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Lonicera (Shrubby) - Care Guide

Shrubby Lonicera - Growing Guide


(As shrubs or hedging honeysuckle plants rather than climbing honeysuckle)

Burncoose now offers a good selection of shrubby Lonicera that are either freestanding shrubs in the herbaceous border or woodland garden or, alternatively, evergreen hedging or edging plants which are an excellent replacement for box hedging in the many parts of the country which are now suffering from terminal moth and caterpillar attacks or after ‘box-blight’ disease. Lonicera nitida, in its many different shapes and forms, may well become the most suitable replacement.

L. nitida has a dense bushy and quick growing habit. It will create a dense hedge of up to 10ft in height and has glossy dark green leaves. As a hedge it will need clipping and shaping twice a year to keep it in shape. L. nitida “Baggeson’s Gold” has bright yellow leaves and arching shoots. It grows to around 5ft with a similar spread if left unpruned. As such it makes a good low windbreak or hedge. L. nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ and ‘Silver Beauty’ have similar habits but the leaves of the former are lemon-gold and dark green while the latter has silver variegation. L. nitida ‘Tidy Tips’ is known as poor man’s box. It has a dwarf habit and tiny upright stems densely clustered with leaves. It can easily be clipped and shaped into an 18-36in edging hedge.

L. pileata is also a dwarfish evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub which is not really suitable as a hedge as such but is ideal as a dense low windbreak in full shade. You often see this plant used in massed plantings in supermarket car parks or roundabouts for exactly this reason. The bright green new growth is attractive against the older darker leaves and it produces clusters of violet berries. Its maximum height is 6-8ft but it takes some time to achieve this. L. pileata responds well to clipping and pruning but its spreading habit precludes it as a hedge and it cannot really be used in the same way as L. nitida as a hedge.

Other shrubby Lonicera are grown for their honeysuckle flowers:

L. fragrantissima is an evergreen or semi deciduous shrub growing to about 5-6ft in height with a similar spread. Grow it near a path where you can appreciate its very fragrant creamy white flowers which are produced in pairs from January to March. It has red berries in May.

L. x purposii ‘Winter Beauty’ grows to a similar height and is also semi-evergreen with purple-red shoots and copious fragrant white flowers in small axillary clusters in January to March.

L. syringantha is a graceful rounded deciduous shrub and has small bell-shaped lilac pink flowers from the leaf axils in April and May. It grows to around 4-5ft in height with a similar spread so is perhaps more suited to the woodland garden than a herbaceous border.

L. elisae is a newish introduction from China by Roy Lancaster and grows with us to perhaps 4ft. It has funnel shaped primrose-yellow flowers tinged pink which are highly fragrant. The leaves have blue undersides.

L. tatarica “Hack’s Red” and ‘Arnolds Red’ are deciduous shrubs with tubular red flowers on the new shoots in March to May. Although fairly slow growing at first these varieties can grow up to 10-12ft and are therefore perhaps the largest growing of the shrubby honeysuckles.

L. involucrata var. ledebourii is a more tender shrub from California which can grow up to 10ft with a bushy habit. It has peculiar orange-yellow flowers tinged red in June followed by black berries.

L. kamtschatica, the honeyberry, is a very hardy species with edible blue fruits. It is a slow growing rare species in cultivation and has only been available from Burncoose for a couple of years. The flowers are creamy yellow in June or July.

L. crassifolia is a creeping evergreen species suitable for the rockery. We grow it on an ancient tree stump the centre of which we have filled with soil. It is slow growing and relishes full sun in a hot dry location. It has rounded leathery leaves and the flowers appear in summer. These are upright and white at first fading to yellowish. An attractive and unusual species which is not really a shrub as such nor is it a climber.
 

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Summer pruning 'Baggesen's Gold' - Video Tip


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