Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dramatic Native Vine...Lonicera sempervirens

There are any number of spectacularly beautiful native plants but for some reason there is a tendency on the part of their advocates (myself included) to be a bit defensive faced with 1000+ years of selection of Peonies, Rhododendrons, Camellias, Roses, etc. We have lady's slipper orchids, and trilliums, and our own Rhododendron spp., and hepaticas and a plethora of stunningly beautiful flowers but still sometimes, to be confronted by hundreds of blooming Tea Roses, German iris, Asian Rhododendron cvs., and Chinese Wisterias all at the same time it is a bit overwhelming.

Anyway, this is a native species, the Coral or Trumpet Honeysuckle, that doesn't have to take a back seat to any exotic cultivar. Plus it is inexpensive, easy, flowers heavily in April or May, depending on where you live, and sporadically the rest of the season. It is the quintessential hummingbird flower; the tubular corolla, the color, and nectaries too. I have always (well for 35 years anyway) grown this species. It is native from Connecticut south to Florida and west to Texas. It clambers through shrubs and trees to ~20'. In the bed adjacent to the Fern Valley parking lot, on the far side, the plant in the picture climbs to over 15'. There is a yellow variety, Sulphurea, that grows equally well; at the bottom of the Fern Valley Road, we have a nice plant sprawling through a Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica. The sumac flower heads are yellow themselves and the two plants make an interesting composition in early May. While it doesn't have a fragrance like Japanese Honeysuckle, it doesn't overpower native vegetation by the acre either.

Coral Honeysuckle is one of a handful of plants that I kept in Florida through the massive de/relandscaping. It tolerates those very dry conditions (it did finally rain .22" after 3 weeks yesterday!), and is equally happy here with more rainfall. This honeysuckle is widely available and inexpensive; for less than $20 you can likely get a flowering plant now. Plant it in any soil where it can climb into the sun and it will be happy forever.

No comments: