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Winter scent - Lonicera fragrantissima

  • Winter scent - Lonicera fragrantissima

Isn't that a name that just rolls off the tongue? I am never quite sure if Lonicera is Lonny-sarah, or Lo-Nisser-er... but for this shrub, I definitely go for Lo-Nisser-er, so that it rhymes with fragrantissima...

If you're not familiar with this one, it's in the same family as Lonicera nitida - the thuggish, evergreen shrub which looks like Box but is fast-growing, suckering, and generally badly-behaved - and Lonicera japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle, which is the familiar scented climber in our gardens.

So what is this guy? It's a sort of combination of the two - a shrub, but with scented flowers. Best of all, instead of wasting them in summer, competing with all the others, it produces the flowers in winter, as though to lure us out of doors on still, cold days.

It's quite a favourite of mine, and I like to sneakily plant them as often as I can, in "my" gardens, close to the front door, or the kitchen door, or along a path, so that the garden owner catches an unexpected waft of the scent, as they go in and out.

The scent is not always "visible", as it were - is there such a word as "smellable"? - which makes it all more lovely when you encounter it. I'm still not sure if the sun brings out the fragrance, which would seem logical: or whether it is just lack of wind dispersing it. Either way, sometimes you get a wonderful waft of scent, all the more lovely for being so elusive.

I keep the ones in my care cut back quite hard: as you can see from the one in my photo, above, I am training it into what is called a "standard", ie one main stem with all the growth on top: this is because it's right beside the path and we don't want it to get too wide, nor too tall. All this means is that I cut off the new growth at the end of the summer - the flowers appear on the old wood, so removing the new growth doesn't reduce the flowering - and I am gradually removing the lower branches as the main stem thickens.

But this is not necessary, and you don't have to prune them at all if you don't want to - they can be left to themselves quite happily, in which case they form themselves into a fairly large shrub. As an alternative, you can just cut them back a bit, if they are getting too big for the space.

For the rest of the year, it's nothing special, just a shrub with rather ordinary leaves: but the winter makes it all worthwhile!

Comments (3)

  1. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    Lonicera purpusii and fragrantissima not found the difference yet one planted by neighbour's gate and one by field gate using as background shrubs will take some photos and discuss further. Have some in pots grow well from Autumn cuttings whoops labels nearby knocked out of pots (wind or rabbits) back to square run isn't life fun?

  2. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Jim, the differences are very slight: L. x purpusii is a cross (as you can tell by the "x" which means it's a hybrid) between L. fragrantissima and L. standishii, so it's a bit more vigorous than L. fragrantissima, but that's not very helpful for identifying them.

    More useful is the fact that the new shoots of x purpusii are reddish/purpleish, as you would expect from the name, and it rarely develops the red berries which fragrantissima does.

    They are both semi-evergreen, ie they can hold their leaves in a mild winter, and x purpusii is said to be slightly less likely to hold its leaves over winter.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    Yes thanks been trying to get hold of standishii as its evergreen

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