and clematis is in the spring. Both plants love rich, moist, well-drained soil, so amend the soil before planting with compost or well-rotted manure.
Plant grafted roses with the graft union 2 to 3 inches below the soil line in cold climates, slightly above the soil level in warmer regions. Plant clematis with the crown 2 inches below ground level -- too deep and they'll fail to bloom. Before planting container-grown clematis, gently loosen the thick roots of the large-flowered hybrids, but be careful with the fibrous roots of the small-flowered plants. Simply spread the roots of bare-root plants before planting.
To minimize water and nutrient competition and to make pruning easier, plant clematis at least 1 foot and preferably 3 feet away from the host rose, and train the stems into the rose with stakes, foam-covered wire, or string. If you plant the companions near a wall, place them at least 1-1/2 feet from the wall and guide their stems toward the wall with a stakes.
Mulch new plantings to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Fertilize in early spring before flower buds start to swell, and again in fall with compost or composted manure, as well as liquid fertilizer in the spring. Discontinue liquid fertilizer when the plants are in bloom because it will shorten their flowering period.
A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathie Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as Horticultural Editor for the National Gardening Association. She loves designing with plants, and spends more time playing in the garden - planting and trying new combinations - than sitting and appreciating it.