Creeping honeysuckle (Lonicera crassifolia)
The woody ground cover you’ve always longed for
ZONES: 5 to 9CONDITIONS: Full sun to partial shade; well drained soil
There is nothing “crass” about this sophisticated plant except the portion of the botanical species name, which actually means “thick-leaved.” On the contrary, this may well be the woody ground cover you have always envisioned but never found.
Gorgeous small, rounded evergreen leaves take on bronzy to plum tones in winter depending on exposure and climate. These leaves crowd the thin, wiry stems, which root as they travel along the ground and surf over low boulders and logs in their path. Creeping honeysuckle is easy to control, though, as it is shallow-rooted with no underground runners. Planted on a wall or steep slope, it flows down like an appealing green waterfall. This plant is also great for under-planting below larger shrubs. Its growth rate is manageable, spreading 12 to 18_inches per year. This dense foliage is the perfect stage for the white flower buds set in small fuchsia-pink sleeves, which morph into amber-yellow blossoms exploding with pale stamens. The display is best described as subtly awesome. The small flowers are unmistakably honeysuckle, although their sole—yet forgivable—fault is the lack of intoxicating fragrance. But neither we, nor the hummingbirds, mind a bit.
To our knowledge, all plants offered in North America come from a single clone plant introduced by Steve Hootman, director of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Washington. Being a single clone, this plant has never set fruit, which eliminates any invasive potential. Sometimes you see plants with odd initials and numbers like the “SEH 085” that sometimes appears in conjunction with this plant. These refer to documented botanical collecting expeditions. In this case, it is Steve’s initials before his 85th collection of the trip. Whenever we see collector numbers such as this, the plant takes on an allure imbued with the mystery, romance, and travails of plant hunting in faraway places.
—Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken grow some of the coolest plants on the planet at Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, Washington.
Fine Gardening magazine has graciously allowed us to post some past Plant Profiles we have authored. We have worked with the magazine for a number of years and more recently in the capacity of contributing editors. The folks at the magazine have been a joy to work with and have been very amenable to our occasional quirkiness and interest in unusual plants. One of the things we appreciate about the staff at FG is they are constantly in motion visiting top gardeners and gardens across the country and then enlisting them to write about the plants and design strategies that light them up. It is no small feat to make a publication contain relevance to any part of the country but they pull it off with each issue.