(Species: Lonicera - Family: Caprifoliaceae)
Honeysuckle and its origins
Honeysuckle, also known as woodbine, is a deciduous and hardy climbing shrub that decorates country hedgerows, scrubland and woods all over Europe in summer and has produced varieties that decorate our gardens too.
The species name Lonicera is thus named in honour of Renaissance botanist, Adam Lonicer.
Seasonality: Honeysuckle in flower
Gardeners who favour neat, tidy climbers should steer clear of honeysuckle. But if you want a climbing plant that smells gorgeous, has the prettiest two-tone flowers and can scramble up the garden shed in a season, then honeysuckle is for you. Not a plant to be restrained - see how it grows wild, threading itself through hedgerows, twining itself around branches of trees - honeysuckle is at its best given free rein, where it will turn the most urban of spaces into a rural-style, fragrant retreat.
Lonicera periclymenum is Europe's native honeysuckle and in high summer the familiar, scented tubular deep pink, yellow and cream flowers appear on the long trailing stems, followed by deep red berries.
The best garden honeysuckles are improved versions of Lonicera periclymenum: Belgica blooms earlier and Serotina, with deep crimson flowers, blooms until autumn, so if you have both, you can extend the flowering period. Graham Thomas is another long-flowering and beautiful variety which offers cream and yellow flowers. All of these are highly fragrant.
How to plant: Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle is unfussy. It will grow in sun or shade; light shade for preference. It prefers moist soil that is fertile and well-drained. Above all, it needs a garden feature to climb and scramble over so the tubular flowers can be seen across the garden: an archway, bower or pergola is ideal.
Mulch the soil regularly with organic matter to help keep the soil moist and top-dress with XXXX fertiliser in spring in order to boost flower production.
Prune straight after flowering by cutting back about one-third of the plant and renovate by hard pruning in early spring, to about 60cm, tying in any new shoots.
When grown in full sun, aphids that attack and damage the plant can be a problem so keep a lookout and spray with XXX.
Propagation of Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle is easy to grow from cuttings. Take softwood or semi-ripe cuttings in late spring or summer. Plants can also be layered by pinning the young stems to the ground to encourage them to root.
Did you know?
The sweet scent of the honeysuckle is at its most intoxicating at night. The reason for this is that it is designed to attract pollinating moths which can detect it a quarter of a mile away.
In some countries, bringing these blooms indoors is said to result in a wedding within the year.
In the language of flowers, honeysuckle symbolises true love and fidelity.