Friday, May 28, 2010

Hairy Honeysuckle - Propagation of Lonicera Hispidula var. vacillans

I love the pink honeysuckle blossoms that appear high in our coast live oak trees on the edge of the redwood grove. I couldn't bring myself to cut back the boughs leaning over the driveway on which they were twining. And their new leaves in spring, soft and hairy, melt my heart.


So when they put forth red juicy berries last September, I snagged a handful and looked up how to propagate hairy honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula var. vacillans (at least I think it's var. vacillans) in Seed Propagation of Native California Plants by Dara Emery.

He says you should separate the seeds from the berries and keep them in the fridge, with a bit of damp peat, for a month. I blogged about that season of propagating from seeds here.

Here's the smooshing process of getting the seeds separated from the berries:


Actually they stayed in the fridge for three months - them and the leftover marinara sauce - you know how that goes. When I finally looked at them they were germinating already, and I put them in flats that very day.

That was January 29th. By February 7th a few sprouts had appeared. I potted them on and they continued to thrive. Here's one on March 26th after a storm, cradling a huge water droplet. Must be all the tiny hairs supporting the water:


Here they are May 16 just before I potted them on to gallon pots:

I took one out to check its roots. They are ready to pot on when their roots are nicely filling the pot, but not yet coiling around.


I think they could have gone a bit longer, but there were certainly healthy roots well distributed through the pot. Some had more roots than this baby. And here they are a week later, still happy and unconcerned:


I have about three dozen. I'm not sure what to do as they get bigger and start to twine!

Here is what Las Pilitas web site tells us about Lonicera hispidula:
A climbing deciduous shrub with large pink flowers. Native throughout much of California and up into Washington. California honeysuckle can handle full sun to shade. It's drought tolerant. Use as a bank filler or groundcover. It has an edible berry but bitter. It seems to be deer proof. Hummingbird flower. It is hardy to about -10 to -15 degrees F. Its red berries are relished by the birds. Flowers yellowish at base, pinkish, in upper portion, grows in oak woodland, good in clay soil, with Symphoricarpos mollis, Salvia spathacea, Rhamnus ilicifolia, Heteromeles arbutifolia, Quercus agrifolia (dominant)

Sounds great, yes? And they have thirty for sale. So why are then are they not more available for garden use? They are not even listed in California Native Plants for the Garden (Bornstein, Fross and O'Brien).

Well, they do have an open, gangly growth habit, and thick stems.


And their stems sprawl around in an untidy way.


And here is the reason they were used by Pomo , Kashaya, and other native peoples to make pipe stems:


Sturdy, hollow stems. Apparently the native folk also burned wood ashes to make a paste for tattooing too.* Good to keep in mind in case I get the urge to smoke or tattoo myself while far from a convenient retail outlet. One never knows.

I am, however, more likely to to use them to clamber over open areas where we've cleared weeds, as well as to clamber into trees where I want to create somewhat of a privacy screen at the edge of the woodlands where they border the road, and also I'd like to share them with neighbors.

I also do want to try one or two in a garden setting, training them up a narrow trellis that I envision going up to the upper deck so they can then branch out along the upper deck railing. Maybe not the best for fire safety but then neither is having an upper deck, period.

My theory is that if you twine two or three together, and also pinch prune them to get more branching, they may appear denser and flower more. Also I put a few of those little fertilizer pellets in the pots, which I hope will give them a boost.

We shall see what happens by next October, when I think they will be well ready to leap forth with vigorous joy.


*Goodrich, Jennie and Claudia Lawson 1980 Kashaya Pomo Plants. Los Angeles. American Indian Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles (p. 56)

15 comments:

Gail said...

I stopped at a local nursery and they were selling the same 13 plants and 6 shrubs and just a few native plants! I exaggerate but, just a little! Love that you propagated them with wonderful success! They are pretty flowers! gail

PatioPatch said...

Love your verb 'smooshing'. What a success with your hairy honeysuckle seeds. Bet you are really attached to them all now. Wondered if a 'layering' style of propagation could also be used - works with most honeysuckles.

pamsenglishgarden said...

How clever of you to propagate the honeysuckle seeds! We have invasive Japanese honeysuckle here, but I find it hard to cut it back in my woodland garden because it is so sweet.

Love your blog. I've left you a challenge on mine ... do hope you take it. Pam

Christine said...

Welcome back! Perhaps it's not quite suited to the small garden, but the flowers are so dreamy! I'm curious about the berries- did you have a tasting? Could they be made edible in jam? How romantic would that be to have wild honeysuckle preserves!

Country Mouse said...

Thanks, Christine - it's good to be back. It was no fun working at my desk while the weeds sprang forth all those weeks! I did not try the berries as I didn't then know they were edible. I'll have a taste when they come this year. I can also try propagating symphocarpos mollis which grows near them.
Gail I hope to do my little tiny bit to increase the variety and availability of natives!
PatioPatch I bet you are right - I also just propagated from cuttings aristolochia californica, and they are going like gangbusters. I think vines are just easy!

Pam, we are both of the tender hearted tribe!

ryan said...

Nice work propagating. They should do well wherever you put them. I have a couple of neglected specimens in my garden that still haven't bloomed after three years now. Maybe this year for the one that gets sun. I grew them from cuttings, seems about the same speed as from seed.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Ours are just blooming now. The deer LOVE to eat this plant, but we have a lot of it fenced off now, so I'm hopeful for berries this fall. I've been amazed how much is popping up in areas we've cleared of unfavorable weeds already. It isn't the most dense vining plant, but I am having some success encouraging some to twine around a water pipe I'm trying to hide (a couple of velcro straps help hold it in place while it gets going), and have directed some over an arbor. The plants you started from seed look great, so I can't wait to try starting some extra plants here.

Jess said...

This post makes me want to encourage this plant in my own garden more--I planted one under a non-native birch, hoping to get it to scramble up, but every time I try to sort of stick the honeysuckle stems into the birch bark, it ends up falling off in a few days. I have no problem getting native grape or Calystegia to stick to things, because they have those tenacious tendrils, but honeysuckle doesn't seem to. Do you support it with string or anything? Thanks!

Country Mouse said...

I don't know how it stays up in the trees, Jess. No tendrils - I think you'd have to tie it on till the stems harden. The stems themselves do twine but I think they'll need encouragement.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Honeysuckles tend to be invasive here, but not all kinds. I do like the seed starting process!

Brad said...

So I "trained" one up a street post sign. basically i just kept tying it up the post and then tying other branches up or wove them in. It looked kinda cool, but someone snapped the tallest main branch at about 5 feet high (It got up to 8 feet or so). I think you could definitely do. Just have a trellis where you can weave them through or tie them to it. They won't do it themselves.

Kamille said...

Hi, I've recently started reading your blog. How are all your CA honeysuckle plants doing now?

Country Mouse said...

Hi Kamille - Sorry, I didn't realize your comment was "awaiting moderation." I'm happy to say that the honeysuckle is indeed spreading all over the place. This year has been particularly good with a lot of glowing red berries high and low. They are thriving in the garden, and in the wilder areas. I hope you try them!

Janice said...

Hi. I am just starting to plant more natives in my garden. I am in Oregon, but we share some common natives, including the Hairy Honeysuckle. I was wondering if your theory about twining 2 or 3 together and pinch pruning them did result in denser branching and more flowers? I have just purchased my first one, and am wondering whether to pinch prune them or not. Thanks.

Country Mouse said...

I confess I never did try that pinching and twisting idea - however I enjoy them in my garden. They take easily and grow a bit lank and sprawly. But I like them. Maybe now you've reminded me, Janice, I will try that idea!