Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2005
Regional Report

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Although the camellia is beautiful to behold, it has no fragrance whatsoever. It's just another pretty face.

Stop and Smell the Garden!

When I stick my nose in a flower, I expect it to smell. When it doesn't, I feel cheated. A camellia is a perfect example of a magnificent bloom that has absolutely no fragrance at all. I have tried so hard to find the scent in a camellia that I think I'm just smelling the cool dew on the petals. That's as much as I can pull out of a camellia with my nose.

Now a magnolia, on the other hand, has a fragrance that is citrus in nature, heady and rich. It's just too bad that they are so high on the tree; otherwise more people would be able to enjoy them. Magnolia is my very favorite flower for fragrance, but there are others that you can grow in your garden if you have a curious nose like mine.

Yellow primrose (Primula polyanthus) has a lovely, delicate bouquet, which is strange because none of the other colored primroses have any scent at all. Stock (Matthiola) is a winter-blooming annual that has a fabulous fragrance and makes an excellent cut flower. I love bringing the outside indoors, especially during the dark days of winter.

Some people love the aroma of hyacinth (Hyacinthus) a spring-blooming bulb flower. I feel that the fragrance is too strong and the cloying perfume makes me feel a bit nauseous. The Cragford daffodil (Narcissus) has a lovely scent and is perfect as a cut flower. (One word of caution; daffodils don't mix well with other flowers in arrangements. Their sap clogs the stems.)

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) is another bulb flower that has a strong fragrance, almost too much so, but some people like it. It blooms in late summer.

Daphne and sweet olive (Osmanthus) are two perennial shrubs that bloom in winter with sweet-scented flowers that fill the cool air with a heavenly aroma. The sweet olive will have you following your nose to find the source. You will be surprised when you see how inconsequential the little white flowers are, and amazed that they put out such a large scent for their size. The fragrance is sweet, like a citrus flower but with a touch of spice.

Mock orange (Pittosporum) is far too hardy a shrub to be considered exotic, but the scent of the creamy white flowers is exactly that; mysterious and intoxicating. The waxy, dark green foliage is excellent to use in floral arrangements.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera), jasmine (Jasminum), and sweet peas (Lathryus) are vining plants that carry their fragrance to new heights. If you love fragrant flowers, plant sweet peas right now! Once they start blooming, it's a bouquet bonanza! The more flowers you cut, the more you get, at least until the weather starts to warm up in the spring.

If floral scents aren't your cup of tea, try breath of heaven (Coleonema), an evergreen shrub with fine, needle-like leaves. When you brush past this plant, it releases an exquisite clean, pine scent. I once knew a dog named Sam who loved to rub up against breath of heaven. I guess people aren't the only ones who appreciate a nice smell.

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