Clematis breeding in the USSR

Clematis breeding in the USSR

There were no private nurseries in the Soviet Union: therefore, the work on introduction and selection was carried out by employees of institutes, botanical gardens, and amateur gardeners. The latter, however, did not have a normal material base and access to infrastructure, and therefore their results were modest. The income of professionals was also modest: people did not go into ornamental gardening for money, but only for the soul. Enthusiasm partially compensated for everything else, and that is the only reason why today we have varieties of clematis of Soviet selection.

The main centers of clematis selection in the USSR were three – Nikitsky Botanical Garden in Crimea, Central Republican Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Kiev and for some reason the Baltics.


In the Nikitsky Botanical Garden, selection of clematis began in 1953. At first, of course, there was an accumulation of source material with which scientists worked. By 1962, the botanical garden collection had 82 species and forms of clematis and 25 large-flowered varieties, 11 of which were created by specialists of the Nikitsky Botanical Garden. By 1987 in the botanical garden collection was already more than 100 varieties and forms of local selection – this was written by M.A. Beskaravaynaya and E.A. Donyushkina in their book in 1988.

Clematis selection in the Nikitsky Botanical Garden

Alexander Volosenko-Valenis, who worked at the State National Biological Service, was one of the first in the USSR to deal with clematis. He wanted to create clematis varieties that would grow and bloom in the dry and hot climate of the Crimea. He got his first variety – «Metamorfoza» – in 1958, and in total he managed to breed 27 varieties, 22 of which were recognized by the international community.

The follower of Volosenko-Valenis was Maria Beskaravaynaya. During her work from 1963 to 1988 she created 50 clematis varieties, 47 of which were registered by the International Center for Registration of New Clematis Varieties in Holland. M.A. Beskaravaynaya and her student E.A. Donyushkina used interspecific and intervarietal crossing, as well as mutagenesis – gamma-irradiation and chemical mutagens. Thus, the drought-resistant and powdery mildew-resistant variety “Zagadka” was obtained as a result of treatment of clematis hexapetal seeds with ethyleneimine.

 Metamorfoza clematis variety
«Metamorfoza» is clematis variety created by Alexander Volosenko-Valenis

Some varieties of clematis, created in the Nikitsky Botanical Garden, turned out to be suitable not only for Crimea. Back in Soviet times, 12 varieties were zoned in the Baltic republics, BSSR and some regions of the Ukrainian SSR and RSFSR.


Mefistofel clematis variety
‘Mefistofel’ is the clematis variety created by Michail Orlov

The Central Republican Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR started to breed clematis in the 60s. The first was Mikhail Ivanovich Orlov, whose efforts helped to plant a unique clematis garden of 0.7 hectares in the botanical garden. For several decades he created 61 promising hybrids. 38 varieties of Orlov received international registration, and the variety “Vostok” was awarded a medal and a certificate of the Association of Clematis Growers of Great Britain in 2000. Unfortunately, the author did not see this award anymore, and his clematis garden died. A considerable part of Mikhail Orlov’s heritage is lost, and the rest is scattered mostly in private collections. Many varieties are available in the German nursery “Westfal”, but due to their names, which are difficult for European ears, they are not sold well.

The following varieties of M.A. Orlov are known and preserved to date:

  • Klavdiya Shulzhenko;
  • Negrityanka;
  • Ideal;
  • Radost;
  • Nejnost;
  • Kyiv;
  • Azhurnyi;
  • Saturn;
  • Mefistofel;
  • Vostok;
  • Salut;
  • Pervenets;
  • Carmen.

After Orlov’s death, his work was continued by Y. A. Voychenko. Today this work is not carried out.

The Kiev Botanical Garden used mainly intervarietal and interspecific hybridization. Both natural and artificial pollination were used.


Clematis selection has been and is being practiced in Latvia and Estonia.

Uno Kivistik and his wife Aili Kivistik, who worked at the Johannes Lauristik collective farm, started their clematis business in 1979. Their goal was to develop winter-hardy and disease-resistant varieties. The Kiwistiks pollinated a particular variety with a mixture of pollen from different varieties: according to their observations, this method allowed them to obtain quality seeds. This was followed by free pollination and then pollination with pollen from a single plant.

Uno Kivistik believed that the best parent variety for creating new forms was Ernest Markham. From 1979 to 1990 he obtained 79 promising clematis hybrids. 18 of them gave the variety Ernest Markham, 11 – Madame van Houtte, 8 – Silver Brook, 5 – Jackmanii, 5 – Ville de Lion, 4 – Flower Ball, 4 – Luther Burbank, 4 – Hagley Hybrid, 3 – Ramona, 3 – Ninth Shaft, 3 – Cuba, 3 – Jubilee 70, 2 – Baby, 2 – Gipsy Queen, 2 – Nelly Moser, 1 – Madame Bajur, 1 – Lord Nevill.

Uno Kivistik’s business is now carried on by his wife Aili and son Taavi. They still live on Roogoja farm and are involved in the breeding, production and sale of clematis and grapes. It is the northernmost clematis breeding center in the world. The Kivisti work mainly for the market of the Baltic States and Northern Europe. Their plants are not supplied to Russia due to customs and quarantine barriers.

In 2013, Ivy Kivistik received the Golden Clematis Awards for her achievements in clematis breeding. Together with Uno Kivistik, she has created more than 140 varieties.

Among other Estonian clematis specialists Guido Toovere and Adolf Vaigla are mentioned in the literature. Guido Toovere is the author of the first Soviet illustrated catalog of clematis varieties (1982). Adolf Vaigla (Räpine) wrote the first book on clematis in Estonian and was engaged in breeding, but nothing is known about his varieties.

Clematis of Latvian selection Kaiu
Clematis of Latvian selection “Kaiu”

Erich Pranno has been and probably still is involved in clematis introduction, collecting and breeding. He preserved many varieties of Soviet selection (including Orlov varieties), which are not found anywhere else. For example, it was Pranno who introduced, named and propagated the clematis variety “Kiev”, the sample of which was given to him by Orlov. He himself worked with wild-growing clematis – princes, Clematis viorna, Clematis integrifolia, etc. Among the varieties of his selection we can mention a very beautiful ‘Kaiu’.

V. Riekstins and I. Riekstins were and probably still are engaged in clematis cultivation in Latvian USSR. In 1990 “Agropromizdat” published their book “Clematis”, which is highly appreciated by all clematis growers. Nothing is known about their varieties.

RSFSR and Russia

Maria Sharonova was engaged in clematis breeding in the RSFSR. She started working with clematis at the age of 70, but managed to achieve outstanding results. The most famous varieties of Sharonova are Anna German, Stasik, Kuba, Silver Rucheok, Tuchka and Severnoe Siyaniye.

About the author

Fedor Fironov
Graduate of Plant Protection Faculty at GSAU. Main area of interest – clematis, peonies and perennials of Lamiaceae .

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