As the weather gets colder with some snow promised in the next few days, any flowers in the garden are especially valued. Although I would not say it is among the top ranks of shrubs, I would always try to find room for Lonicera purpusii or the very similar (I don’t know the difference really) ‘Winter Beauty’. Both are slightly semi-evergreen and look better when the weather has been cold and most of the leaves drop so the small flowers can be seen better. Not that this is something that you grow for its looks, rather for the fragrance of the small flowers.
The blooms open white and age to cream, something that is common among lonicera (honeysuckles). They have a lovely sweet fragrance that has citrus notes and very refreshing. because it is so easy going it is easy enough to cut some twigs to bring into the house so you can enjoy the scent up close.
The flowers appear on twigs that grow on stems that at at least two years old so you don’t want to keep pruning this is summer or flowering will be reduced. A rather untidy plant, it can reach 2m high and across. Fortunately it is not fussy about soil and will grow in sun or part shade.
The flowers are much smaller than those of ‘usual’ honeysuckles such as ‘Scentsation’ below, which also amply demonstrates the darkening of the flowers as they age.
Both these were taken in the garden but the photo below was taken many years ago when I had the good fortune to visit Tresco Abbey on the Scilly Isles. This is the majestic Lonicera hildebrandiana, the biggest of all lonicera and the species with the largest flowers too. It can grow 20m high and the intensely fragrant flowers are 15cm long. Of course there has to be a catch, apart from the fact that it could cover most houses if left unchecked and that is that it is also the most tender of loniceras, not able to withstand anything but the occasional drop to near 0c. It was discovered in Myanmar (then Burma) in 1888 by Sir Henry Collet. He named it after Arthur Hildebrand who was a British adminstrator of the area and he sent seeds to Europe and I believe the first plant to bloom in the West was at Glasnevin, Dublin, in 1898. It is not a difficult plant to grow but it can only be planted outside in very mild areas. Otherwise it needs to be grown in a cool greenhouse or in a very sheltered spot outside. It usually blooms in June and July with a smattering of flowers later.