This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
POSSESSED of such delightful fragrance and elegant climbing habit, this plant is universally admired. Possessed of sterling charms, it deserves to be cultivated in all gardens, and in every variety of form which its nature will allow. As it is exceedingly accommodating with regard to treatment, it is much to be regretted that, in most instances, it is merely grown in those artificial circumstances where a wall or a trellis, or something equally formal, is afforded for training it. Supported by a pole, so as to compose a pillar, it is hardly ever to be seen; pruned into a dwarf bush, and thus making a fine border shrub, still seldomer; trailing over rockwork or a rocky bank, I have never yet observed it; nor have I ever noticed it planted thickly as a bush, and forming entangled beds, nor growing amongst Ivy, nor planted extensively to twine round the stems of trees in shrubberies, nor covering bushes of Hawthorn or similar plants in the ruder parts of pleasure-grounds; nor, in more than two or three places, pruned to a standard of four or five feet high, and developing a large half-drooping head, which almost sweeps the lawn.
And yet, for each and all of these objects, it is peculiarly well adapted, while such treatment, would in itself give a great and delightful variety to a flower-garden. A short sketch of all these methods may not be unacceptable.
Honeysuckles are not generally at all suitable for training on walls. They are chiefly twining plants, and require something to wind and cling around. The Etruscan and yellow-flowered kinds ( Caprifolium Etruscum and flavum), with the evergreen sort (C. sempervirens), are, however, tolerably fitted for clothing low walls. But they will need much pruning in such situations, at first, to prevent the lower branches from becoming bare, and to induce them to throw out laterals freely. For trellises, of various descriptions, Honeysuckles are much more appropriate. They can be trained over these so as to have almost a natural appearance, and whether the trellis be in the form of an espalier, or an arch over a walk, or a covering to an arbor, or any small erection, they will only need tying to it by some of the main branches, while the other shoots can be wreathed into the trellis. Here, as in the last-named case, much pruning will be wanted for a time, to get the plants into a good lateral and flower-bearing condition. A pretty diversity in training Honeysuckles thus might be obtained by the use of poles, with chains or ropes hanging in a deep curve between them, so as to compose festoons.
By fastening two or three main stems along these chains or ropes, and pruning them to give an abundance of laterals, very elegant festoons might be formed in a few years.
Supporting Honeysuckles by poles is much superior to the method of sustaining them by trellises, because more natural and better calculated to show the plants to advantage. Indeed, this is one of the best of all ways of managing them. The poles may be from six to ten feet high, and either single, or in threes joined together at the top, or in threes kept apart by crossbars. Perhaps the single poles are the most beautiful. A specimen, planted at the base of one of these, may be tied to it, or suffered to twine round it; and as it rises, the leading shoots should now and then be stopped, in order to force them into a lateral growth; for the main beauty of a thing of this sort consists in having the entire pole well clothed with branches and blossoms. If the former are obtained, the latter are nearly sure to follow. Pruned so as to make a dwarf border shrub, the Honeysuckle will add a very agreeable feature to a shrubbery border. It has only to be efficiently cut down while young, and it will soon acquire the habit of making nothing but short blooming shoots; or, should it occasionally send out a long rambling branch, such as it usually climbs with, this must be cut off at once, and its disposition to produce such shoots will in a very short time be checked.
It can then be pruned every winter as an ordinary shrub, taking care to remove straggling shoots in the summer when they appear.
For trailing amongst rockwork, or over a rocky slope, Honeysuckles are exceedingly good ornaments. They have a natural propensity to trail; and if the shoots are here and there plunged beneath a small mass of rock, or merely buried in the soil for a few inches of their length, they will thereby gain fresh vigor, and will not too much conceal the bolder outlines of the rockery. Pruning will be as useful in this case as in the others that we have mentioned; for, by shortening the lateral shoots, they will be induced to grow in clusters, when the display of flowers will be more effective.
Nothing would make a more beautiful bed or mass on a lawn, or in some retired part of a pleasure-garden, than a group of the late-flowering common Honeysuckle. It should be planted about eighteen inches or two feet apart, treated like a low shrub, as already described under that head, and, after the plants have gained some size and strength, a few of the more spreading shoots may be allowed to grow into the other plants, and thus an interwoven mass will speedily be created, which will simply require a little pruning and regulating each winter.
What I mean by planting Honeysuckles amongst Ivy is, where Ivy is used for mantling a building, or a ruin, or rocks, or is permitted to overrun a small tree for the sake of picturesqueness, a few Honeysuckles, if trained up amidst it, would greatly improve and diversify its appearance.
The practice of letting Honeysuckles mount the stems of trees in plantations is pursued already in some gardens. It deserves, however, to be more frequently followed. The trees chosen for the purpose should be principally round the outside of shrubberies, because the Honeysuckle will flourish best where it can get air and light. A small number of trees may always be abandoned to such an object, even should the Honeysuckle strangle them, which it will not inevitably do. With care to keep the plants from being blown away from their support, they will not demand other attention.
Every one who has visited forest-like woods, must have been pleased with the aspect of Honeysuckles growing over bushes. To obtain these features in the rougher portions of pleasure-grounds is surely worth attempting; and this may be done by using bushes as supports. By planting the latter at the bottom of bushes that are three or four feet in height, it will, if left to itself, give a character of the most picturesque beauty in three or four years.
The plan of training it to a standard of from four to six feet high, is a mode to which I would afford some prominence, in connection with a very similar way of managing the common Ivy. As a companion plant to a standard Ivy, a standard Honeysuckle would be an extremely desirable object. They are both produced by the same means. Pruning to a single stem, and when this has gained the required height, stopping it, and producing a head of branches, is all the preparation needful; and a trifling subsequent pruning will carry the plants forward without further trouble. To establish a Honeysuckle as a standard, it should have a stake to uphold the main stem; and as it will be advisable to continue this after the head is formed, lest a strong current of wind should overset and break it, the stake should be an iron one, which will also contribute to neatness. The plant looks best on a lawn that is either fiat or sloping, and the branches may, when the head is duly formed, be left almost to sweep the grass. If the plant be on a slope, the longest branches ought to be left on the lowest side, as this will create a greater elegance from the valley below. Perhaps the C. periclyme-nvm scrotinum, or the late-flowering variety of the Woodbine, is most to be preferred for a standard.
There is little choice necessary, however, as most of the Caprifoliums would answer the design, and C. sempervirens would probably be especially beautiful.