I’ve been working on that ruddy chicken fence some more today.  I’ve had to start on the section I’ve been avoiding all season.  The HONEYSUCKLE.  It’s probably about 25 or more years old.  I brought it home from a friend’s garden in Vancouver as a gift for my Dad, who used to get all nostalgic about English honeysuckle in gardens when he was a child.  The three or four cuttings I brought all thrived under his TLC and became rampant creatures that took over entire fences, and in the past couple of years, have begun demolishing the fences board by board.


June 2012, see the chicken house back there?


The problem for me is that in the chicken run (Run #1 for anyone keeping track of where I’m at with all this fencing) the honeysuckle affords wonderful shade and shelter for the hens when they’re in that run.  From the house side of the fence, it’s just so darn pretty.  I really don’t want to take it down.  I want it to be there.  Plus, it’s under the walnut tree, and walnuts are well known for exuding juglone, which lots of plants don’t like and won’t grow near.  Honeysuckle apparently thrives on it.

046 small

June 2012, outside the chicken run


On the down side, I have to get in there and cut it back pretty hard every spring anyway because it has big ambitions to take over the walnut trees and sends up huge runners every year, that twine themselves around the branches of the tree. Also, the fence under the honeysuckle is falling apart.  And somewhere under there, there is a hole in the wire.  I know this, because the last flock of chickens used it as their entry to the great beyond for their free ranging forays, pretty much daily.  Also, I see the cat emerging from somewhere in there occasionally.  I hate to cut off her access to the rat population, but I do want to contain the chickens, so…the fence has to be re-done, and the honeysuckle has to be dealt with.

Run # 1 Honeysuckle 001

Inside the chicken run, just before I started cutting today


My plan is kind of fluid.  I’m hoping that my destruction is not complete enough to stop the honeysuckle from starting again, so to that end, I decided to just clip back one side at a time, so that I can see where the main trunks are coming out of the ground, and so I can get the wire off, replace the boards and hopefully leave a few stems of the honeysuckle to come back and take over again.  I don’t know if it will work.  My neighbour and I cut one back pretty ruthlessly about 10 years ago so he could put in some fence on his side, and despite his care and attention, that honeysuckle has never really been as strong again.  Well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Having finished clipping one side today, I have learned that the hole the chickens and cat were/are using is not under the honeysuckle.  Bother.  So why does it look like that’s where they’re coming through when I’m watching from the other side?  I guess I’ll find out eventually.

Run # 1 Honeysuckle 006

Where the chickens are not getting through, but a big part of why I need to redo this part of the fence.


20 thoughts on “Honeysuckle

  1. Jlobb says:

    It is so incredibly beautiful! Wow! Can I ask for a cutting?

  2. Maybe not the same plant but Japanese bush honeysuckle is a pretty serious invasive here. There are major volunteer efforts to eradicate it from public lands. The wood is hard and dense but the plant doesn’t seem to mind being cut again and again. The preferred method appears to be to cut it at ground level and paint the stump with roundup. We have quite a bit of it and I’m not sure what to do. To this point I monitor the stands and lop it off at ground level regularly…but it doesn’t matter. The plant is in every neighboring woodlot for miles around. So is white snakeroot for that matter. So my plan has to be focused, instead, on making desirable species out-compete the less desirable species. But I have to agree that poison is more immediate and certain.

    • So apparently I replied to your comment in the box below Khaiti’s comment, but it doesn’t matter a whole lot, since my reply kind of included both of you anyway :). Except that you might get the reference to Mr. Morris a little better…

      Delved a bit more this morning and yes indeedy, I apparently have several bushes? Clumbs? Growths? of two of the five kinds of invasive honeysuckle. Great. On one hand I’m not putting this in quite the same league as the Giant Hogweed, which is photoreactive, and which I am completely and utterly ruthless with. On the other hand I don’t want to become Honeysuckle Farm so called because I chopped it up and spread it around and allowed it to proliferate everywhere. In the short term, I guess I’ll be ruthless with this clump on this fence and burn the clippings, and figure out what to do about the rest of it later.

      At least this isn’t white snakeroot or thorny locust or poison ivy.

  3. farmerkhaiti says:

    Wow, what a historical plant! How long has your land been in your family? Well, on the plus side, it has no thorns right? Many of our brushy invasives are also thorny, which is such a pain! Prickly ash I believe is the main offender, even the goat won’t eat it. Tthe plus side for it is that the song birds use it for their nests, and we have little thickets of it all around, especially along the old fence lines. We’ll be having to deal with some of them this spring when we start pasturing our pigs back in the wilder areas.

    • Looks like you’re right, I have the invasive kind, because according to various websites, ANY introduced honeysuckle is invasive – there are FIVE kinds, three from Asia. I have two kinds, and they both match pictures on the invasive species websites. Sigh. There are so many “invasives” now, that I think maybe this is a pick your poison kind of situation for me. This one is relatively benign as long as I don’t mind being ruthless with it where I need to be. Daphne and English Ivy are both invasive here, and I’m pretty ruthless with the ivy, for example, while the daphne doesn’t really cause me too many problems. Blackberries? Whole ‘nother thing. And there’s Mr. Morris, planting all those little white roots he got mailed to him for $5!!! What a great scam…and then he takes cuttings of those clearly virulent plants and transports them to the country, helping them to take yet another foothold on the continent.

    • My parents bought this place in 1970. Old timers still call this the Thomas place, or if they’re really old, the Sidwell place. Young ‘uns like Hay Guy and Saanichton Farm (they’re both my age) call it by my Dad’s surname. I’ve actually lived here longer than my mother did at this point, and she loved this place passionately.

      Yep, looks like my honeysuckles are invasive types, but also a fairly manageable type. And as you say, no thorns. Down in the US, you guys seem to have some really nasty ones. My worst enemy is blackberry, followed by morning glory.

      • farmerkhaiti says:

        How excellent you have such a long history with the land you live on. Did you ever leave and live elsewhere?
        Oh yes- the dang throny brambles, we have blackberry too but they seem to be less wildly invasive than the BC ones. BUT is there anything more delicious than a BC Blackberry? Ours are crap- truly wild, bitter and tiny. So their thorns are even more unacceptable! I remember the morning glories on the Island too- are they the white ones which are the pests? (ps my sisters and I are organizing our march trip right now!)

      • That’s true about the blackberries here, they are somewhat redeemed by their delicious berries, And I’ve heard that the ones out to the East are not good. Yes, the morning glory is the white one. it’s as insidious as couch grass because the roots go for miles and if you break them off, they regenerate from there.

        March is starting to feel a lot closer! Hope you’ll have time in between family stuff for a quick visit.

  4. Yes, there was a lot of to and fro from the farm over the years. I left home in 1984 – and came back to the Island in 1994, and back to the farm in 1998. I make it sound in the blog like my family farmed forever, and while that was certainly their intention, it was really only about 6 years of actual farming – most of my childhood. My parents also left the farm 1977-1987, though they continued to own it – before returning in retirement and starting up classic English style gardening in a big way.

  5. df says:

    That’s quite the job you’ve got cut out for yourself. I understand your hesitations – the plant is a pest, and yet when you see it rambling along so prettily and providing useful shade for the chickens at the same time…tricky. My husband, being a Brit, is very nostalgic about honeysuckle, but you probably could have guessed that.

    I can’t really imagine having the long term view that you get to enjoy of your land and the features on it; I’m envious. I loved learning more about the waves of family occupation and activity on the farm. It’s only through those waves and that history that a place can really be known.

    • I thought of your husband actually while I was clipping back, thinking back to the whole blackberry cutting thing :). Don’t let him ask…

      It’s a mixed blessing this long term view. Overall, it’s a win, definitely, but there are downsides – mostly reluctance on my part to change things, and a general inability to keep up the huge chunks of garden where my parents were channeling Penelope Hobhouse et al.

  6. One word: goats! If you were closer I’d trundle the girls across for a day or two and they’d sort it out for you The offers there anyway…of course they’d need a chaperone 🙂

  7. […] Cut Japanese bush honeysuckle (Thanks SSF) […]

  8. Hmmm… quite the dilemma. On the one hand it’s pretty, smells nice, provides bee forage and chicken shelter. On the other hand it’s invasive and is damaging your fence. I assume it isn’t feasible to move the fence a bit in a different direction.
    I think unionhomestead is right – you need goats! Actually, there are “rent-a-goat” operations around here for keeping the Himalayan blackberry at bay – even in Seattle.
    Goats aside, I think I’d do the same as you are planning – cut it back a bit at a time. Happy pruning!

    • No chance of moving the fence, though if I run out of time on this project before I need to put the chickens in there, I’ll have to run a temporary fence in front of it – and I hate to do that, because I’m pretty bad about temporary solutions sticking around and becoming permanent.

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