She's appeared here before and also over on my Open Garden. A completely beautiful floosie who makes everyone visiting my garden say 'Wow! What is that?' At which point, I have to shuffle my feet and answer 'Er, I bought it as a C. 'Crystal Fountain' from the garden centre, but it looks nothing like it. So, actually I've no idea!' Nevertheless, I do love her.
In my previous posts, two people were kind enough (Fat Rascal and Niels) to suggest what my Clematis could be: C. 'Blue Light'. I could see where they were coming from, but there were some differences, particularly in the way the flower looked in bud, that made me unsure. Besides, the lineage was different (C. 'Mrs Cholmondeley') and the Clematis I'd bought was a Raymond Evison Signature plant i.e. the best Clematis you can get. His website doesn't have C. 'Blue Light' listed, which seemed to fit with my notion that this wasn't the solution to my mystery. Whilst looking through the rest of the catalogue, I noticed that my garden's version of C. 'Josephine' was quite different to the one shown, So I now had not one, but two mystery Clematis!
There I left it - mentally making a note to send an email to Guernsey sometime, but I never got round to it. Then 2 weeks ago I went to the RHS Inner Temple show and who should be exhibiting there but Raymond Evison. I finally plucked up the courage to approach the stand in the afternoon once most of the crowds had gone. The cheerful lady there soon realised she couldn't answer my query and beckoned forward a dapper looking gentleman to help her. I suddenly realised I was talking to the great man himself. I explained my mystery and he confirmed that it couldn't be C. 'Blue Light'. 'You've got yourself a "sport" (i.e. plant mutation)' was his conclusion. I then explained about C. 'Josephine'. 'Ah, she regularly produces sports, that's how we got C. 'Empress'!'
Thanks to a charming gentleman the case is solved. I have two completely new Clematis in my garden, both climbing up the same obelisk. How exciting - do you think I'm allowed to name them?
Update: The Constant Gardener wrote a great article for the BBC Gardening pages about how C. 'Josephine' was discovered and named. She also reveals C. 'Crystal Fountain' was going to be called something else, but it got blocked by a rather famous company. It seems that naming a plant can be rather tricky - though I do like the sound of Clematis 'VP' as suggested by Karen!
Update May 2010: My mystery Clematis was launched as C. 'Diamantina' by Raymond Evison at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. She might not be Clematis 'VP', but I still love her to bits :)