Fabulous and fragrant flowers that look like gold and silver stars from afar.

The Japanese honeysuckle delights the sense of sight and smell, writes Elaine Yim

Ifirst came across the Japanese honeysuckle at the fo Guang shan Dong Zen temple in Jenjarom.

i was instantly attracted to this plant which bears fabulously showy and fragrant flowers in two shades of white and yellow.

spread over an arched pergola atop a Buddha statue, the flowers looked like small gold and silver stars.

Not only a sight to behold, the flowers also emitted a heavenly perfume.

Ifirst came across the Japanese honeysuckle at the fo Guang shan Dong Zen temple in Jenjarom.

i was instantly attracted to this plant which bears fabulously showy and fragrant flowers in two shades of white and yellow.

spread over an arched pergola atop a Buddha statue, the flowers looked like small gold and silver stars.

Not only a sight to behold, the flowers also emitted a heavenly perfume.

PLANT PROFILE: Scient if ic na me: L on ic er a japonica Common names: Japa ne se Honeysuckle, Gold and silver flower, suikazura (Japanese) F a m i l y : C a p r i f o l i a c e a e (honeysuckle family) Origin: Japan the genus Lonicera is made up of about 200 species of f lowering shr ubs a nd vines from the honeysuckle family of Caprifoliaceae, many of which are native to the temperate regions of the world.

it is native to Japan, Korea and eastern China where it grows in dense thickets along hills on well-drained forest soils.

the species was introduced to Europe in the 19th century and is now naturalised and widespread in North America, Europe, Africa, south Pacific and Oceania where it can be very invasive due to its rapid growth rate and ability to smoulder other plants and displace native vegetation.

Lonicera japonica is a common garden species here.

We also have a very rare species called Lonicera malayana or Malayan honeysuckle which only exists in the wild.

Lonicera is given by Linnaeus in honour of Adam Lonitzer (1528- 1586), a German naturalist and physician from the renaissance.

Japonica is derived from the Latin word for Japan.

it is known as jin yin hua in Chinese meaning gold and silver flower or ren dong hua meaning cold/winter enduring flower.

the ga rden va riet ies a re halliana, the common form with yellow flowers; chinensis with red flowers and repens with white to purple tinged flowers.

THE PLANT

Lonicera japonica is an evergreen perennial vine that climbs by twining stems.

it can become deciduous in response to cold weather or drought.

this woody climber can reach heights of 10m high.

the young stems are reddish while older stems are brown and hollow with peeling barks.

the leaves are dark green, about 3 - 8cm long and 1 - 3.5cm wide; oval shaped and arranged in pairs, opposite one another.

the flowers are borne in pairs on the upper leaf axils.

they exude a sweet vanilla-like fragrance.

Each flower is tubular shaped with a fused two-lipped, five-lobed corolla and long, protruding stamens.

the upper lip has four lobes while the lower lip has 1 lobe.

they open at dusk, are white and change to cream yellow the next day.

the f lowers at t ract birds, butterflies, bees and hornets.

Even children are known to pull out the petals to suck the nectar.

the fragrance attracts moths and other nocturnal insects.

the flowers do not produce fruit in our humid tropics.

in cooler climates, the fruit is a red to black glossy berry with several seeds.

the berries attract birds which feed on them and help to disperse the seeds.

HOW TO GROW

It can be grown in a container or on the ground, applied in mass plantings or grouped together in shrub borders.

it is best planted on a trellis, arbor, pergola, fence or sturdy framework as support.

You can use it as a groundcover but space them about 60cm apart.

THE STEPS:

1.PROPAGATION

You can buy a healthy potted plant from the local nurseries.

It can be propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings.

the best time to take cuttings is when you see new growth.

Dip cuttings in rooting hormone before inserting into moist potting mix.

2. SUNLIGHT

Full sun is preferred but it can tolerate partial shade.

3. MEDIUM

Rich, well drained, moist soil, preferably with a pH 6.1 - 7.9.

it can thrive in sandy soil if there is adequate watering but it cannot tolerate waterlogged soil.

4.WATER

Daily watering up to twice a day during the dry season.

Water the plant well and deeply.

Do not let the soil dry out.

5.FERTILISE

Apply a balanced NPK 10-10-10 fertiliser once a fortnight during growth period followed by a flowering inducer later.

Do not overfertilise.

6. MAINTENANCE

Remove spent flowers and withered parts.

Prune for shape when the plant becomes too bushy.

7.

PEST AND DISEASES.

May be attacked by aphids but the problem is not serious.

TIP When using a support structure like trellis or arbor, plant them at least 15cm away from the support to allow room for the stems to grow.

support should be introduced early to avoid damaging the vines.

tie the vines firmly to the support as the plant grows.

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