September 9, 2008

The Fragrance Garden

Two years ago we built a dining patio on the east side of our house. Since most meals are eaten in the evening, I designed a fragrance garden for this outdoor room. Using evergreens as a base, I selected perennials, vines, shrubs and trees that provide fragrance during different months of the year.

Winter Daphne is an evergreen shrub that begins blooming in late January with fragrance lasting into mid-February. This flowering shrub likes to be planted high and dry in the shade. The tubular flowers are pale pink to deep carmine in color. Zones 7-9. This is a deer resistant shrub and all parts are poisonous.

Sweet Bay Magnolia or magnolia virginiana, is my favorite fragrant tree. This magnolia may drop a few leaves in some zones, but is evergreen here in zone 7. It has a loose, branching habit and is small enough for patio areas, with some varieties averaging 20 feet x 20 feet. Others may grow to 40 feet. This lovely tree with the large white magnolia blooms has a heavenly sweet fragrance in May-June. It prefers moist soil and light shade, zones 6-9. I've had no problems with deer eating this tree. However, we find deer like to rub antlers on our larger, Southern Magnolia.

Butterfly Ginger (Hedychium coronarium) is in bloom right now. Another heavenly fragrance for evenings in the garden. The white blooms sparkle in the evening light. This is a tender perennial that I grow up against the east side of the house to protect it in winter. It reaches around 4 feet in height and may need support if it gets too crowded. You can divide the tubers in 8" sections when it begins to sprout in the spring. I have two clumps in other areas of the garden with more sun, but those haven't yet bloomed. Zones 8-11. I can't say if deer eat these blooms as they cannot get to the large clump of ginger.

Other fragrant players in my garden include the fragrant evergreen Confederate Jasmine and Chocolate Akebia vines that grow over our arbor. Akebia may be considered invasive in some areas, so an alternative vine is recommended. Using an annual vines such as moonvine, may be a better choice.

An 'August Beauty' Gardenia is also planted in this garden so that it seems something is always providing fragrance. Another good gardenia choice is 'Kleims Hardy' which I have growing beside our front porch.

Colocasia esculenta 'Fontanesii' (elephant ears) are about to bloom under the shade of the sweet bay and a curly willow tree. These large apricot blooms have a sweet smell in late September.

Osmanthus fragrans (fragrant tea olive) is my favorite evergreen shrub. The flowers don't put on a big show, but the fragrance in spring and fall is divine. This beautiful shrub can be easily shaped to size and is a wonderful screening shrub for privacy. Osmanthus fragrans is deer resistant.

For privacy and greenery there are also cryptomeria, buddleia, monarda, nandina and nepeta in this area. Except for the buddleia and daphne, all of these plants like moist soil and some are tender for zone 7. There are a few heuchera and Spanish bluebells planted beneath the shrubs and trees. We've not had to use the drip irrigation this year since we've had frequent rainfall.

Evenings in the garden are so enjoyable with these fragrant flowers!

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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