In January-February it produces numerous white or cream flowers, very perfumed, which bloom hanging under the branches, often in groups of three or four and which give the name to this variety. In spring, the berries follow the flowers, in groups of 2-3, similar to olives, of green colour, they become reddish in summer. These plants lose their leaves very late, so much so that in places with mild winters they can behave as evergreens; the leaves fall in December-January, before the flowering.
The Very fragrant lonicera is not a climbing shrub, but with a rather lax habit and with branches, reddish, arched and elegant. When ripe, it can reach 3 metres in height and about 2 metres in width.
It is a semi-evergreen, as the foliage is deciduous only where temperatures fall below -5°C. The single leaves are oval, leathery, sharp and with indented margins, of dark green colour, but glaucous on the lower page.
The flowers, among the first in the gardens, appear in the South already in December, whilst in the Centre and in the North, we must, usually, wait till February-March. They are brought to 2 to 2 in the foliar armpits, of cream white colour, with very intense perfume: fresh, sweet and fruity, similar, in some ways, to that of the jasmine.
These are followed, already by the end of spring, by some soft berries, oblong, of about 6-8 mm of diameter, of red or salmon colour, with translucent skin; they are much appreciated by the fauna, but toxic for the human beings.
It is originally from China and arrived in Europe in 1845 thanks to Robert Fortune.
The genus Lonicera includes about 180 species coming from all over the northern hemisphere, but especially from the wooded and mountain areas of central and eastern Asia.
They have always been very popular for their climbing or shrubby habit, for their beautiful flowering and especially for their renowned scent, with warm and enveloping notes.
Among these species there are many hidden treasures almost unknown to the general public, but that would be worthwhile to re-evaluate and insert more in our green spaces. In particular, the fragrant lonicera should be enhanced and made more popular: it is in fact a shrub with a beautiful habit and arched branches, capable of being a point of interest at any time of the year.
The peculiarity that makes it really valuable is the blooming during the cold season, when the rest of the garden still sleeps: the corollas are neither large nor showy, but their abundance makes the whole really pleasant. Moreover, when they open, especially on the hottest days, towards evening, they release in the air a sweet aroma, with hints of honey, perceivable even at a distance of meters and capable, even alone, to enliven the day.
Much loved by bees, it is nevertheless a great attraction for small birds, which happily feed on its scarlet fruits, which appear later in the season.
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- The genus lonicera includes about two hundred species of shrubs, deciduous or evergreen, widespread in nature in Europe, Asia and North America, these plants are very different in themselves.
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As for the exposure of the Lonicera fragrantissima it is advisable to plant it in a sunny place, or even in half shade; the Lonicera do not fear the winter cold and the summer heat. It is good to check that the place chosen for the cultivation of the plant is exposed to direct sunlight for at least a few hours a day.
For a compact and balanced development it is advisable to prune the branches too developed or without vigour, after flowering, in spring or autumn, remembering that these plants bloom on the old wood, and therefore it is advisable to remove portions of the young branches.
The Very fragrant lonicera can grow quite well in all light conditions, but the ideal location is in the middle of the shade, perhaps where it is well lit during the morning hours and more sheltered in the warm ones. This will allow us to have a fast growth and abundant flower production. Clearly in our country this location will be particularly recommended in the southern regions, as the heat and low humidity could cause dehydration and leaf burns.
As we climb up the peninsula we will be able to afford more daring exposures.
LA LONICERA FRAGRANTISSIMA IN BREVE
Family, genus, species
Roe deer, Gen. Lonicera, sp.
Type of plant
Flowering bush, semi-persistent foliage
Height and width at maturity
Simple and non-binding
Colour of the flowers
White, cream, pink
Very rustic, down to -30°C
Rich, deep, fresh; tolerates limestone and poor soils
Half shade; tolerates also the full sun and the light and medium shade
Always slightly moist
Free hedge, isolated shrub, mixed edges, pot
Watering and irrigation
The fragrant Lonicera plants can also withstand periods of drought and are satisfied with the rains. During the summer season it is advisable to intervene more regularly, providing water when the soil has dried up, so as to ensure the right water supply to the plant. In autumn, bury mature organic fertilizer at the foot of the plant or spread slow release granular fertilizer on the soil.
Even during the planting phase, it is good to have manure or fertilizer on the bottom that will allow the plant to develop at its best.
This shrub likes to have its roots always in a rather cool environment. It is therefore important to devote yourself assiduously to irrigation, especially in the months following planting. When it is completely free, especially if the soil has the right composition and the position is optimal, our intervention may become superfluous and we will worry only in case of prolonged drought.
Water stagnation must be avoided, however, as it could lead to root rot.
The Lonicera fragrantissima plants prefer rich, loose and well drained soils, but develop without problems in any condition, even in very dry and clayey soils. They are afraid of water stagnations, therefore it is advisable to plant them after having added river sand to the soil.
When planting these plants, it is advisable to prepare a compound consisting of soil, peat, sand and organic matter, so as to provide all the nutrients necessary for the proper development of the plant.
The ideal soil must be deep, well tilled and rich in organic matter. It grows very well when there is a good presence of clay or silicon, but also tolerates poor and draining substrates (if well placed).
To obtain an ideal mixture (even for those who want to keep it in a large container), 7 parts of garden earth, 3 parts of peat and 2 parts of sand must be mixed. Then we also include some mature floured manure and a few handfuls of roasted horn.
The multiplication of the Lonicera fragrantissima is done by seed, at the beginning of autumn, or by cutting, after flowering.
The easiest way to get new seedlings is certainly the cutting. We proceed in mid-summer, taking jets that are partially lignified, at least 10 cm long. They are cut near a knot and inserted into a light compound of peat and perlite (or sand), always kept slightly moist, in a warm but shady place. It can also be used in spring, with herbaceous jets.
An excellent alternative, with a high percentage of rooting, is also the offshoot. It is in fact easy to bend the long branches and, after cutting the bark, insert them underground. Once the rooting has taken place, we can cut upstream and move the new specimen obtained.
Pests and diseases
Usually this plant, quite rustic, seems not to be attacked by parasites or diseases. In certain situations, however, these plants can be affected by powdery mildew, aphids and lead sickness, which if not treated, can cause serious damage. Another problem to be considered is the possible formation of water stagnation, which could cause the onset of fungal diseases, which would also lead to serious consequences for the health of the plant.
These are resistant shrubs. Occasionally they can be attacked by aphids, which, in addition to weakening the plant, dirty the leaves with their production of honeydew. We intervene with products based on natural pyrethrum and remove any residue with potash soap.
Powdery mildew appears quite frequently, particularly at the end of spring and early autumn, due to the combination of heat and humidity. Let’s prevent with sulphur and carry out careful pruning to favour a better aeration.
Cultivation and climate of Lonicera
It is, like all honeysuckle, a very adaptable and tolerant plant, capable of giving great satisfaction to the most experienced gardener as well as to the beginner. In order to give the best of itself, of course, it should be placed in an environment as similar as possible to that of origin, that is, a forest and fresh.
It is a very rustic shrub: it can bear even -30 ° C without suffering damage: it is therefore very suitable for all Italian regions, including the Alpine areas.
However, it should be pointed out that, in that case, in order to obtain an abundant, and perhaps quite early, flowering, it is advisable to place the specimen in a context sheltered from the winds, perhaps protected by a wall.
Some problems may arise due to excessive heat. In addition to the right exposure in that case, the care of the substrate will be of extreme importance, which must be able to stay cool and slightly moist at all times.
The ideal period for this process is undoubtedly late autumn, before the frosts. Let’s dig a deep hole at least twice as wide as the bread of the earth and prepare a thick draining layer of gravel on the bottom and then one of manure. Let’s insert the plant and compact well with the soil, enriched and made very soft. We water abundantly.
Pruning is not strictly necessary. During the first few years it is advisable to intervene as little as possible to allow the specimen to quickly reach its final size. Afterwards, it may be possible to intervene after the end of flowering, shortening the branches produced in previous years by about 1/3. In autumn or at the end of winter, on the other hand, it is possible to eliminate damaged, diseased or dead branches, possibly stimulating a renewal in the older specimens.
IL CALENDARIO DELLA L. FRAGRANTISSIMA
December (South), February-March (Centre-North)
End of March/beginning of April/rejuvenation also in November
Fertilization and cultivation care
It is an undemanding plant and requires limited maintenance. To stimulate development and keep the soil always airy and vital, it is useful to spread at the foot of the specimens, in late autumn, a good amount of manure or compost together with slow release granular fertilizer for flowering shrubs, where nitrogen and potassium are balanced. In this way we will stimulate both the vegetative growth and the production of buds. A second administration of granules can be done at the end of summer.
Varieties of Lonicera
The very fragrant lonicera is available both in the typical species and in some interesting cultivars. Over the years, moreover, several interspecific hybrids have been created, also to be taken into consideration.
The most popular cultivar on the market is undoubtedly the “Spring Purple”, which combines beautiful white winter flowers with new bright purple jets. The foliage is dark green, with purple reflections.
Very similar is the Lonicera standishii: it has sharper leaves and flowers slightly later, around March, with pale pink petals.
An interesting hybrid is the lonicera x purpusii, obtained by crossing it with the standishii: more compact, with leaves up to 10 cm long and creamy white flowers, in groups of two or four.
Lonicera fragrantissima: Uses and combinations
Due to its small size and erect posture, this lonicera can also be used in small spaces or gardens. The ideal is to use it as an isolated specimen or for the creation of free hedges, also in combination with other winter flowering essences (e.g. forsythia, jasminum nudiflorum, calicanto, chaenomeles japonica), ideal for reviving open spaces in the coldest months.
By using a large (but above all deep) pot, you can even grow it on a balcony or terrace.