We just discovered the dog park at Wannamaker. One thing that’s certain, dogs aren’t shy. They obviously appreciate smells, good and bad. Dogs have more than 40 times the smell sensitivity as humans. Even if we are the olfactory-handicapped species, we don’t miss a blooming tea olive or gardenia.
Fragrance is a frequently overlooked aspect of the landscape. A well-placed fragrant shrub or vine adds a whole new dimension to the outdoors. Consider locating fragrant plants near the front door or around the entertainment area, such as a deck. Right outside a window can allow fragrance to waft into the house. Once in bloom, everyone will pause for an extra sniff or two. Let me discuss the popular Lowcountry choices. I’ll cover the lesser known next column.
Tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans). Tea olive blooms multiple times throughout the year. It’s in bloom right now. It typically has a subtle, fruity sensation (although this past week it struck me as a little more perfumy than usual). A year ago, I saw a tea olive cultivar (Fudingzhu) that blooms every month. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it in the trade yet.
The flowers are white, small and visually insignificant. However, when the flowers die, they’re just as unnoticeable. There is an orange flowering cultivar (Aurantiacus) loaded with clusters of tiny orange flowers.
The medium-size shrub can be large, given time. It is evergreen so it makes a superb screening material. Placing it around a patio not only creates privacy, the fragrance is more likely to be enjoyed. Tea olive has very few insect or disease problems. It prefers full sun, but will tolerate a little shade. However, the more shade it gets, the less fragrant it become.
Gardenia (Gardenia augusta). The gardenia is well-known even in areas where it doesn’t grow. I was told a gardenia corsage would make my high school prom date go really, really well. I can’t remember if it did, so I guess that’s your answer.
The medium-size flower has a strong perfume fragrance that can be sweetly disturbing to some people. Put a small cutting in a vase to liven up the house. The white flower is quite stunning, that is, until it begins to expire. The white petals turn yellow. The dead blooms hang on for a little while before dropping.
It’s medium-size and evergreen, good for screens. Plant in full sun. Dwarf gardenia (Radicans) has smaller, spatula-shaped leaves and gets two or three feet tall. Other dwarf-type gardenia cultivars (Daisy, Kleim’s Hardy and Veitchii) look more like a miniature version of the standard species.
Gardenias don’t have many problems with the exception of whiteflies and sometimes scale. Whiteflies are a nuisance and turn the foliage black with sooty mold. Shake a limb and small insects will flutter. Use insecticidal soap or oil and make sure you get good coverage beneath the leaves where the immobile nymphs are feeding (they look like scale).
Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). An excellent, twining evergreen vine for the Lowcountry. Jasmine fragrance is more like tea olive than gardenia. It is loaded with small, star-shaped white flowers in mid-spring that last for about two weeks. Asiatic jasmine (T. asiaticum) grows more like a ground cover and isn’t as fragrant.
Confederate jasmine prefers full sun and grows fast. It is perfect on overhead pergolas that cover a patio or deck. Jasmine can cover the pergola in three or four years, provide excellent shade, and the enclosure traps the fragrance for wonderful sensory overload. The spent flowers need to be swept or blown, but it’s a price worth paying.