Answer: Clematis do tend to look for lack of a better word "dead" until they leaf out and flower. You can cover some of thet bottom bareness by pruning a few of the stems so that their new growth is close to the base of the plant each year. You can also plant perennials in front of the vine to hide that look.
In my experience it is very difficult to overwinter clematis in containers, so here are some other options to think about. Rather than bringing in the bench and arbor each winter you might consider sealing the wood instead. This would allow you to plant the clematis in the ground and climb on it. Another option would be to plant annual vines each spring -- some of them are quite charming. Yet another option would be to plant one of the clematis vines that require a very hard pruning each spring. You could cut the vine back just enough to release the wooden pieces in the fall so you can take them in, then complete the pruning job the following spring when it would normally be done.
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