A pack of Woodbines: Britain's commonest wild climber is also the prettiest

A pack of Woodbines: Britain’s commonest wild climber is also the prettiest

How fortunate it is that Britain’s commonest wild climber is also the prettiest.Honeysuckle – Shakespeare’s woodbine – scrambles over bushes and briars and is at its best now.

Look at any hedgerow and you’ll see the fragrant, straw-coloured flowers, often intertwined with wild roses.

Honeysuckles are brilliant for gardens, too, and with 180 species, there are lots to choose from.You can buy and plant containerised specimens any time, but if you look for them this weekend, many will be in flower, making your choice easier.

Look at any hedgerow and you’ll see the fragrant, straw-coloured flowers, often intertwined with wild roses

However, some lack fragrance – a serious deficiency in a honeysuckle – so select with the nose as well as the eyes.

Though easy to grow, honeysuckles prefer their roots to be cool, their tops in gentle sun.

Overheated, dry sites can stress them and on baking south walls, aphids can be troublesome.So, spread a mulch of compost or leaf mould round the base and encourage leafy plants to shade the lower stems.

Twining honeysuckles need support.Trellis is ideal, or you can train them along wires stretched across a wall.

They can also be grown through the branches of trees or big shrubs. Rapid growth and a self-clinging habit make honeysuckles easy to pair with other climbers. 

Sociable climbers

Clematis go beautifully with them, as do summer jasmine and herbaceous climbers such as golden hop, perennial sweet pea or morning glory.Blending these enables you to have colour and interest from spring to autumn.

Vigorous honeysuckle varieties are useful for privacy, too. In the right conditions, one plant can convert a two-metre trellis into a leafy screen within a couple of seasons.The vegetation will also block winds and sound.

Wildlife can also benefit. Thickgrowing honeysuckle provides nesting sites for birds as well as a refuge for insects and spiders.

My favourite native woodbine, Lonicera periclymenum Graham Thomas, has parchment-yellow petals, a long flowering period and sparkly red berries to follow.

If space is limited and you want to grow your plant in a pot, choose the more modestly growing Sweet Sue.Pruning stems after the first flowers means new shoots will grow to bloom later. 

Early Blooms

The earliest variety to flower, Belgica aka Early Dutch, has red-backed flowers opening beige-cream and is richly perfumed.But it doesn’t repeat, so it’s best to team it with July-blooming Serotina or Late Dutch.

Lovely though our wild honeysuckle is, another winner for fragrance is Lonicera japonica from Japan. And in the Halliana variety, cream flowers emerge in pairs from July to November and have a more compelling scent.The japonica is best for screening, too.

Non-fragrant honeysuckles may seem pointless, but don’t write them off because many are very colourful. The hybrid Lonicera. x tellmanniana has petals streaked in scarlet and gold.But flowering is brief, in early summer.

Dropmore Scarlet does better, with an summer explosion of yellow-throated, red blossoms, followed by handsome blue-green foliage and later blooms.

Honeysuckle pruning is straightforward.

After the first flush of flowers, cut off stems that outgrow their space.If necessary, tidy in winter. And if a plant grows out of control – which most honeysuckles eventually do – tackle it with loppers in winter.

Cut as deeply and brutally as you like and 토토분석 expect one of two results: a dead honeysuckle or, far more likely, several more years of fragrant joy.


Our honeysuckle collection has a Belgica, Tellmanniana and Halliana.Buy the three for £8.99 or six for £17.98 and get three free, with delivery within 14 days.

Pay by debit/credit card on 0844 472 4161 quoting MGS912; visit mailgardenshop.co.uk; or send a cheque payable to Mail Garden Shop to Mail Garden Shop, Dept MGS912, 14-16 Hadfield Street, Old Trafford, Manchester M16 9FG.

Nigel Colborn’s essential jobs for your garden this week

Action Plan

Feed your container plants.By now most tender summer plants will have been potted up or planted outside and will begin a long run of colour.

If you want to keep your plants fresh and productive, and be sure of a sustained flowering season, regular feeding will be essential.

Between now and the end of June, I use dilute, general purpose liquid fertiliser.I feed my plants every Sunday, but at half the manufacturer’s recommended strength. And I prefer to do it in the early morning, take-up is faster and when any dampened leaves are less likely to be scorched by the sun.

From early July, I change to high potash or tomato feed, such as Levington Tomorite or Maxicrop Seaweed Plus tomato fertiliser, and continue to feed weekly.

If you remove dead flowers and damaged foliage, your containers will continue to look fresh and beautiful for months on end.

By now most tender summer plants will have been potted up or planted outside

It’s time to harvest your early spuds

The first new potatoes from seed tubers planted in early spring will soon be ready for harvesting.Lift only as many as you need, leaving the rest to continue to swell.

To reduce the risk of blight, clear away all debris – leaves and stems – from the growing crop and compost it.

On well-worked soils, it should be easy to dig gently with your fingers – or a hand fork – round the roots of the growing potatoes, to assess whether the tubers are large enough to gather.

If they turn out to be too small, give the crop another three days and try again. You’ll be amazed at how fast they swell.

Divide and Conquer

Primroses, cowslips and polyanthus can be divided to produce healthy young plants for next spring.Dig up the plants and shake away surplus soil before picking off all dead flowers and damaged leaves.

Divide each plant into rosettes, using a knife, if necessary, to separate these from old rhizome (type of root).Replant the small divisions in a shady spot, in good soil or in 9cm pots. Water them regularly through the summer.

The young primulas will be ready for planting where they are to flower, from September onwards.

Primroses, cowslips and polyanthus can be divided (l) and ferns look their best this month (r)

Cool your ferns

If you grow ferns, many will look their best this month.You can improve the appearance of evergreen varieties by removing last year’s foliage, once the new fronds have unfurled.

If your ferns develop a yellowish tint or if they’re growing too slowly, give them a dilute feed with seaweed solution and make sure they are watered regularly.

Most ferns dislike direct sun – especially during the middle of the day – so site yours in a shady part of the garden.

And if you can keep their surroundings cool and moist during hot weather, that will help, too.

The hardy geranium Rozanne

Plant of the Centenary: Geranium Rozanne

This has been named Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Centenary.After debate among experts, a single plant from each of the past ten decades was selected and from this list, the outstanding hardy geranium Rozanne was named as plant of the centenary.

Few perennials can match it for durability, ease of cultivation and habit.But more than all those qualities, Geranium Rozanne has a peerless beauty. The handsomely divided foliage, mottled with yellowish green, makes a perfect foil for the summer-long succession of large, single, pale-centred mid-blue flowers. No garden should be without this plant.

Reader question

My four-year-old lilac was covered in blossom last year, but this spring failed to produce a single flower.Did we do something wrong?

Mrs Eileen Wootten, Chesterfield.

You’ve done nothing wrong at all. Blame the weather, plus an excess of blossom on a very young plant in 2012.

Dull, cold weather for most of last summer, following an early spring drought, discouraged shoots on your lilac from producing embryo flower buds last year.

Next spring, your lilac should produce a spectacular display.

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