Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Perfumed Garden

We all love fragrant plants, be that roses, lavender, gardenias or wisteria. These popular plants are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sweet smelling plants. Imagine now if you will a tour through a special garden that contains a series of little oases, each containing its own distinctive aromatic collection. Start with an open sunny bed. You first notice a tall tree with rich green foliage and clusters of canary yellow flowers. It's a laburnum, known as Golden Chain tree and it gives off a heavenly aroma. Beside it is a purple flowering Buddleja, commonly known as Butterfly bush. Also sweetly fragrant it attracts frequent visits from hummingbirds and butterflies. Over there, an Aussie import called boronia is giving off a heady scent, its clusters of tiny brown flowers smothering the bush. And what is that fruity smell? It's Salvia dorisiana. Rub your fingers on its leaves and inhale its intoxicating fragrance. Lastly, the bright yellow and pink flowers of Mirabilis disguise a subtly sweet smell.
Now as the path continues forward we enter a woodland garden. The sun peeks through taller trees and it's here we find a couple of orange bushes. Well, not real orange trees but two mock oranges, Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile' and the golden Choisya ternata 'Sundance.' The former's large white flowers and the latter's clusters of small, equally white blooms exude a lovely citrus smell and are popular with bees. Also here are the heady scent of a Daphne odora shrub and the equally fragrant white clusters of Heliotropium arborescens 'Alba.' Some say this heliotrope smells like vanilla. The plant with the white star-shaped flowers is flowering tobacco, in this case Nicotiana grandiflora. This is one tobacco you do want to inhale!
Now follow the path around the corner, ducking under a weeping maple, and you emerge into the 'food' garden. But this isn't plants you eat; rather it hosts a variety of plants that curiously invoke one kind or another food aroma. There, that's an agastache that smells like grapefruit! And another hyssop as they're known that smells like anise. The patch of yellow and green striped iris at your feet have lovely purple flowers. Take a whiff of Iris pallida. Yes, there's the unmistakeable scent of grape soda! Everyone loves chocolate so our host has obligingly planted a stand of chocolate cosmos. Makes you want to eat them. Speaking of candy, that perennial over there is zaluzianskya. The name may be hard to pronounce but it's common name, Midnight candy, gives a clue as to its sweet fragrance. The last two plants here are especially puzzling. Stachys albotomentosa, a member of the lambs ear genus, gives off the unmistakeable smell of ... 7-Up! And Helichrysum italicum smells eerily of curry. This is one oasis that's hard to leave without immediately heading to a restaurant.

Up ahead here is the herb garden, filled with a panoply of savory scents. There's rosemary, salvias and oreganos here of course. That lush light green bush to your right is Aloysia triphylla, better known as lemon verbena.Now that's lemon! There's mint here but a closer examination reveals that there's no such thing as one mint. How about ginger mint? Grapefruit mint? Apple mint, pineapple mint, lime mint, even mojito mint are all here! And our host hasn't forgotten his two calico cats. There's cat mint and catnip for them to roll around in.

Finally, we come to the final oasis, a shady retreat fanned by cool breezes. The first thing that grabs the senses, in this case our eyesight, is a towering brugmansia tree. It's populated with so many nodding golden flowers you can hardly see the leaves. Taking a whiff, you are rewarded with the delicate but oh so heavenly fragrance of these angel's trumpets. Underneath it is a collection of lovely yellow primroses. They reward a closer inspection with a sweet aroma. To the right is a vigorous late winter blooming ribes, known as flowering current. Even a stroll by its multitude of pink wisteria-like clusters fills your olfactory senses with a spicy fragrance. Beside it, showing off glossy green leaves, is a Sarcococca ruscifolia. It may take a moment to spot its clusters of tiny white flowers but a closer examination will flood the senses with a surprisingly heady scent. Some say it smells like gardenias. Off to the left, that tall, full shrub with the dark red tubular flowers is a cestrum. It offers its own distinctive aroma, a kind of smoky scent.
We may not find this scented garden on any garden tour but that doesn't mean we can't bring a little bit of its perfume into our own corner of paradise.

1 comment:

  1. I'd welcome hearing from gardeners about their favorite fragrant plants.


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