There are honeysuckles, and there are honeysuckles. The one I spent yesterday hacking down off the side of my house was definitely in the “so-so” category. It was a lacklustre performer at best – a smattering of flowers with none of the heady scent you’d expect. And the flowers themselves were a disappointing muddy pink: decidedly uninspiring.
I think this was a Lonicera periclymenum “Belgica”, which is a selection of the common honeysuckle and really not the best. It was also a classic example of wrong plant, wrong place: we inherited it with the house five years ago, and it was planted – can you believe it – into the compacted gravel of the patio, right up against the wall of the house where it got little or no moisture at all. It finally succumbed to this year’s drought and all summer has been resembling a survivor of some awful famine somewhere.
Now I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of honeysuckle hater – far from it, which is why I couldn’t bear to carry on with this particular sorry specimen. I’ve grown a couple of other varieties in my time: L. japonica “Halliana” over a fence in a small city garden I used to have, where it turned out to be a thug, like many evergreen climbers – though so beautiful you could forgive it pretty much anything.
And just now I have probably the best honeysuckle I’ve ever grown – L. “Graham Thomas”, another periclymenum but so infinitely better than the one up the side of the house it hardly bears comparison. I have mine in a very large pot – matching another pot with a couple of clematis in it on the other side of the patio – and climbing up a hazel and willow wigwam. It’s been plastered with fabulous large scented flowers all summer, and now sports clusters of cheerful red berries all over. Just lovely.