Answer: I think you will have the most success with California native plants. Most are fragrant - a real plus in any garden. Here are a few suggestions:
Cleveland or California blue sage Any of about 700 species of herbaceous and woody plants that make up the genus Salvia, in the mint family. Some members (e.g., sage) are important as sources of flavouring. clevelandii) is a sun-loving native that also emits an after-rain fragrance. It has light- to dark-lavender blue flowers and is encountered when hiking in the hills that rise up from the Valley on its northern and southern perimeters. Cleveland sage foliage is not only fragrant but may be brewed into a tea as well.
An entire garden could be planted exclusively with fragrant California natives. If you live in the Santa Clarita area and have a large property, a cluster of Jeffrey pines (Pinus jeffreyi) will reward you with the aroma of vanilla as your trees mature. Meanwhile, when young, the Japanese-style symmetry and somewhat drooping branches of Jeffrey pines, together with their blue needles and silver bark, will definitely keep your interest.
California sycamore is the native tree of choice if you are sniffing for pleasant foliar aromas on hot summer days. The musky scent associated with many of our chaparral plants takes on a sweeter nuance in the case of California sycamores (Platanus racemosa). In addition, you cannot discount the mottled trunks and dramatic and unpredictable sculptured silhouettes associated with these trees.
The most adaptable fragrant native tree would be California incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens). It is a species that graces gardens from Lancaster to Reseda to Santa Monica. Growing in full sun to light shade, the incense cedar has a natural pyramidal shape and never needs pruning. It has scales in the form of highly lustrous, flat green fans. As in the case of California sycamores, the spicy incense aroma for which this tree is famous is most noticeable on warm days. The incense cedar makes an excellent stand-alone specimen tree, as well as a tall, informal screen or hedge.
Moving down a story to large, fragrant native shrubs, you can choose from at least four possibilities. California spice bush (Calycanthes occidentalis) has burgundy-red flowers and a scent that has been compared to old wine. This shrub produces numerous suckers that need to be pruned back if it is to reach its 8-foot height in rapid fashion; alternatively, you can let suckers assist you in training the spice bush onto an espalier espalier (ĕspăl`yər), trellis or lattice used in horticulture for training a tree or vine flat against a wall, either for ornament or to fit it into a small space, allowing it to get a maximum of air and sun and bringing the fruit within . Both Pacific wax myrtle (Myrica californica) and California bay (Umbellularia californica) are evergreens that can be trained into gigantic 20-foot-tall hedges or even larger trees.
A more manageable evergreen, growing to around 10 feet, is the white-flowered bush anemone anemone (ənĕm`ənē) or windflower, any of the perennial herbs, wild or cultivated, of the genus Anemone of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). (Carpenteria californica), whose large white flowers will remind you of a cross between anemone and camellia. It should be grown in full sun and, once mature, be stingily watered. It will survive temperatures of 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
White flowering currant (Ribes indecorum) and pink winter currant currant, northern shrub of the family Saxifragaceae (saxifrage family), of the same genus (Ribes) as the gooseberry bush. The tart berries of the currant may be black, white, or red; the white gooseberry becomes purple when mature. (Ribes sanguineum) have attractive flowers that lure hummingbirds and pungent leaves for making tea, while chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) has fragrant flowers. They are manageable shrubs that grow 5 to 10 feet in height.
The most exotic-looking fragrant native is woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum). This is an extremely hydrophobic plant that simply will not tolerate summer water. Its flowers have long blue stamens that resemble serpents' tongues or the plumage of a tropical bird. Grow it in full sun or in a tiny bit of shade. For minty ground covers, choose from yerba buena (Satureja), bee balm (Monardella) and American wild mint (Mentha arvensis).
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