Perfume on the breeze in the night.

Last week when we were having thunder and lightning after we had gone to bed, I woke with the noise and the lightning flashing round the room, someone else slept through it all! Even though the window was wide open, it still felt too hot with the curtains closed. I got up to open them and was greeted with the most delightful perfume which I recognised straight away, the honeysuckle over the arbour in the gravel garden at the back.


This is a view from one of the spare bedroom windows, looking down on the honeysuckle covered arbour. It also has the Golden Hop at the far side and the tree at the top left is Pittosporum Irene Patterson. You can also see the rug of Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens which is spreading in the gravel by Phormium Yellow Wave.


I had clipped it round the entrance to the sitting area, you can just about see the bench at the bottom left, but the wind and rain seem to have dislodged some of the stems and I would have to crawl in on my knees if it is left like this, another trim is necessary!


The perfume travels such a long way across the garden during the evening and night, there must be lots of moths and other insects attracted to it, so I thought maybe I ought to go and investigate the next time we had a dry evening.


I know the Elephant Hawk Moth is supposed to like honeysuckle, that would be wonderful if we could see one of those. It needs to be something with a long proboscis to get at the nectar down the long tubular flowers.

Deilephila porcellus 04.jpg

Thanks to Wikipedia for this image. The colours match so beautifully, it would be so well disguised, I probably wouldn’t be able to see it.


The flowers are so beautiful to look at and with a wonderful perfume too, I think that makes it almost perfect.  While sitting under the honeysuckle we have seen voles scurrying around above us, then descending on the thick stem which spirals round one of the supports like a helter skelter. We like the voles which we see in the garden, as we then know that we will still have the Tawny Owls visiting for their food!

Do you have any plants which have a wonderful perfume at night time?

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38 Responses to Perfume on the breeze in the night.

  1. rusty duck says:

    I laughed when I read about the voles… great minds today Pauline!
    Our honeysuckle is almost over and I really loved its scent on an arbour. I must find another that flowers slightly later and extend the fragrant season.

    • Pauline says:

      I’m so pleased that the voles here don’t do the damage your mice have done Jessica!
      I have never known the honeysuckle to produce so much perfume before, it really is amazing. This morning while having breakfat in the kitchen with all the doors open, I could smell it on the breeze, it must be at least 50 ft away, such a delightful fragrance. I can’t share it with the undergardener unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have any sense of smell, he misses out on quite a few perfumes in the garden.

  2. Caro says:

    I had to look up voles to make sure I’d got it right (such a townie!), they are adorable little creatures! Lovely to be able to sit and watch their antics. We have an ancient honeysuckle growing among the shrubs here and there’s also jasmine growing along a boundary wall so the air here is perfumed – sometimes overwhelmingly so! I keep threatening to cut the honeysuckle back as it’s so untidy and old but every year I’m glad of its perfume! I love the way the moth matches the flower, nature is so clever!

    • Pauline says:

      We think the voles live in the steps up onto the lawn Caro, sometimes they dart forwards for the spilt bird seed. They are lovely little creatures but I think we are grateful to the Tawny Owl for keeping numbers under control!
      Honeysuckle and Jasmine together must be an amazing perfume. I usually cut the whole of the honeysuckle back as soon as it has finished flowering, we always have flowers and perfume the following year.
      The moth is just the right colour isn’t it, it is quite large too, I would love to see one, but no luck yet!

  3. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    I’m beginning to wonder how people manage to grow Honeysuckle successfully… Mine just never do well and I’m finished trying I think. I cut some of mine back today which is fed around the front wall/metal fence bit. But I was cutting mostly dead branches. I’ve two different types planted there; a yellow version and a late flowering Dutch which was planted when the yellow one produced almost no blooms in the hope it would be more vigorous. But no. Maybe it’s too dry in the spot??
    Then, I also planted another in a shadier/wetter spot on the back fence. I don’t even know if it’s still there. I’ll be surprised if it is.

    Basically, I’d love to have your large Honeysuckle and to enjoy the scent as I come and go from the house, so I’m muchly jealous that yours is doing so well.

    At the moment I don’t have many plants with perfume, but I have missed the sweet rocket this year as I think that is the best (and of course I love Honeysuckle, I’m just not lucky enough to enjoy its perfume).

    • Pauline says:

      I bought 3 originally Liz, one for the woodland which is still struggling, and an early flowering one and a late flowering one for the arbour, one for each end. The early flowering one eventually died and now we just have the late flowering one left which I prune all over as soon as it has finished flowering. The flowers the following year are on the new shoots that form before winter. I know they don’t like it very dry, that could be the problem for you, but they do like their roots in the shade and their heads in the sun, but how do they manage when they are all along the hedges in the countryside, I wonder?!
      Sweet Rocket has a beautiful perfume, I have a bit here, but have to get close and personal to enjoy the perfume, it doesn’t seem to travel the way the honeysuckle does!

  4. alison r says:

    I have a ‘Serotina’ honeysuckle which has just finished its second flowering. This pumps out a gorgeous perfume in the evening. What is the name of the honeysuckle you have pictured and talked about in your blog?

    • Pauline says:

      The one that I have Alison, is I think Lonicera periclymenum Serotina, is this the same as yours? Thanks for leaving a message, its good to hear from someone new!

      • alison r says:

        Thank you. I’ve been following your blog for quite a while actually and really enjoy it. I follow several others and have learnt such a lot but am always a bit shy about leaving a comment as I feel such a novice! Having said that, I’ve been keeping a detailed journal (with photos) of my own garden for 3 years.

        • Pauline says:

          Don’t be shy Alison, about leaving a message, we were all novices once! I have learnt so much from fellow bloggers over the years since I started, everyone is so kind with their advice if there is a problem. If you have lots of photos of your garden, will you be writing a blog in the future, I hope so?

  5. Anna says:

    One of my childhood memories is of going to bed on warm summer nights, when it was still relatively light, with the smell of honeysuckle and roses drifting through the open bedroom windows. A most fine scent to wake up to Pauline even though your sleep was disturbed by the storm. I smiled at the thought of someone else sleeping through it all. Just last night I was woken up about 1.15am by a burglar alarm going off somewhere quite near. The noise did not abate for some 20 minutes or so during which time himself snored loudly and merrily away.

    • Pauline says:

      It is a lovely perfume to wake up to, one of the joys of summer. It’s amazing the way some people can sleep through almost anything isn’t it! Different perfumes can certainly trigger lovely childhood memories can’t they.

  6. Cathy says:

    I love the scent of honeysuckle… sounds idyllic Pauline! How lovely to have that directly next to the house. I don’t have anything for evening perfume here as we wouldn’t smell it from the house and rarely sit outside in summer very late due to mosquitoes. But I do love the lavender scent which is strongest evenings, and the elderflowers in spring.

    • Pauline says:

      Lavender has such a beautiful perfume Cathy, I hadn’t realised it was stronger in the evenings and elderflower is such a powerful scent in in springtime. I hadn’t realised that you had mosquitoes where you are, I remember being plagued by them in Scotland and one holiday in Canada when we came home covered in bites!

  7. Sally says:

    The dampness of the evening really does bring out wonderful perfumes from the garden! Your honeysuckle is amazing. I planted a honeysuckle beside the dining room windows. We have high hopes of it blooming next year and eventually be as striking as yours!

    • Pauline says:

      The honeysuckle Sally, is pumping out its perfume without any dampness in an evening. We are desperate for rain, we have had it hot and humid for so long now, the garden is beginning to suffer. I’m wondering if it is all the heat that makes the scent so strong? I’m sure your honeysuckle will soon be as large as ours and perfuming the air round your dining room!

  8. Frank says:

    Lucky to have such a nice perfume, all my honeysuckles seem to be of the non-fragrant sort.
    I do have phlox right now, and a few are especially fragrant! I love their scent wafting about on the warm air.

    • Pauline says:

      We used to have a red non perfumed honeysuckle Frank and it died on me! Since then I have stuck with the perfumed variety and never regretted it! Phlox do have a delightful perfume, I just have some white ones and they aren’t quite out yet, perfume on the air brings another dimension to a garden don’t you think?

  9. How lovely, note to be awake in the middle of the night, but to be greeted by such perfume. I have a somewhat challenged sense of smell, but I still intend to add honeysuckle, jasmine and other scented plants. Maybe this time I will do a better job of taming the honeysuckle so that the flowers go all the way down!

    • Pauline says:

      It is lovely Janet, I feel badly done to if the wind changes and it is blown the other way! Poor undergardener can’t smell it or lilies or Trachelospermum, he wonders what I am making a fuss about.
      I have to admit that my honeysuckle doesn’t have any flowers low down, but then I wanted it to be overhead, so that is ok.

  10. Helle (Helen) says:

    We have a honeysuckle climbing over the pergola, I’m not sure which one it is, it has a bit more yellow in it than yours. We also don’t sit much outside after dark so I have never really noticed if it has any fragrance. Shall have to check on one of my torch lit slug runs 🙂
    You have tawny owls!! I am just a little bit jealous of that I have to admit. We don’t have voles, but do have shrews, do owls go for them? The cats don’t!!

    • Pauline says:

      No, I’m afraid the owls don’t like shrews Helle, we keep finding them dead on the path round the house. I assume the owls hear them rustling down below, swoop down and then discover it is a shrew and they don’t like the taste, so leave it for me!
      The honeysuckle still pumps out its perfume in early morning, after opening all the doors we can still smell it when having our breakfast over at the other side of the house, this lasts for a couple of hours.
      We have a yellow one in the woodland, climbing one of the oak trees, called Graham Thomas, but this one is struggling, I think it is too wet in the winter where I have put it, but I can’t say I have ever noticed any perfume.

  11. pbmgarden says:

    Beautiful honeysuckle flowers Pauline. Hope you will be visited by the colorful Elephant Hawk Moth.

  12. My honeysuckle called Goldflame is also highly fragrant at night. Most of the other native US honeysuckles have no fragrance but I love them anyway.

    • Pauline says:

      Goldflame sound lovely Carolyn, I presume it is a yellow one? I once had a red one with no perfume but somehow it died on me, not sure why, In flower, it looked fantastic.

  13. Christina says:

    Perfume is a pleasure we can’t share via the blogging world (yet), and anyway everyone seems to smell things differently; I love honeysuckle I think it might be my favourite perfume. I have Herbaceous Datura that have an amazing perfume, so strong that the bees will bore into the side of the flower before it opens!

    • Pauline says:

      Datura has a wonderful perfume Christina, I once had a large double white one in a pot, that had to be brought into the conservatory for the winter, eventually it just got too big! I try to have something highly perfumed out each month from April/May as I think it adds an extra dimension to the garden, I’m like a Bisto kid as I wander round the garden!

  14. Chloris says:

    The scent of honeysuckle is one of the joys of summer. It is wonderful how the fragrance is intensified at night. I have a Trachelospermum on my wall which is quite intoxicating at night.

    • Pauline says:

      I too have Trachelospermum, up at the top of the garden, on the pergola, but I’m never up there in the evening. It certainly stops me dashing by with its wonderful perfume, I must wander up there one evening and compare it with the daytime fragrance. I love all perfume that travels round the garden, it adds an extra something to the garden.

  15. What a marvelous honeysuckle Pauline! I can just imagine the scent drifting around in the evening. I’m training my honeysuckle up the lilac tree, and it’s still quite small at the moment so I’ve probably missed any blooms that came along this year.

    • Pauline says:

      I love it Paula, and each year look forward to it. I’m trying to have something highly perfumed for each month and am doing ok for the first 8 months of the year, but September onwards has me stumped!
      I wouldn’t worry about not having flowers on your young honeysuckle, it will be making a good root system before it feels that it can cope with flowers too.

  16. debsgarden says:

    That moth is beautiful! My honeysuckle is a native that attract hummingbirds but unfortunately has no scent. I must seek out one with fragrance, though your mention of the voles gives me pause. These are the creatures that are responsible for the death of some of my prized plants, including numerous hostas and a small japanese maple given to me by my mother before her death. They eat the roots out from under the plant, cleanly decapitating them. I count on snakes and hawks to keep them in check.

    • Pauline says:

      I can’t say that I’ve lost any plants due to the voles Deb, how annoying for you to find your plants with no roots. It’s just as well that nature takes care of them, snakes and hawks for you and Tawny owls for us.

  17. catmint says:

    I had to look up ‘vole’ too – very cute, much more attractive than rats. I have honeysuckle too. When its perfume wafts in the air on a warm night, it is quite blissful. I don’t know why it’s not more common here. Must be a different variety to yours though, my flowers are yellow. Really tough, too, never needs watering no matter how hot it gets.

    • Pauline says:

      I have a yellow one in the woodland Catmint, Lonicera Graham Thomas, but I don’t think it’s as happy as the one in my post. The perfume is so wonderful when it creeps across the garden and catches you unawares. I too, have never watered them since they were planted, they are very tough. Voles are nicer than mice I think, they live in a cavity behind the steps up onto the lawn and we see them sometimes coming for spilt food from the birdtable.

  18. Cathy says:

    I think this is the one that has just started flowering on the screen at the end of the woodland edge border – the other one flowered much earlier. Both were cut right back when I built the little wall at the base and have romped away since so we have to push our way past too! I have to confess I have just passed here on my way to water the tomatoes but I didn’t catch the smell – shame on me! – although I was struck by the colour and was thinking ahead to my next Monday vase…. Interesting to hear about your voles and shrews and owls – I wonder why the owls don’t like the shrews…?

    • Pauline says:

      I think the perfume vanishes in the daytime Cathy, mine is far more perfumed in the evening, night and early morning, I think their main pollinators are the moths.
      I have read that it is the taste of shrews that owls don’t like, although how do they know, have they asked the owls and I thought they would swallow them whole anyway?!

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