The Heavenly Scent of Sweet Autumn Clematis

What is that lovely scent floating in the late summer air?

It is that time of year in Ohio when the Sweet Autumn Clematis ( Clematis terniflora) begins to explode with its clouds of white blossoms tumbling over fences and arbors. I adore this plant. So many memories of Sweet Autumn scenting the air, romantic times and joyous times. Both of my children were born at this time of year and I think the timing of its blossoming reminds me of the most joyful times of my life.

My children were born in August and September and that scent reminds me of the joy of my first and second born. For what it’s worth, I was an infertility patient and never thought I would have a child, but with the miracles available to us at the time, I had my baby girl.  And much to my surprise, eight years later without any intervention at all, I had my son.

Sweet Autumn Clematis

So I will always associate that scent with my happiness from that time. Isn’t it wonderful how your mind stores up memories associated with scents. I remember going to my Mother-in-law’s house and the scent of home-made biscuits as you woke up. Mixed with the smell of coffee!

What about the scent of your baby nestled in your arms? The scent of baby powder and the funny sweet odor of breast milk.  Yes, the scent of so many things trickle through your memories.

Climbing Out of the Garden - Sweet Autumn Clematis

Sweet Autumn Clematis- A Lasting Treasure

As for this particular plant, I bought it as a potted plant for this house about sixteen years ago.  We had moved here and there were no gardens so I had to start from scratch. I knew I wanted Clematis and I have several types but the Sweet Autumn is a favorite.  I originally planted it at this same fence area after buying a potted one from the local garden center. They are relatively expensive to me since a small quart pot can cost about $15. But it might be different in your area.

Bee Magnet - Sweet Autumn Clematis


This plant is easy to grow and its foliage is pretty all year. It doesn’t seem to ever look ratty or eaten up by critters.  It will grow in sun or shade ( but not deep shade).  My SA Clematis is on the East side of the house so it gets morning sun and afternoon shade since the house casts a shadow there.  The flowers show up in August and last into September in Ohio. I think I get a lot of pleasure with almost no work on this plant.

Little sprouts will grow in your garden and can be given as gifts to friends. It can climb anything or weave through a border or hillside if you have problems getting something to grow. After frost causes it to die back, you can trim it all off and start fresh the next spring.  If you are in a zone where it doesn’t die down ( it is deciduous in Ohio ), then you may want to be cautious since it can grow rampantly.

Bees and wasps and other buzzers love this plant. It is buzzing all the time!  So I feel that I am providing nectar to my little garden pals. Birds like it too. They will nest in it if it has a good underlying structure. When I had it on an arbor behind our pool, we had pigeons nesting there each year. I like to think it was the same couple! If you leave the vine up all winter, the snow is caught in the thick branches and creates a shelter for the birds.

By the way, sweet autumn clematis will forgive you anything. I dug it up so many times and put it somewhere else. I guess I am always looking to change things. I had it on the front fence, then moved it to the back arbor, then moved it again to the front fence. But it’s just a Trooper, it keeps on coming and brings its beauty every year. It might take a year or two to get huge like this one, but it is so worth the wait!

Mother in the Sweet Autumn Clematis(1)

Sweet Autumn Clematis also reminds me of my Mother. This was one of my favorite photos of her. She always walked carefully out to the garden and urged me to come inside and rest. “You are working too hard,” she’d say. But I would explain to her that I was doing what I felt relaxed me. All gardeners know what I mean. It is just what you love to do….dig, move, prune. And plant those new ones you just brought home! 

Previously, I worked in my garden on weekends and evenings after working all day. Once I retired in 2011, I had all day to do what I wanted. But I had no idea, as we never do, that I wasn’t to be home with my Mom. I left work in April and she died suddenly in July.  She was 84 years old.  But I know she is still with me in the garden. I hear her tell me to rest. And I do.

I am not as young as I used to be!  Thanks for letting me reminisce.

UPDATE: As you know, I have moved away from this house last spring 2018 and I did not bring any of the sweet autumn clematis with me. We sold in March and it was dormant at the time, so I have no Sweet Autumn for the new house at this time. Maybe someday!


Kim, The Hypertufa Gardener

Hi, I am Kim and thank you so much for visiting my magazine! I am a gardener and a hypertufa maker. If you came here to learn about hypertufa, I have a lot of information. But I also write about flower gardening and using succulents which are great drought-tolerant plants.

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4 thoughts on “The Heavenly Scent of Sweet Autumn Clematis

  • September 12, 2018 at 12:02 pm
    I your share your love for sweet autumn clematis, I loved the one I had but unfortunately here in middle Georgia it becomes very invasive. I got rid of my main plant 3 years ago and I still have them come up in several places in my yard. They will even reseed into grassy areas. If you want me to send you one I'll be happy to dig one up for you. Reply
    • September 12, 2018 at 7:44 pm
      I love them too. And it is so sweet of you too offer to send me one, but that's not necessary. I have found some from a neighbor and have planted it across a rail fence. Let's hope it takes off! Reply
  • September 7, 2016 at 12:07 pm
    My mother-in-law has a huge one growing on a telephone pole and I've always meant to plant one for myself. Thanks for the reminder! The scent is heavenly, like you say, and so welcome at a time when not much else is blooming. Except for ragweed, of course. Michelle Curren recently posted...Solitude ~ A Simple PleasureMy Profile Reply
    • September 7, 2016 at 4:45 pm
      Thanks and you should plant one. In no time, you can have a huge wonderful specimen. Reply

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