HOW TO GROW HONEYSUCKLE
A lovely climber for pretty blooms and intoxicating scent
THE romantic nature of native woodbine, more commonly known as honeysuckle or
Lonicera periclymenum, has not been lost on our greatest poets and playwrights. Alfred Tennyson notably wrote: “The woodbine spices wafted abroad, and the musk of roses is blown”, while in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer
Night’s Dream, Titania, snuggling up to Bottom, says, “So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle gently entwist; the female ivy so enrings the barky fingers of the elm”.
Deliciously fragrant flowers grow in attractive whorls, with buds a richer shade at the centre, making the blooms pink, cream and white all at once. In our gardens we tend to drift towards cultivated forms such as the pretty pale
L.p. ‘Belgica’ and crimson pink L.p. ‘Serotina’ – the early and late Dutch honeysuckles respectively. Check out ‘Heaven Scent’ and ‘Graham Thomas’, too. If you want a climber but have a smaller garden or limited space, then L.p. ‘Strawberries and Cream’ and L.p. ‘Honey Baby’ are both compact enough to grow in containers. Tallgrowing L. x americana and sun-loving
L. etrusca ‘Superba’ are popular fragrant twiners. There are around 180 species of
lonicera to choose from – some shrubby and not all of them scented.
Staying with climbing honeysuckles, there’s definitely a motive for growing
L. caprifolium because the fragrant Italian honeysuckle is usually the first to bloom, in May. L. tellmanniana has stunning looks but no perfume. I would use it in an ‘exotic’ border where generous clusters of large, tangerinecoloured flowers mimic tender Tecoma
capensis, known as Cape honeysuckle – a scrambling climber that is popular in the warmer gardens of the world.
Among shrubby honeysuckles, evergreen, small-leaved L.nitida and its gold-leaved cultivar ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ are often used for both hedging and topiary. Every garden should have winter flowering deciduous
L. fragrantissima or L. x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’. Pale fragrant blooms stand out against bare stems and if short on space, you could try training them against cool north or east-facing walls.
I’m checking the evergreen L. henryi ‘Copper Beauty’, planted here a year ago to cover a shed. Strong growths are appearing, but I don’t think we’ll see yellow-throated flowers this summer
‘Honey Baby’ is a compact variety, ideal for smaller gardens