Originally published April, 2011
This week I have repeatedly caught myself reminiscing about simpler days – the days of my youth. I realize people generally become more retrospective during times of crises; life-changing events that are either joyous such as weddings and births or sad such as illness and death, however this is not the case for me. So why have the memories of my childhood surfaced lately?
Well, the answer dawned on me yesterday as I was planting a couple of Knockout Roses in my back yard. My Hall’s Honeysuckle vines are bursting with hundreds of blooms and are producing the most heavenly of fragrances!
You see, growing up in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas – an established community in which my parents were also raised – I was surrounded by honeysuckle. Not only did it grow freely along the creek beds and roadways, it was a predominate plant in my own back yard. It actually formed a nice barrier between our back yard and our neighbors’ as we didn’t have fences. Hall’s Honeysuckle, what I call the old fashioned variety, is an evergreen, shrub-like perennial vine that can climb 15 – 20 feet or higher. In my childhood back yard it was basically a large, free-standing, mound-like shrub that had sent feelers out among the adjacent trees, ultimately forming a nice green-leafed partition between them.
Taking in the deliciously sweet scent of honeysuckle these days brings to mind fond memories of warm summer afternoons playing in the lawn sprinkler and carefree musky nights spent chasing lightning bugs with my siblings. It also takes me back to the summer of my first boyfriend. We were both 14 and he was a Putt-Putt champion. Our “dates”, if you could call them that, were always at the Putt-Putt course. Honeysuckle enveloped the mini-golf property and the heady aroma of the vine’s blooms was even more intense at night. (As a side note, the Paul McCartney & Wings tune Silly Love Songs also reminds me of my first love! For more info re memories provoked by sights, sounds and smells, see http://www.livescience.com/8426-brain-link-sounds-smells-memory-revealed.html.)
Several especially nice traits of Hall’s Honeysuckle, even if its aroma doesn’t bring up wonderful memories for you personally, is that again, it is an evergreen, it is a perennial bloomer, and it also attracts butterflies, moths and hummingbirds, While the blooms cease during the winter, the vine remains nice and full all seasons – a bonus if you happen to be utilizing the vine as a barrier. My honeysuckle vines are strategically planted along the fence where their growth obstructs my neighbor’s view into my kitchen windows – not that my neighbor is nosy – but I like the beautiful view of the vine coupled with the year ’round privacy it adds to my home.
Honeysuckle is very easy to grow. It is an incredibly hardy plant to Zone 4 (-30 F) that does very well in both full sun and part shade conditions. It thrives in average soil and once established, does not require watering out of the ordinary. It is essentially pest free with little disease issues other than rarely, leaf blight and powdery mildew, fungal conditions that can be controlled with fungicide when necessary. In fact, the only type of regular maintenance required of a honeysuckle vine is pruning. Depending on the season you plant, a honeysuckle’s growth will accelerate to completely cover a fence, trellis, or arbor within a year. To keep the vine controlled and shaped, an aggressive annual pruning is necessary in either late winter or early spring. -And speaking of pruning, when considering a space for your vine be certain to keep a 4 – 5 foot distance from existing trees and shrubs so that your mature vine does not eventually climb onto your other landscape plants.
There are several varieties of honeysuckle to choose from in addition to Hall’s – the variety I fondly call the old fashioned type that has white and yellow blooms and is extremely fragrant. Other types are semi-evergreen, such as the Coral Honeysuckle, and some are deciduous, such as the Pink Lemonade variety. Some varieties, including Hall’s, can be used as a ground cover and for erosion control. Others have been developed to remain as shrubs. I understand the Gold flame variety is thought by some folks to be the most fragrant of all the honeysuckles.
If you decide to plant a little honeysuckle this year, I’d suggest you do so in a space that is close to your patio or another sitting area. For me, relaxing on my patio and soaking in the sweet aroma of summers’ past allows my mind to freely wander back to those glory days of innocence, youth and pure love. Honeysuckle works magic on my mood and I bet it will for you too!
Until next time,