"Summer scents"

Many scented flowers are in bloom now.
Sunday, 31 January 2021     

Plumeria rubra var. acutifolia

One of the abiding memories I have of living in inner-Sydney in my younger years was the all-pervasive scent of frangipani flowers in summer. Ancient, gnarled specimens of these trees were often found in the tiny gardens of the rows of terrace houses in the street where I lived and one whiff of their fragrance instantly transports me back to those hot, languid, idyllic January days. There are a number of plants perfuming the air in my garden at the moment, and I am enjoying them all. Warm days seem to accentuate the fragrances.

Gardenias are finishing up now, but their white, waxy blooms have given out their glorious aroma for months. They always remind me of Christmas, as my aunt had a huge bush near the dining room in her house, where we often went for Christmas lunch. Gardenias are excellent compact shrubs for Sydney gardens; I think they do best with some shade from the hot afternoon sun. Gardenia jasminoides is the most common species of these frost-tender evergreen shrubs. It has lush, shiny green leaves that allow it to fit in well to a semi-tropical style garden. The flowers are usually in the form of a double rosette, and can vary in size from petite in the prostrate cultivar 'Radicans' (ht 50 cm) to large in the cultivar 'Grandiflora' (ht 2 m). Medium-sized 'Florida' (ht 1 m), the one I grow, is the most well known, and does well in a pot.

Buddleja are also great shrubs for our climate, and their long panicles of tiny clustered flowers (which are very attractive to butterflies) give out a honey scent from late spring to autumn, if they are regularly deadheaded. They grow best in sun. Older varieties (usually Buddleja davidii) were 2 to 3.5 m tall, and were prone to self-seeding a lot, but there are some more compact varieties around these days. The 'Buzz' cultivars, which come in hues of white, deep purple, pink and burgundy, are said to be sterile and thus won't self-seed. They grow taller than was originally expected, however, reaching 1.5 m or more! Plants in a newer series, called 'Lo and Behold' are said to definitely only get to 50 cm! A beautiful weeping form known as 'Wisteria Lane' is said to grow to 1 m and really does look like a miniature wisteria when in bloom.

The smell of honey also exudes from the old-fashioned annual form of Lobularia maritima (colloquially called sweet Alice or alyssum), as well as an interesting perennial Lobularia that I grow, called 'Snow Princess'. This is like a giant version of the annual one, and it is an excellent plant, forming a wide mat, which can be clipped back by half every so often to allow new growth to form. It is a sun-loving plant and looks good cascading over a wall or in a pot or hanging basket. It has a mass of tiny flowers clustered in bobbles. It blooms basically all year round! There is also a version with pink flowers, called 'Blushing Princess'. The 'Stream' series has similar plants.

Also with clusters of tiny blooms exuding a lovely perfume is heliotrope, sometimes known as cherry pie. The scent is reminiscent of vanilla. Heliotrope is a shrubby perennial growing around 75 cm in height. As with the Buddleja, spent blooms should be removed to promote more flowers. The basic form is a purple colour; there are also white, lilac and dark purple cultivars, as well as one with gold-lime foliage. They flower from October to May, and do best in a sunny spot.

The tall annual Nicotiana sylvestris has a haunting scent in the evenings. it is a dramatic woodland plant that grows well in the shade of trees. With enormous basal leaves, it soars to 1.5 m or more and unfurls a candelabra of white trumpet flowers. It is a prolific self-seeder, but I allow a few to grow each summer - they take up quite a lot of ground space! Liliums also have a powerful scent, and I admired those that I saw in neighbouring gardens in November and December. Their bold trumpet shape and long-lived flowers provide contrast in the summer garden, and I have vowed to grow some tall white ones next summer in one of my sunny borders.

Amongst climbing plants in bloom now, I am enjoying the strong, musky scent of the snail vine (Vigna Caracalla), which winds all over our old hen house. Its bizarre, corkscrew-like flowers start out white and purple, and age to cream. It grows quickly from seed as a light, twining vine and tends to die back a bit during winter, to re-sprout in spring, reaching a height of up to 6 m. It can cover fences, arches and pergolas, and does best in full sun.

Jasminum laurifolium var. laurifolium (syn. Jasminum nitidum; ht to 1.2-3 m) is a creeper that I am getting to know better now. I originally tried to grow it as a shrub; however, it needed too much clipping and now I am growing it up a pillar, where it seems happy and has been flowering for a long time. It has flushes of fragrant, clear white blooms that open from purplish buds and have many finely cut petals that are often tinted red-purple on the outside. The blooms appear over a long period from winter to summer, and remind me of little pinwheels. The glossy leaves are also very attractive. It grows best in a sunny, well-drained position. When grown as a climber, it needs to be tied to its support as it doesn't have any way of holding itself up. Another jasmine out now is Jasminum odoratissimum with tiny yellow flowers with a light fragrance. I have had it for many years and it has not proved to be at all rampageous like some other jasmines. I enjoy its glossy evergreen leaves and bright flowers: it grows nearby a robust specimen of Duranta 'Sheena's Gold', echoing the hue of its bright foliage.

 Reader Comments

1/6  Rob - 2263 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 01 February 2021

Riding a motorcycle with an open-face helmet I'm really noticing the smell of Frangipani everywhere at the moment. I get a whiff & then look around to see where the plant is, there's such a large variety of different coloured flowers now besides the white & yellow ones I remember as a child. That's great! Yes so many different coloured ones are available these days. Deirdre

2/6  Hilary - 3142 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 01 February 2021

I love the slightly lemony but sweet fragrance of my row of magnolia grandiflora Little Gem, currently in flower. The rusty undersides of the leaves are beautiful too. Unfortunately, my ringtail possums enjoy munching on the fat buds, so I have reluctantly resorted to plastic bags each evening, to protect the low-growing buds. Yes that's a lovely flower. Shame the possums also like them. Deirdre

3/6  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 February 2021

For me, the perfumes of frangipani, brugmansia and mirabilis, at dusk, snail vine and heliotrope are the main perfumes of summer. One perfume I don't enjoy is that of murraya, which I find over-powering, so I try and cut off all the blooms. Oh yes, I forgot about Brugmansia, which has a number of flushes of flowers through summer. I haven't ever grown Mirabilis but I would like to, some day. Deirdre

4/6  Ian - 2506 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 February 2021

Night scented Jessamine, Cestrum nocturnum does it for me with its unique coconut vanilla fragrance released on cue at 9.30pm. I have several planted close to windows for maximum impact. Yes, I have heard many people say they love this one. It sounds delicious. Have never grown it myself. Deirdre

5/6  Ron - 2110 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 February 2021

And don't forget stephanotis. Its available at Friends of the garden at the botanical gardens in Sydney. Yes I would love to grow this one. It is beautiful as well as fragrant. Deirdre

6/6  Patricia - 2100 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 02 February 2021

Diosma, Breath of Heaven, divine! Brushing against them, or better still, keeping them in shape with loppers is a treat. Agree that Murraya flowers verge on the unpleasant though in my youth I thought them heavenly. The frangipani fragrance has also been a casualty of ageing. It was so much more delightful in my youth. Lots to mull over in this great blog. I don't think I ever realised Diosma was fragrant. Murraya is very strong, I agree. Can become quite cloying after a few whiffs of it. Deirdre

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