Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lonicera fragrantissima....and it is very fragrant

This is a big picture of a little flower. When you put a sufficient number of them together (like a plantful), you magnify a magnificent fragrance enough to perfume an entire garden. And if you tell me it smells like Fruit-Loops, I won't smack you because I'm past all that, but you're wrong. And you're being gratuitously insulting; this plant evolved millenia before Fruit-Loops were invented so, if anything, Fruit-Loops smells like Fragrant Honeysuckle.

The shrub itself is fairly unimpressive in appearance; actually it's ugly. It takes the same form as the other bush honeysuckles that are dangerously invasive. Karen, my wife, has discovered an interesting way of keeping this plant in bounds; she has turned it into a standard. I wouldn't have though it possible, after all, left to its own devices, it becomes a very large arching, mushroom-shaped monstrosity. We have been able to keep ours to a single stem for at least 10 years. I prune masses of suckers from its base and branches from farther up every year so it doesn't become top-heavy enough to uproot itself, and so far it has worked. It's worth the effort becase the fragrance is....well, it's nice.

Every year is different, but in the chronology of winter-flowering fragrant shrubs, this normally fits in between Prunus mume (yes, technically a small tree) and the early fragrant Viburnums. Since it is basically a big weedy shrub, with a heavenly fragrance, I often put it in large scale designs; it's almost an automatic for Schools or Churches. I am not sure its fragrance is as nice as its vining cousin, Japanese Honeysuckle, but since it doesn't seem to seed, it is unquestionably the surest and the best fragrance for your dollar!

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