Kintzley’s Ghost is Hauntingly Beautiful

Lonicera reticulata_Kintzley's Ghost Honeysuckle _DBG_LAH_1711You’ve put out the jack-o’-lantern, there are mysterious eyes blinking in the hedge, and spider webs festoon the front porch. It’s almost time to greet thus year’s trick-or-treaters. You think you’re ready, but there’s a good chance that you’re missing the pièce de résistance, the perfect, spooky vine to frame your doorway. You need to plant Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle!

This 2006 PlantSelect™ winner is the perfect plant for Colorado gardens, and not just because of its Halloween-evoking name. A cross between two Midwest natives, Lonicera reticulata (Grape Honeysuckle) and L. prolifera (Yellow Honeysuckle), this hybrid depends on weekly watering in more arid regions. Plants are hardy in USDA zone 4 through 8. Not fussy about soil, they thrive in full sun, but also tolerate afternoon shade. Another plus—the blue-green foliage is deer-resistant.


Sweet, Sweet Honeysuckles

I sat me down to watch upon a bank
With ivy canopied and interwove
With flaunting honeysuckle. (John Milton)

Lonicera sempervirens_Honeysuckle_DBG_LAH_6903Mention honeysuckle, and we think of green hedgerows, sultry summer days, and childhoods spent picking the flowers and putting them in our mouths to suck out the sweet nectar. There are around 180 species in the genus Lonicera. Fast growing and tolerant of inhospitable conditions, honeysuckles have much to recommend them. Many are valuable landscape plants able to withstand Colorado’s challenging conditions while presenting us with beautiful flowers and berries adored by birds.


Virginia Creeper

parthenocissus-quinquefolia_virginia-creeper_fcnc-co_lah_3565When we think of fall color, we usually think of trees—ash trees are bright yellow, aspen is gold, and oaks and maples are turning crimson. Or we might notice the incredible purple-orange-scarlet leaves on aptly named Burning Bush (Euonymus alata).  Not many people expect impressive fall color from a vine.

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is an import from the northeastern U.S., and grows well in Colorado; it’s hardy to zone 3. Three to seven-inch leaflets in sets of five turn a gorgeous red-orange in September and October, creating a pleasing backdrop for the small blue berries scattered throughout.


Trumpet Vine – Campsis radicans

Tropical vines with huge, brilliantly colored flowers don’t normally grow in Colorado, but Trumpet Vine is an enjoyable exception. A vigorous grower, Trumpet Vine can reach 30 feet, with dark green compound leaves that drop in fall to reveal the vine’s light brown papery bark. From mid-summer to frost, three-inch long vase-shaped flowers of fiery orange-red grow in clusters of four or more. In fall, hundreds of papery seeds develop in five-inch long capsules.


Perennial Sweetpea – Lathyrus latifolius

lathyrus-latifolius-perennial-sweetpea-home-lah_5796Perennial sweetpea is a lovely, old-fashioned flower—one that grandmother might have grown. The keeled pea blossoms, ranging from a blushed white to a deep rose pink, form a clump atop long stems. Lanky vines sport sparse foliage. Bloom will continue from now until early fall if spent flowers are removed. If left to mature, the round, spiral pods will suddenly twist open, flinging their seeds several feet into the air, and sowing plenty of new vines in your garden.

lathyrus-latifolius-perennial-sweet-pea-home-lah-010While the more familiar annual sweet peas don’t do well with Colorado’s wild weather gyrations, this perennial form thrives here. The plants are long-lived, growing six feet long by the end of summer and then dying back to the roots in winter. They cling with tendrils, so some supportive netting is helpful.

Difficult to find as plants in nurseries, perennial pea is easily started from seed. Soak the seeds overnight to hasten germination and then plant in average garden soil in full sun to part shade. Go light on the watering.

With their cottage garden appeal, the vines combine well with clematis and roses, or you can grow them on a fence. They are also suitable as cut flowers. The only drawback is that the blossoms lack the wonderful fragrance of the annual sweet peas.