Back in the 1980s, I grew a little bushy honeysuckle in a pot outside my front door. It stayed compact, it hardly reached 60cm (2ft) in height, and it flowered for many weeks – but it had no scent. I had it under the name ‘Harlequin’ but the plant grown under that name these days is variegated - mine was not.
Anyway, now the one big fault with that plant of mine has been remedied by Worcestershire nurseryman John Richards with his Lonicera periclymenum 'Strawberries and Cream', which has a lovely fragrance.
John says he was looking for a honeysuckle with strong fragrance, disease (especially powdery mildew) resistance, and a desirable garden habit.
In the open garden ‘Strawberries and Cream’ makes a bush about 1m (3ft) high, flowering from June to October, with pink and white flowers opening from scarlet buds. Ideal.
In a container it should reach about 60cm (2ft), especially if you prune it as he prunes his: “When the first flowers gave way to the formation of fruit,” he told me last month, “I gave it a light shearing and now on short extension shoots 5-7.5cm (2-3in) long the next crop of flower buds are showing. When we have enjoyed these, I shall just allow the berries to form - glistening red - then let the birds benefit from them in the winter.”
Tried and tested
So how did ‘Strawberries and Cream’ come about? John explained: "This lovely form of Lonicera periclymenum was selected from a large quantity of open-pollinated seedlings from a number of different varieties growing on the nursery. The seed was extracted from the berries and sown in the autumn of 2005. More than 2,000 germinated and were planted out in our Herefordshire loam and allowed to “rough it” for a couple of seasons before progressively rigorous selection was undertaken. ‘Strawberries & Cream’ is a sister to our earlier introduction, ‘Rhubarb & Custard’."
John continues to work developing more new honeysuckles, and new clematis.
Lonicera periclymenum ‘Strawberries and Cream’ is available from RHS Plants.