A traditional English cottage garden plant (commonly called woodbine), treasured for its strong perfume from the end of May into winter, honeysuckle has delicate trumpets coloured from yellows and creams to reds.
Popular choices are the early and late Dutch honeysuckle – Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’ (pink and cream) and ‘Belgica’ (crimson and cream), which have larger, scented flowers borne on side shoots produced from the previous season’s growth.
Trained to climb against a wall or fence, some honeysuckles will scramble up to 3.5m (10 ft), or more, and will happily twine through branches of trees and shrubs. Plant in full sun in well drained, fertile soil.
Like many climbers, honeysuckle will need pruning, possibly hard, after flowering – prune summer-flowering varieties in autumn and winter ones in spring. Take your shears to excessive growth, ruthlessly cutting back to reduce the plant to 0.6m (24in) in height, and train vigorous new shoots to cover the whole of the support structure. To stimulate bushy growth, keep pinching out the growing tips.
To prune a neglected honeysuckle first untangle it, if possible untying it from its supports and laying it flat on the ground. Cut out the oldest, woodiest growths, either right down to the base or to just above a bud or strong, young side-shoot, then re-tie evenly to the support.
After pruning, apply a general fertiliser, water and mulch to help the honeysuckle to recover.
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