Give the wild children of the garden room to play

Erin Schanen

You can try to admire the flowering dogwood at its peak in my garden or the hostas that have grown to great proportions this year thanks to early season rain, but there’s one plant looming over the garden right now that demands all the attention.

‘Kintzley’s Ghost’ honeysuckle (Lonicera reticulata x L. prolifera) has gone fully rogue this year, its third in my garden, and is creeping and crawling over everything nearby, including the Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangeas. And I’m onboard with this new look.

The native honeysuckle vine is unlike other Lonicera as it has round silver bracts that make it resemble a giant eucalyptus. The blue-silver color persists throughout the season, but for the last week yellow flowers that unfurl from buds that resemble grape clusters have attracted seemingly every bumble bee in the area.

Despite it growing 8 to 10 feet tall, I planted this foliage star smack in the middle of the garden off the patio and have so far just tucked in the ends as it bends over itself. This year it has put on so much new growth that some serious rearranging is called for after it finishes blooming, although I don’t mind it popping up here and there.

It is the stately old man in a part of my garden teeming with plant introductions from the last three decades. It was originally propagated  at Iowa State University in the 1880s by William Kintzley, but was thought to have been lost until it was found growing in the yard of a Kintzley relative in Colorado and given a most appropriate name.

Perennial vines in general are having a good moment in the garden, although I noticed this weekend that I grow few of them in typical vine form.

The first round of clematis including ‘Guernsey Cream’ and ‘Sweet Sugar Lilac’ have done their thing, but the next round, including ‘Stand By Me,’ ‘Arabella’ and ‘Sapphire Indigo,’ all of which are left to their own devices to sprawl around, are about to show their first flowers.

The climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea petiolaris) are now full of large, white flowers soaring to great heights on the now-mature vines in what must surely be one of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck plants a gardener can have, so long as they have the patience to wait several years for it to start doing anything.

One of my climbing hydrangeas is planted on the north side of our garage and creates a  beautiful green wall. A few years ago I stopped preventing it from coming around the corner to the front of the garage, and now it has started framing the service door in the most charming way. I feel rather silly that I spent several years keeping it from doing just that now that I see how good it looks there.

Vines are the wild children of the garden, growing this way and that, daring you to try to contain them. Gardeners who strive to keep them prim and proper may well miss the best these plants have to offer, a semi-wild look that, for a few weeks at least, gives the garden the kind of interest no regimented care could.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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