Ever since I was a little boy gardener, I’ve had a love affair with plants that cling and climb. First it was the annual vines–sweet peas, morning glories, ornamental beans, etc. Then it’s matured into perennial vines, though in making the distinction I don’t want to suggest that there’s something lowly about annual vines. Nowadays my heart throbs for Clematis (as mentioned earlier in this calendar) and now too for choicer Lonicera, like L. flava.
But I feel like I came around too late to L. flava. How could I ever have resisted or, worse, ignored its yellow flowers, showy trumpets for ornithophilic pollinators? A native species throughout the southeast U.S. and north and west to Illinois, Missouri, and eastern Kansas, my first encounter with it in the wild was in the Ozarks back in 2009. At the kindly insistence of botanist Susan Farrington, I dug up a few small seedlings growing in the clearing of a fire line and toted them home to my garden where they’ve since thrived. What tremendously lovely plants, and fitting the theme of this blog, so pitifully underused. The best part about L. flava is its tendency to ramble beautifully–the trellis is optional. Mine cling to a picket fence, covering it by late spring and early summer with flying saucer-esque foliage and yellow flowers worth adoring.
Also, please don’t get scared by the word Lonicera. This fine native harbors none of the invasive tendencies of its cousins (in fact it’s fairly uncommon in the wild), grows in full sun to part shade, and survives winters down to USDA Zone 4b. As with many of the plants on this list, while not terribly rare necessarily, they aren’t terribly common either. A quick perusal of the net turned up only one mail-order source at the moment. I previously knew of another, but that nursery is no longer in business.