Saturday, 13 August 2011

collecting and growing honeysuckle (lonicera pericyclemenum) seeds

Summer evenings are not complete without the scent of honeysuckle hanging in invisible veils across paths or through gardens.

William Robinson (The Wild Garden) commends 'tree drapery' to us and urges us to train climbers 'in free ways over trees'.

Not only is this aesthetically pleasing, but climbers (especially our native ones) are especially useful to wildlife. In other luckier counties, the white admiral butterfly uses the honeysuckle as a larval food plant and the pied flycatcher is said to use the peeling bark of established plants for nesting material. In Nottinghamshire we can expect mature plants to provide nesting opportunities for birds, for the blossom to attract a range of invertebrates to its sweet nectar and for birds and mammals to feast on its voluptuous berries in high summer and autumn.

My favourite honeysuckle is our native one - lonicera pericylemenum - whose country name is woodbine. I'm not a purist and am nurturing a range of other kinds on the allotment. Overwintering blackcaps love the nutritious black berries of the l. halliana form during the winter.

And now the plants are beginning to fill with sticky red berries. Time for seed collection - so always carry plastic bags with you for this opportunity. Ignore the looks of passers by - my experience tells me they have a fear of making eye contact with anyone who furtively delves into hedgerows.

At home, separate the juicy flesh of the berries from the seeds and dry seeds on kitchen paper. Your fingers will suggest that you have a heavy smoking habit for a day but eventually the 'nicotine stains' will scrub off. Berries can sometimes contain half a dozen seeds. Each piece of kitchen paper will hold around 50 seeds.

When dry, place kitchen paper and its seeds onto tray of damp potting compost and lightly cover with more compost. Two pieces of kitchen towel will go onto a seed tray and so, with fantastic germination you could have a hundred seedlings. Place outside and keep watered.

After two weeks or so the seeds may be germinating and these can be placed in modules.

When plants are around 10 cm tall, plant out in hedgerows or at base of trees or grow them on in a nursery bed.

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