Several years ago, while browsing through plants at a local nursery, a Clematis caught my eye, not just for the gorgeous color of the flower on the plant tag, but for the advertised price. This Clematis -- C. 'Rouge Cardinal' from Monrovia -- was nearly four feet tall and planted in a three-gallon pot sitting below a sign that said "Clematis $15." Those of you who have ever shopped for Clematis know the true meaning of sticker shock, so you can imagine my excitement to get to the counter before someone woke me up from this botanical daydream.
When the cashier rang up my purchase, which also included a few other perennials, the total was well over $100. I looked at her surprised and perplexed, so she explained that the 'Rouge Cardinal' was $50. Despite my best efforts to argue the contrary, it was either pay $50 or leave it behind. To this day, I consider its purchase one of the best buys in my gardening history.
Even though I bought a plant with several years of greenhouse growth, Clematis 'Rouge Cardinal' took at least two full years to become vigorous in the garden. In fact, after the first year, I wasn't sure it would survive. But with the price I paid for it, it was certainly going to get a lot more time and TLC before I gave up on it.
Without a doubt, 'Rouge Cardinal' was well worth the time and expense. There are a few plants that I consider the cornerstones of my garden, and this Clematis is certainly high on that short list.