Long Blooming Vines: Loniceras

Long Blooming VinesSome Favorite Honeysuckles

Lonicera sempevirens and Ampelopsis elegantissimaIf you find a place in each view for one or more kinds of the longest blooming plants, and build your landscape pictures to complement their colors and character, your beds can nearly always be freshly beautiful.
These enthusiastic, long flowering Loniceras are tough and reliable, contributing substantially through the garden year wherever they reside.

First Prize:
Lonicera sempevirens Dropmore Scarlet

In our area, Lonicera dropmore scarlet is the longest blooming vine of the Honeysuckle clan. Iridescent orange with yellow and red highlights, it reflowers prodigiously starting sometime in June, going all through summer season, with a few flowers even into October. Scarlet can grow up from locations that have modest light at the base of the plant, but sunshine is needed on all the places where you want flowers. If they can get at least a few good hours of daily light in the growing season, either of these prizewinning Loniceras will bloom quite well. More light will give you more flowers, and this plant can thrive in alot of sun, but in less light you might well enjoy the warming welcome that Scarlet can provide all season, though there will be fewer flowers. Trimming off spent flowers as soon as possible will be key to keeping her continuously clothed in new buds.

Lonicera sempevirens is proudly a native North American species. Dropmore scarlet resulted from a cross between Lonicera sempervirens and Lonicera hirsuta made by Dr. F.L. Skinner at Dropmore in Manitoba, Canada and was introduced in 1950. Some of the other L. sempevirens varieties are also candidates with great garden promise.**

Second Prize:
Lonicera periclymenum Graham Stuart Thomaslonicera-graham-s-thomas

My second favorite long blooming Honeysuckle is Lonicera Graham Stuart Thomas, who is usefully a light clear yellow, often an easier hue to add into diverse color schemes than Scarlet’s orange.
While reblooming reliably over a long span, it is less floriferous than Scarlet, but absolutely rock hardy, with excellent foliage and nectar for you in its flowers. In short, this is a vine I would not want to be without. Graham Stuart Thomas was one of the greatest plantsmen and garden writers of this past century. It seems appropriate that this excellent vine carries on the tradition of quality that his name has always represented.

For years I thought Lonicera g.s.t. was a sempevirens variety, because the vine  behaves like Scarlet in so many ways, but Graham is actually a relative of a European wild species rather than our own continental native. In 12 years of growing this plant I have never had it self sow or otherwise behave in ways that might indicate invasive tendencies...
There are other Loniceras that are Invasive , so do be particular as to varieties you choose.

Growing Loniceras

…..Siting Your Vines
These Lonicera relatives are beautiful in nearly every way, but like Clematis and climbing Roses, their legs are not usually their best feature. Providing a handsome skirting planting or a structure in front of their awkward legs will often flatter the overall appearance of your vine in the landscape. Something a few feet high or so will work. If it is something planted, your bed needs to be wide enough to accommodate the stature of all the plants sharing the bed.

  • If there is too much competition or too little water for them, Lonicera’s flowering may dwindle. You want to anticipate providing enough regular water and nutrients for all the residents to thrive.
    An airy location and good drainage are necessary since there can be mildew type problems with the leaves, more probably if the place retains moisture.
    Encourage the Climbing…..
  • .Both of these Loniceras are easy to please ecologically and malleable in their shape, but they need strong structures to tie them against as they grow along. If left to themselves to figure out where to go, they are bound to get floppy and messy. In fact, if you have a tumbledown wall or other disreputable something you want to cover, let these Loniceras cascade. They will clamber all over the place and take care of the coverage problem floriferously.
    They don’t attach to buildings or structures on their own, which is a good thing because they won’t damage your home as self attaching vines do, but it means that if you want to use them in a vertical application, the support structure is very important. Your supports need to be designed to have places to weave through and tie to all along the projected travel routes of your vine. This construct is your way of telling the vines where you do or don’t want them to go, and helping them to get there. The upcoming performance of any climbing plant will depend alot on the support it is given. Hopeful tendrils, encouraged by tying up, will send up more new hopefuls.
    The further along the vine can get, the more lovely and continuous its flowering will typically be.
  • If thoroughly supported in their climbs, these Loniceras will happily cover a 6 x 8’ section of fence, or elongate to even double that if encouraged to do so. If such are your landscape needs, Scarlet and Graham will also flower well even if kept small or spare by pruning, but the new shoots will still need structure and guidance. If your vine wants to twine counter clockwise, respect its wishes if you want maximum enthusiasm.
  • In the peak growing season, you can expect to be touching up the clasps and ties once a week if you want to guide the climb. The process of tying can be a lot to keep up with, but it makes all the difference in outcomes. A wonderful invention from Bosmere Tool Co. ® called a ‘Lever Loop’ allows you, in the blink of an eye, to clasp the shoots of a climbing plant to one another or to any nearby slender support without cutting and tying all those little bits of string. You gently pinch these clips to open them, so they can be moved around anytime. They last for years, and are inexpensive to begin with. They will change your relationship to your climbers for the better, but don’t give up your jute twine, you’ll need some of that too.
    Pruning Your Loniceras
    Any stem left on after its flower has passed will begin to go to seed. This tends to take energy out of the flower production end of things. If instead you trim the goneby stems back to the next set of leaves – or further especially if you want to reshape the vine a bit – this will help the vine to put its energy into sending out new shoots, which will carry the flowers of the upcoming weeks.
    Towards the end of the garden year, I stop trimming and so some fruits develop. They color up nicely to red and are eaten by the birds.
  • Later I cut back these Loniceras, often quite drastically, to a base shape that is gracefully pleasing even in winter. These old wood stems will send out new shoots from just about everywhere along their length, and then flower on all the new stems. I always leave a few long old stems that have already accomplished the job of getting where I want them.
    You need to anticipate allowing many feet of growth in all directions each new year, so keeping a trimmed winter shape can also help to keep your summer Lonicera within chosen bounds...

    Color Worries …Uh Oh … Orange.

  • Most people would agree that Dropmore Scarlet’s iridescent red, orange and yellow coloring is beautiful by itself, but there is a common prejudice against using orange plant materials, and the overall effect of the flowers is in the orange range.Lonicera and Kousa, june 22,2007

    “All colors ar
    e beautiful or ugly
    according to their quality and place
    in relation to other colors.”

    Fletcher Steele,  Gardens and People

    Color is, by context, difficult or easy.

  • This everblooming orangey red vine is particularly valuable because its warm bright tones draw your eye from a distance over such a long span of the garden year. The best thing about Dropmore Scarlet’s color contribution is flowering profusely on and on for 5 months, but this is also the difficult thing, because through all that time she needs to be sited with companionable colors, so you will want to choose the surrounding plants carefully.
    Dropmore Scarlet, or any similarly colored plant, can be difficult to simply insert into the landscape because  there are many plants flowering in the BIV*** parts of the color range at overlapping times of the flowering year. This steers many gardeners towards complete avoidance of oranges and reds as being the path of fewest potential color disagreements. If instead you use the orange with color companions which enhance it, all will surely be well.
    Orange and orangey reds particularly argue with many ‘reds that have blue in them and blues that have red in them’. Dropmore Scarlet’s rich tones may make otherwise lovely light pink plants look sickly. Rhododendrons in fushia hues prefer to be elsewhere. There are definitely things you may want to avoid having if they flower in the same view at the same time.
    On the other hand, the oranges are always lovely with yellows and white, and can be paired with certain blues and lavenders very successfully.

‘If Red is in your Blues
or Blue is in your Reds,

Orange will be Safer
in Some Other Garden Bed.’


Color planning changes everything. …….‘Accessorise Colorwise’

  • Celebrating the oranges and reds in particular places by making color compositions with them in mind prevents these problems. If strategically planted with only agreeable companions in the view, Dropmore Scarlet can become a beloved centerpiece for a great many pictures throughout the year.
    This is not even difficult to accomplish.
  • To avoid color arguments I can suggest that Dropmore Scarlet and other true orange flowering plants are easy to partner with plant colors as long as they are on the ROYG*** parts of the color circle, and she also gets along fine with either white or ivory.
  • I have found many pleasant companions for the lovely Dropmore Scarlet, and below are described a few of her best friends in my landscapes. There are never any arguments  in these compositions since they were designed with Scarlet’s esthetic comfort in mind.
    Chamaecyparis obtusa nana lutea and Chamaecyparis o. cripsii are yellow evergreens and thus all year companions to the ROYG color palette. The white Geranium sanguineum album has been chosen for nearby floors instead of her purplish red, lovely but contextually difficult color cousin. Nearby in the views, the papery light orange poppy flowers of Papaver rupifragum appear daily for two months and more, providing a tinted color echo for Scarlet.
    Even in shade, Hosta June, with yellow paint swaths on her leaves and nearby colonies of the variegated Saxifaga umbrosa aurea provide foliage sunshine in the view. There can be bright orange Arum italicum pictum seedpods in late summer.
    The gentle everblooming Corydalis lutea is an yellow enhancer tucked into corners nearby. Corydalis lutea alba keeps ivory flowers alongside Dropmore scarlet in a modestly lit landscape, June through September.
    There are lots of textural deep greens in the background. In mid summer white Cimicifuga plumes, Japanese Cimicifugas for later, yellow Ligularia Britt Marie Crawford and afterward Anemone j. Honorine Jobert  join the composition. All these are lovely with the color set. Clematis paniculata takes us to the end of the year in complementary white floral enthusiasm. Clematis Tangutica is another perfect companion, just dont cut off her spent flowers, since her seedheads are enhancing to the picture.
    Towards the end of the garden year the red, orange and yellow tones naturally begin to dominate the fall landscape, which is by then decorated with berries, russeting fall foliage and pumpkins. Dropmore Scarlet’s flowers and berries are color allies in this context.
    Rules are also made to be broken.
    It is easier to start with this ‘rule of thumb’ way with things that are most likely to work well. I’m just saying to be wary. Certain selected blue-reds and purples can be very happy with some oranges.

    Other rules may come into play.

    I find that when combining any flowering plants for composition, if the color saturation (intensity) of variously colored elements is similar, it can help them to look better when they are together in the view.

    * There is a yellow Lonicera variety called John Clayton which is smaller in stature than either of my first prize winners. This size class would seem potentially very useful, and the plant easy to site since it’s yellow, but my experience in our local 5b coastal ecotome has shown this kind a little more susceptible to aphids than my aforementioned favorites. Lonicera s. Mandarin is an exquisite terra cotta corally color but, in my experience, this vine had a disappointingly short blooming season and was overall a weaker plant than the Loniceras herein recommended, so I don’t use her any more.**L.s. Alabama Crimson behaves much like cousin Scarlet but is a bit redder in color, less orangey. She appears an excellent candidate for our gardens. I have only been growing her for a few years, not nearly as long as I have my tried and trues, but she’s well on her way to my Best list.
    *** Red Orange Yellow and Green = ROYG / Blue Indigo and Violet = BIV


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