While we are waiting to see if the Mid-Ohio Valley beats Noah's record for rain this year, the long-suffering spouse and I have been getting to enjoy what may be one of our region's most perfect vines, lonicera sempervirens, the native red trumpet honeysuckle. As the name indicates, the plant retains its leaves for all or most of the year, a good thing in our application as one of the places we planted it is in front of the outdoor portion of an air conditioning unit. In just two summers, the vine has covered its trellis, hidden the unit, and given us babies to plant in other parts of the yard. Besides being enthusiastic, the plant is also beautiful. Here are the young leaves and buds of late April.
but the red of the mature blossoms of midsummer is more attractive to hummingbirds, who dart among the blossoms outside our dining room window every day the plant is in bloom.
This honeysuckle is no prima donna: it asks for nothing but sunshine (it will grow in partial shade--we have it on a chain link fence underneath white pine--but is more prone to powdery mildew in that setting), a little water, and something around which to twine. While the plant stems can reach twenty feet in length and appreciate a sturdy support, they don't demand it. At our old house, the front porch was screened by lonicera climbing jute twine in the manner of old-fashioned morning glories. The stems stayed thin, did fine, and didn't pull down the twine--and the plant bloomed and bloomed and bloomed, causing the neighborhood hummingbirds to decide that the porch was theirs and dive-bomb unwary humans.
As if its attractiveness to hummingbirds and humans weren't reason enough to grow this plant, it also bears small red berries enjoyed by finches and robins (and supposedly quail, if we had any on our block). Native Americans used the leaves to treat coughs, asthma, and bee stings. And while I've never noticed any leaf damage, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes that the plant is a larval host (read: caterpillar food) for spring azure butterflies and snowberry clearwings that we're always called "hummingbird moths." Given that the hummingbird moths have found their way to the plant, I'll be watching for the next generation. It may hatch right outside our dining room window.
Who needs television when you have a plant as entertaining as this one? If it only had the scent of its invasive Asian cousin, the Japanese honeysuckle, lonicera sempervirens would be totally perfect.