“Honeysuckle!” Pooh Bear exclaimed just before sticking his face into a bouquet. “No, you don’t eat them, Pooh. You smell them.” Kanga told him kindly. Oh, he was disappointed but only before he smelled them. No one could be disappointed then. From late spring to mid- Autumn I have the lovely, intoxicating scent of Honeysuckle wafting around my house. Only Heaven could smell better.
Honeysuckle, botanically known as Lonicera, is a wide-ranging group of both flowering shrubs and vines, some evergreen, some semi-evergreen and some deciduous but almost all with a scent that will knock your socks off. Virtually every Botanical garden I’ve visited (and I’ve visited at least one in every state in the US plus a couple in Canada) have a Honeysuckle of some sort. Doesn’t that tell you that perhaps you should have one too?
Tartarian Honeysuckle, L. Tatarica, is the first in my yard to explode in sweet-smelling pink blooms in May. I also have a few bushes that bloom yellow. It is a huge one if left to its own devises about 10-12 feet tall, but it can be tamed to a sedate yet solid barrier 6-8 feet tall. You won’t need fencing with this around. From May to October I don’t see my neighbors! It is a vigorous grower and produces loads of bright red berries the birds go nuts for. Of course, birds being the natural “helpers” they are, they tend to drop seeds all over so you may find baby Honeysuckles growing in places you would never guess they could.
Honeysuckles do well in bright sun as well as semi-shade. They prefer well-drained, humus-rich soil but truly do well in anything. I’ve yet to kill one. Vigorous climbers need strong supports and if one gets out of control cut the whole thing down after blooming. Don’t worry, it will grow back and perhaps then you can keep it tamed.
Dropmore Scarlet, L. Brownii, has long, tubular flowers in bright scarlet with bluish-green round leaves. This one only grows to 10 feet and is quite manageable.
Coral Honeysuckle, L. Heckrottii, has oval leaves and a tubular flower creamy yellow on the inside and coral pink on the outside, simply gorgeous and the bees and hummingbirds adore it too. It is rather tame as honeysuckles go though it is known to grow as tall as 15 feet. It blooms continuously for me from early summer to late fall.
L. Japonica Halliana, the Hall’s Honeysuckle, is the vine I have trouble taming. As a matter of fact, I’ve given up and it wins. It sprawls on the ground rooting along the way (New plants for friends), climbs fences, posts, other plants and grows into the Rhododendron patch. This is the one with its zillion yellow and white flowers that needs a severe pruning every year either at the end of the growing season or in early spring and several times in summer if I want to get into the side door of my house. But I just love it. I snip off branches all summer long for cut flower arrangements to bring that wonderful scent indoors. Who needs air fresheners when you have Honeysuckle just outside your door?
All the ones I’ve mentioned are deciduous, at least in my section of the world but some Honeysuckles can be invasive in warmer climates and should be handled with care. By that I mean try not to let it out into the wild where it could strangle some trees and shrubs and become quite a nuisance. Vines in general are the wildest, least easily tamed of the flora, the Tasmanian Devil of the plant world, if you will, but with a gentle but firm hand they too can behave in the garden. I’d advise you to give at least one a try and you too will shriek in delight “Honeysuckle!” at the first sniff.