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in Problem solving
I have a honeysuckly planted against a fence which faces south East so it gets the sun until late morning. Not sure which variety it is as I lost the label. It is in quite a narrow bed at the edge of the patio. It's underplanted with ladies mantle and mulched with bark. Every spring it grows lush and green with lots of flowering shoots, then in early June most of the leaves drop off, leaving me with a very tatty plant. This year I fed it when this happened with an organic liquid flower food and it is now beginning to recover and flower.
does anyone have any idea why this should happen? Is it drying out at a critical point?
It may be that the ladies mantle is taking all of the water and nutrients out of the soil at a critical time. Ladies mantle grows very quickly during late spring/early summer. I've just removed 2 ladies mantle plants as they were growing so large during flowering that they were overwhelming a couple of my favourite heucheras and I couldn't believe how far their large, tangled and fibrous root systems had spread. Honeysuckle has a fairly shallow root system.
The fence may well be causing a 'rain shadow' and the hard core under the patio may well be providing a nice drainange area next to the plant's roots. I think lack of moisture is probably the cause.
I think I would scrape back the bark and see what the soil is like about 6" down. If it is dry/ impoverished I would thoroughly soak the soil and then put down a thick (4 - 6") mulch of organic matter. If possible, gently fork some into the soil (you could also mix in some water retaining gel if you can dig down). Then replace your bark mulch.
I would then give it a bucket of water once a week for the next few weeks - unless there is loads of rain.
You will find that removing the other plants makes this easier - but I love Lady's Mantle so would be loathe to lose it altogether - but it will be competing with the honeysuckle for moisture & nutrients in what sounds like a confined space. Your call! Some shallow rooted annuals (eg nigella) might be a less competetive option.
Thanks to everyone who replied. My honeysuckle has now recovered and is flowering. I have cleared the Alchemilla from the base, fed it and re-mulched, plus the latest downpours have helped no end.