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8 August 2014

Looking at Lonicera

Lonicera - commonly known as honeysuckle - has been popular with gardeners for a long time, and rightly so. There are climbing varieties, which are wonderful draped over pergolas and supports, and evergreen shrubby types, which make good hedging plants. They are happy in full sun or partial shade, and are easy to grow, with most types fully hardy.

The deciduous climbers flower in summer, and should be planted in winter, while the evergreen shrubby type flower in late winter, spring or summer, and should be planted in spring or autumn.

Climbers prefer fertile, humus rich, moist but well-drained soil. Though they will flower best with the top growth in full sun, they are less prone to aphid attack in partial shade. Shrubby honeysuckles are happy in any well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.

Both types like a mulch of organic matter around the base, either garden compost or well-rotted manure, to reduce water stress. Top dressing in spring with general fertiliser such as fish blood and bone or Growmore will promote growth and flowering.

With just two or three varieties, you can enjoy the heady scent of honeysuckle every evening from May to October.

Start with the deciduous L. caprifolium, guaranteed to be in bloom by the middle of May. The flowers are creamy white when they first open, becoming the palest apricot and then flushed pink as they age. It climbs to 10ft (3m).

Follow this with L. x italica, which is a superb deciduous hybrid with a powerful clove scent. Its yellow flowers are suffused with a rich, deep pink. It can grow to almost twice the height of L. caprifolium.

Two suggested shrub varieties are:-

L. × purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’: produces fragrant white flowers in late winter and early spring. Height 2m (6½ft). Spread 2.4m (8ft).

L. pileata: a spreading evergreen plant with small, creamy white flowers and violet-purple berries. Good for ground cover. Height: 60cm (2ft). Spread 2.4m (8ft).

Loniceras aren't difficult to prune but the different types need treating differently, so find what your plant needs before you start cutting.

If you don't already have a honeysuckle in your garden, it is certainly a plant to consider for the future.

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