FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ is a lovely compact selection of a treasured native vine. This cultivar has attractive bluish glaucous leaves that are clean and pest resistant. In spring and early summer, clusters of clear yellow tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. This robust twining vine thrives in moist to well drained soils in full sun to part shade.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent, Lonicera sempervirens, ranges through most of the eastern and central United States in open woods, savannas, roadsides, fence rows and thickets.
The ‘John Clayton’ cultivar was discovered on the grounds of an old church in Gloucester, Virginia. It was selected by the Virginia Native Plant Society and named to honor 17th century botanist John Clayton.
Like the parent plant, this cultivar is hardy from USDA Zones 4-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ is a twining vine with compact growth. In northern areas, plants are deciduous and in southern areas, vines are evergreen.
Mature stems are straw colored with peeling bark. Stems climb by wrapping around vertical supports or nearby plants.
Opposite leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem. The old leaves are elliptical and about 3” long. They have an attractive bluish color and very short petioles.
As flowers are initiated the set of leaves below merges into one connate-perfoliate unit. The united leaves have the appearance of a round disc that wraps around the stem. Tubular flowers are borne in open clusters above these disc shaped leaves. Each floret is slender and trumpet shaped. They are golden yellow and about 2” long.
In southern areas, flowering begins in spring and continues into summer. Further north, flowering occurs from summer to early fall. This cultivar is a dependable re-bloomer that can sport a few flowers in mid to late fall.
The floral nectar is a preferred food for ruby throated hummingbirds. After flowering, plants produce glossy red berries that attract songbirds.
Plants can attain a height of 7-10’ if suitable vertical support is available.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ thrives in sun or part shade in rich moist soil or average soil. Plants tolerate clay or rocky soils and can be cultivated in the vicinity of black walnut or pecan trees.
For best results in garden situations this vigorous vine should be trellised.
Deer occasionally browse the foliage but this is not a favorite food.
LANDSCAPE USES: This vine is a good choice for a Trellis, Fence or Arbor in a Naturalized Area or Wildlife Garden. Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ has Attractive Foliage, Showy Blooms and Desirable Fruit. Useful as a Hummingbird Nectar Plant or Accent for Cottage Gardens, Water Wise Landscapes and Low Maintenance Plantings.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Create a hummingbird buffet by pairing this lovely vine with Aquilegia canadensis, Allium cernuum, Lobelia cardinalis, Monarda ‘Peter’s Fancy Fuchsia’ or Physostegia virginiana.
The parent, Lonicera sempervirens, can be substituted but flowers are likely to be orange or red.
TRIVIA: Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ has similar flower color to the invasive exotic Lonicera japonica. L. japonica is a noxious weed with intensely fragrant blossoms. L. sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ is a well behaved vine with little or no fragrance.