Question about growing clematis

I've seen photos of huge clematis plants growing in rope-like vines along fences, porch railings, etc. I'd like to train a clematis to grow on the fence along one side of my yard that's in desperate need of some plant life. I think it might be a good spot for a clematis because the area gets full sun all day, but if I plant it on the northern side of the fence the roots will stay cool (heads in the sun, roots in the shade, as they say). My question is about the hardiness of clematis in my area. I'm in Richmond, VA, which is USDA Zone 7 -- do clematis die back to the ground here, or would I actually be able to grow a clematis vine to a length of 20 or 30 feet in my area? If so, what type of clematis would be best? (I saw the thread on evergreen clematis and read Paghat's Web site on that, but she said the evergreens are best grown in zones 8 or 9.)
Any advice welcome. Thanks!
Rhonda Richmond, VA USDA Zone 7
******** Basic human psychology is one of my subroutines.
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I'm in zone 5 (upstate NY). My clematis (see link below) behaves like a tree, meaning all leaves are killed by frost each year. But, it does NOT die to the ground. The woody stems remain, and new leaves grow each spring. In some years, there's a little frost damage to stem tips, but never enough to make a noticeable difference.
I'm no expert on these plants - I just follow the instructions given to me by the local grower I bought from many years ago. He told us we could either prune the plant (all the way to the ground, or not that far), or just leave it alone. I really depends on the effect you want. In your case, you'd just leave it alone, other than making attempts at "training" the plant. In fact, clematis plants usually train YOU to leave them alone while they take over completely, which is when they look their best.
Clematis x jackmanii http://www.waysidegardens.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId 151&catalogId151&langId=-1&mainPage=prod2working&ItemIdC151&PrevMainPage=textsearchresults&scChannel=Text%20Search&SearchText=clematis&OfferCode=S3H
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http://www.waysidegardens.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId 151&catalogId151&langId=-1&mainPage=prod2working&ItemIdC151&PrevMainPage=textsearchresults&scChannel=Text%20Search&SearchText=clematis&OfferCode=S3H Doug, thanks for the response. If you can grow one successfully in upstate NY, I should be able to here! One other question for you (or anyone else reading this, for that matter). I said I'd like to grow it on a fence which is constructed of good quality pressure-treated pine fence. Would the clematis be likely to damage a wood fence? The reason I ask is that when I moved into my last house, which was in the DC area, there was a huge honeysuckle that had taken over a similar fence on one side of the house. When I cut it back, I discovered that pieces of the fencing had deteriorated underneath the honeysuckle to such an extent that I had to replace that entire section of fence. (There were holes in the wood, broken slats, etc.) This one is brand-new, so I'm wondering if, to avoid that happening again, I should construct some type of trellis system using chicken wire or whatever so the clematis actually grows on that instead of on the fence. Do you think that's necessary?
Thanks again,
Rhonda Richmond, VA USDA Zone 7

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Two issues: First, any plant can prevent wood surfaces from drying completely, and cause rotting. Since your fence is treated, this shouldn't be a problem. I've never grown honeysuckle, so I don't know how it clings to objects, but clematis is not known to be a vicious plant in that regard. It wraps tendrils around things in little spirals, but doesn't penetrate or glue itself onto things like some plants. Mine's on a trellis which also has fence wire attached. That whole thing's attached to a painted wood garage, and in 20+ years, there's been no damage.
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