Maria Fodorovna Sharonova was born in 1885 in the Nizhniy Novgorod province of Russia. Following the October Revolution in 1917 she became involved in growing and breeding plants, from 1938 being particularly involved with dahlias. In the early 1970s Maria Sharonova became interested in clematis, then something of a rarity in the USSR, and she began collecting them (bear in mind that by now she was in her late 80s). She decided first to try and breed low-growing varieties in bright colours, suitable for growing on balconies. This was a long process in Moscow, where she then lived, because the climate there means that clematis do not set seed every summer - every third year is more the norm. As well as smaller clematis she produced some taller, free flowering forms.
Maria Sharonova created more than 200 hybrids of which about 40 were named and propagated. Some of these were developed in the last eight years of her life when, although she was confined to bed, she had the assistance of family and friends.
Maria Sharonova died in 1987 at the age of 102.
Adapted from an article by T and V Bubliy in Clematis International 2007 with permission.