Favourite honeysuckle vines

Judith Adam

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Honeysuckle (Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling)
Honeysuckle (Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling)
Honeysuckle (Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling)

Winter windows are important garden features in my office. I have windows near two sides of my desk, and a close view of a birdbath. Just outside each window are honeysuckle vines outlined in snow. In warm months they bloom sequentially from early spring through midsummer. Originally I had grape vines around the windows, but they were much too vigorous. One actually grew tendrils through the window screen and into the room! I beat them back several times before digging the grapes out. Fortunately, honeysuckle has many fine attributes, the first of which is good behaviour.

Honeysuckle vines are easy to grow in full sun to part shade, requiring only a cool root run in average garden soil, and good drainage. My earliest blooming honeysuckle is Italian woodbine (Lonicera caprifolium, 10 feet/3 m, Zone 6) with purple-flushed stems and flower buds, opening to fragrant creamy blossoms. This compact honeysuckle vine begins to sprout leaves in the first week of March and the flowers appear in early April. I grew this plant from seed (courtesy of the Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society).

The later blooming plant is Lonicera ‘Mandarin’ (20 feet/6 m, Zone 4), a Canadian hybrid developed in 1989 at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden by Wilf Nicholls, currently director of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden. The flowers are intense apricot-orange, produced in masses in June, and then sporadically through the summer. This vine fills a small arbour, and cardinals like to nest in it. In winter chickadees are frequently jumping in and out, looking for seeds. These lightweight vines are easy to support, and when planted around windows will give you a year-round view worth watching — even in winter!

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