I wish I had smell-o-vision
So I could share with you the divine smell of the blooming honeysuckles on my fence.
I’ve always wanted to grow a honeysuckle vine. When I was a small child, I remember picking the blooms from a honeysuckle bush that separated our yard from the neighbors. We would pick the blossom, then suck the sweet nectar out of the base of the tube. It was just a drop, but it was sweet, and that’s all we kids needed for incentive. In my previous home there were a few native vines that twined up the maples in the back woods. I never saw a bloom on these vines, though probably because I never looked at the right time, and certainly there was no scent.
I never planted a domesticated vine at that property, though I thought about it more than once. I have a rule that all plantings have to have a use. It isn’t enough to be merely pretty or “functional” (whatever that means). There has to be a secondary (or primary!) use too. Thus, all flowers had to have something beyond merely looking good. The pretty fucshia-pink phlox that bloomed every July had a scent that was heavenly and was one of my few indulgences as a mostly “useless” plant. The dramatic red hot poker plants attracted bees and hummingbirds galore with nearly 100 spikes of blossoms each May. The native thimbleberry insinuating themselves in the most awkward locations provided red thimbles that fed birds (and me) on daily forages. The landscape rhodedendrons barely eked by with the fact that they bloomed early and provided nourishment for the bees early in the season when there was little else for them. You get the idea.
A honeysuckle vine would have fit right in, but I never got around to it. Aesthetically pleasing landscaping, a divine scent, and a food source/attractant for native wildlife. And I never missed it. Now, however, I’m sure that when I finally find my perfect little place, that a honeysuckle vine will be among the plants I cultivate. This little house was obviously tended by an avid gardener in years past. The front garden is a riot of flowers: bulbs, perennials, roses, peonys, azaelas and more. In its prime I’m sure it stopped traffic. Now it suffers from a few years of neglect, so weeds have gained a foothold (though I’m working on that), and some of the perennials are gobbling up territory while others gasp and choke under the burden of their pushy green neighbors and lout-like weeds. They’ll send out a lone flower, like a white flag of surrender, and I follow its stem back to the main plant, pulling at the vegetative bullies threatening to smother it.
The honeysuckle, though, are unto themselves. There are two of them, of two obviously different varieties, and they are clearly mature, even senior, plantings. Semi-evergreen, with a snarl of stems, they provided a haven for songbirds all winter long. I mowed around them last summer, and enjoyed the privacy block they provided as they grew on the chainlink fencing on the south border. This spring, however, they outdid themselves.
The last two weeks of May, through today’s mid-June date, have been unusually warm and dry for a Northwest spring. And this dry, hot weather has been conducive to a jungle-growth that I’ve only witnessed a few times in my 36 years of NW living. Spring growth always resembles a jungle by the end of June, but this year it started early and is still going strong. And without the regular rain to dampen and wash everything away, the scent of the honeysuckle has been without equal.
When I take the dogs out for late night potty runs I almost don’t want to come back inside; the delicate, delicious scent permeates the still night air and wafts in the open windows in the kitchen. In the late afternoon sun, the odor is less delicate, but still delicious and intoxicating. In the evenings you want to pull up a chair and sip your sweet tea, and start speaking with a twang. The mornings bring a fresh, clean-scented start to the day. Yes, I’m in love with the honeysuckles.
One of the plants’ scents is a little more cloying than the other, especially as they began blooming. Burying your nose in a cluster of the tiny trumpets brings two different versions of the same delicious scent. As the blooms have progressed and begun to drop, the scent has become a little heavier, almost gardenia-like, and is at its best diluted on a light breeze. The fat little bumblebees have been all over both bushes, though they look a little frustrated as they buzz rapidly from flower to flower (the trumpets are too long, and too skinny, for easy access to nectar). I’ve heard the hummingbirds but haven’t seen any actually sipping. And the drop of nectar is still as sweet as I remember.