Saturday, 8 May 2021

Honeysuckle: how to get it to flower properly

I have to say, in recent years I've become disenchanted with Honeysuckle.

Growing up, this was a hugely popular plant: every garden had at least one, they flowered their socks off all summer long, didn't seem to need any pruning at all, and the scent was delicious.

But in the last decade or so, all I've been seeing are tangles of bare brown stems, with a few blooms right up at the top, which is very disappointing. 

I've arrived at my own method of dealing with Honeysuckle, which involves treating it more like a climbing rose than like a true climber: instead of letting it grow and grow, I cut them back to a framework of old wood each year. It's harsh, but it seems to be the only way I can get these plants to flower properly.

In order to get this:

 ...which was taken in June: 

I have to do this:

And this was taken the previous December.

I do the same thing, every year.

As you can see, it's drastic: all the stems have been cut back to about breast height, all the whippy growth has been cut off, and there are just a few main stems, and a few auxiliary stems, remaining.

Over the previous few years, I have diligently trained the lower branches to run horizontally, instead of letting them fly up to the sky, and you can see the looping shapes of the thicker stems, at the base: they are going from left to right, instead of just going upwards. This is quite hard to do: you have to be very firm with them, but you can see that the results are really worth it.

So, if you have a scruffy, ugly, honeysuckle which does not bring you pleasure any more, hang on until next winter, then cut it right down, harshly, like this. When spring arrives, water it well, to encourage new growth, and take the strongest new shoots left and right, instead of allowing them to shoot straight upwards.

Hopefully, you will see a dramatic improvement in flowering quality.

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