We wanted to hide the pressure treated posts holding up our deck, so installed trellises in front of the posts to support some vines. Initially three different clematis varieties were planted, but the blooms were sporadic and not visible from a distance. And the foliage was not sufficient to cover the posts. In addition you had to know each plant’s “pruning group” to make sure you didn’t accidentally remove the next set of blooms. After four years we gave up. Strike one.
Climbing roses were our next attempt. But they bloomed only in spring, were subject to insect and fungus attacks, and generally a lot of work to deadhead and prune. Strike two.
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) sounded ideal: a long bloom period, no particular pests, and could be kept in bounds by pruning once or twice a year. As a native plant it is attractive to pollinators including hummingbirds. So we bought three plants and crossed our fingers.
These vines have performed wonderfully. The foliage is evergreen in the warm microclimate at the base of our deck. There are so many blooms that hummingbirds tend to ignore the feeder right above them. The plants bloom continuously, even in winter. And they hide the deck posts quite well.
The only chance to improve the soil for any perennial planting is before you plant. So get the soil tested and treat the area per the test results. Dig down about a foot, then break up the ground in the bottom of the hole with a garden fork. Toss in a handful of triple superphosphate or bone meal. Add several inches of organic matter and mix thoroughly with the original soil, then plant the vine at the same depth that it was in the nursery container. If your trellis is a bit off the ground, use bamboo stakes to help the vine get to the trellis. Water deeply each week for the first two or three months until the plants get established, and afterwards during dry spells. Don’t fertilize immediately after planting; wait until new growth is apparent, then fertilize monthly through mid-summer.
Coral Honeysuckle is a twining vine that twists and spirals around the trellis. Thus it would not be good for covering a wall unless some sort of support is provided. But it would be ideal for a steep bank or garden fence.
This year’s Master Gardener perennial plant sale includes coral honeysuckle. Call 828-456-3575 or email email@example.com for an order form. Orders must be placed by Friday, March 16, for delivery in May. Edible plants (berries, asparagus and fruit trees) are also included in the sale. Order by March 16 for delivery in April.
Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456- 3575.