Tag Archives: fragrant plants

Gardening for Your Health

There are few activities that are as healthy for you as gardening.  It makes you fit while also being fun and rewarding for mind, body and spirit.

Think about it. Fragrant flowers feed the senses and the soul. Homegrown vegetables feed the family and are delicious and nutritious. Shade trees provide food and shelter for you and the birds while shrubs and colorful perennials give you a gentle workout as you trim branches and deadhead fading flowers.

From early recordings of civilization, man has harvested roots and leaves from the earth to feed himself and help him feel better. it is not simply what is ingested, however, that is good for us.  Working in dirt or even viewing a landscape has been proven to assist in the healing process. It’s been shown in studies that patients recover quicker and need fewer pain drugs when their rooms have a view of trees instead of just walls. Plants and flowers have a calming effect on both patients and the rest of us. Caring for and connecting with nature are ways to heal the spirit, too.

Most of us love flowers and plants with fragrance in the landscape. A few unlucky people have allergies to strong smells but most of us can’t help but swoon over a fragrant rose or a bouquet of lilacs. A garden’s fragrance can be as unforgettable as its appearance. The scent of a particular flower can make you remember past times and places. Plant fragrant plants in just a few spots to provide a mystery perfume that wafts through the garden. Plant them in containers to scent a deck or patio or locate them beneath a window and let their aroma drift indoors.

There’s a new Erysimum available that bears bright golden-yellow flowers which are very fragrant. Called Gold Rush, this perennial grows 8" tall and would look great along the edge of a path where its scent could be enjoyed as you walk by.  Wallflowers like the sun and deer seem avoid them. Yeah !

Then there’s lightly scented Tulbaghia fragrans. This drought tolerant society garlic has thick, wide leaves and looks quite different than the traditional variety although the flower is similar. The fleshy leaves are deer-resistant,too.

In spring there may be nothing quite as spectacular as a wisteria vine loaded with purple, pink, blue or white fragrant flower clusters covering an arbor or pergola. In San Lorenzo Valley, where I live, you can see them growing high in the trees along Hwy 9. They are true survivors. If you’ve ever tried to get rid of one (heaven forbid) you can attest to their tenacity. In the right spot, their scent is divine.

There are many fragrant native plants, too. Philadelphus or Mock Orange is one of the best, but spice bush, ribes viburnifolium, carpenteria, Ca, rose and some ceanothus are mildly scented, too.

I can’t leave out the old fashion border carnation. Their clove-scented flowers are born in profusion making them a nice addition to the mixed flower border and containers. Cinnamon Red Hots, a newer variety, bears inch wide bright red flowers that attract butterflies and need no deadheading.

So warm up before you grab the spade to prevent injuries. Break up your tasks so you aren’t trying to tackle everything Saturday morning. Remember that tired muscles are more prone to injuries. Plant something to eat that you especially like. And most of all take the time to let the healing powers of your garden do their magic.

Caring for your Easter Lily

Every year I wait patiently for my Easter lilies to come up in the garden. The shoots are now about 6" tall but they are a long way from blooming and I’m looking forward to those huge, fragrant, white trumpet-shaped flowers. Still I pick up a few new blooming plants each year to enjoy now and celebrate Easter. It’s a tradition that marks spring along with decorating eggs, chocolate bunnies and Easter baskets.

Easter lilies that are blooming at his time of year have been forced under controlled conditions to flower in time for Easter. This is a very tricky process since Easter falls on a different day each year dependent upon celestial bodies. Falling on the first Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox, Easter can be any day between March 22 and April 25. Crop scheduling and timing is critical. The flowers must bloom exactly when they’re suppose to with no margin for error.

Did you know that over 95% of all the bulbs grown for the Easter lily market are produced by just 10 farms in a narrow coastal region straddling the California-Oregon border? Known as the Easter Lily Capitol of the World, the area offers a climate of year-round mild temperatures, deep, rich alluvial soils and abundant rainfall which produces a consistent high quality bulb crop.

The Easter lily or Lilium longiforum, is native to the southern islands of Japan where it was grown and exported to the US until WW ll. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 the Japanese source of bulbs was abruptly cut off. As a result, the value of lily bulbs sky-rocketed and many who were growing lilies as a hobby here decided to go into business. The Easter lily bulbs at the time were called ‘White Gold’ and growers everywhere attempted to cash in on the crop. By 1945, there were about 1,200 growers producing bulbs up and down the Pacific coast from Vancouver to Long Beach. But producing quality, consistent lily bulbs proved to be quite demanding with specific climatic requirements. Over the years, the number of bulb producers dwindled to just the 10 current farms near the Oregon border. Even after the Japanese started to ship bulbs again after the war, they have never been able to come close to the quality of our US grown bulbs.

Here’s how to make your Easter lily keep on giving. For the longest possible period of enjoyment, remove the yellow anthers from the flowers before the pollen starts to shed. This gives longer flower life and prevents the pollen from staining the white flowers. Place the plants in bright indirect daylight, not direct sunlight, and water when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Do not let the plant sit in water.

After blooming, plant your lily outside in sun or part shade after letting it acclimate to brighter conditions for a week or so before transplanting. Plant in a well-drained garden bed that has been amended with lots of organic matter like compost and mulch the surface with more compost. As the original plants begin to die back, cut the stems back to the soil surface. New growth will soon emerge but go dormant again during the winter.  Next year the will bloom naturally in the summertime.

Easter lilies are a great addition to the flower border.  Easy to grow, fragrant and hardy.

Plants for the Senses

With students going back to school, my thoughts turn to young people and how to peak their interest in the plant world.  Many schools have life lab gardens and families growing vegetables and fruit trees have a head start.  What better way to learn how plants grow? It’s a big horticultural world out there, filled with plants to taste, smell and touch. Kindle a child’s curiosity early and you create a gardener for life.

Pettable plants are a sure hit with kids. Usually we tell them, "Don’t touch", so to actually have someone encourage this is a rare treat. If your own garden doesn’t have plants that look and feel so soft that you can’t resist petting them, consider adding one of the following:
    ⁃    lamb’s ears
    ⁃    scotch moss
    ⁃    fiber optic grass
    ⁃    lotus Golden Flames
    ⁃    coleonema Sunset Gold
    ⁃    artemisia Powis Castle
    ⁃    red fountain grass

Fragrant flowers teach us to stop and savor our surroundings. I always love it when I can introduce a youngster to the different plant smells. They never forget the experience and will go back again and again to a fragrance they like. Some common plants I enjoy at this time of year are:
    ⁃    chocolate cosmos
    ⁃    sweet alyssum
    ⁃    heliotrope
    ⁃    chocolate mint
    ⁃    nemesia

A White Garden with Fragrance

Gardens are living things-changing over time. One year everything in the garden seems to bloom in April and May. Other years different plants reach maturity and provide color and structure during the summer. If your garden needs a few plants that will "pop" in the landscpe why not add a white bloomer that you can still enjoy after the sun goes down?

A great looking native plant for the back of the border is philadelphus lewisii or wild mock orange. Fragrant, white, satiny 2" flowers attract butterflies in late spring and early summer. Goose Creek is a doulbe-flowered selection that forms a fountain shape 4-10 ft tall and is fairly drought tolerant. Not fussy about soil type but it must have good drainage.

Another sweet-scented, white flowering Ca. native is carpenteria californica or bush anemone. Although this plant needs little water once established it can also accept ordinary garden conditions making it valuable closer to the house in the "lean, mean and green" zone that the fire dept wants irrigated more to retard flames. Clusters of fragrant 2-3" white blossoms with yellow centers appear at the ends of the branches. This shrub grows slowly to 4-6 ft tall and would be beautiful along a path or next to the patio where you could enjoy it’s fragrance in the evening, too.

Roses are among the showiest fragrant flowers you can grow in your garden. Sure they need a little extra water but the pay back is spectacular. Place them in areas with other plants that need regular water. Here are my favorite white roses.

Full Sail- a medium upright hybrid tea rose with large bright white flowers and a strong honeysuckle fragrance.
John F. Kennedy- Huge, full greenish white buds open to rich white and smell like licorice. This rose stands up well to hot weather.
Iceberg- One of the top ten roses of the workls and the best landscpe white around. It also comes as a climber. Honey scented rose clusters are borne in great profusion. This rose is extremely disease resistant and needs little care.  Looks great as a hedge or in mass plantings. This the the part I love, they have very few thorns.
Stainless Steel-  A rose that is so close to white it would shine in a moon garden. With pale silvery lavender flowers and a fragrance stronger than Sterling Silver it’s easier to care for and grow. Flower size and color are best with cooler temperatures or in a bit of shade.

What else can you grow in a white garden? If I had more room, I’d have a Longissims Alba wisteria with pure white fragrant flowers that cascade in spikes up to 4 ft long. Or I’d grow a Krasavitsa Moskvy lilac whose lavender-rose tinted buds open to full, double, creamy, fragrant white flowers.

I also like the also called mock orange because it’s flowers really do smell like citrus blossoms. Their green and white foliage can lighten up a dark corner in any garden and scent the air. Tuck some sweet alyssum along a path and your white garden is complete.

New Plants for the Garden

Every season new varieties of colorful flowering annuals and perennials are introduced by hybridizers. These new plants are field tested and bred for better performance, disease and insect resistance, flower size, color and heat tolerance.  Where does this happen?  What goes into that gorgeous vivid red geranium you see on the bench at the nursery?

Over 30 breeders of flower seeds and perennial starts each spring showcase their new varieties in trials held throughout the state.  Professional growers visit the trials to choose which new varieties they will grow this year and offer to local nurseries and garden centers.  Goldsmith Seeds in Gilroy is one of the locations that hosts the colorful spectacle.

Fragrant, wisteria-covered arbors shade paths that wind throughout the landscaped grounds . The grounds are open to the public to enjoy throughout the summer.  Also on site are the greenhouses where breeders work on creating new and better flower varieties.  It was interesting to see several acres planted with fava beans as a cover crop. Soon the fields of this flowering legume will be cut down and tilled into the soil to add nitrogen. Legumes attract soil dwelling bacteria that attach to the plant’s roots and pull atmospheric nitrogen out of the air and soil, storing it on the roots as nodules.  When the plant is cut down and chopped up to decompose that nitrogen remains in the soil to feed new plants. After a few weeks of decomposition the energized soil will be ready for planting test flowers that Goldsmith seeds will further evaluate.

All of the seeds are actually grown in greenhouses in Holland and Guatemala. Cool season flowers like primroses, cyclamen, violas and pansies are produced mainly in Holland while warm season flowers like dahlias, geraniums, gazanias, and verbenas are grown at different elevations in Guatemala. I learned Goldsmith Seeds has been developing and growing seed in Guatemala for 40 years.

What new cultivars really impressed me at the trials?  There’s a new geranium that combines the best features of ivy and zonal geraniums. I liked the amazing color of Calliope Dark Red but all the colors were show stoppers. They would be perfect for baskets or beds in full sun or part shade. And you should see all the colors that calibrachoa now comes in-light blue, dark blue, deep yellow, peach, orange, even white with rose veins. These have now been bred to bloom earlier in the season which is why you’re seeing them in nurseries now.  There were many fragrant flowers like . I always looks forward to them when they arrive at the nursery. 

Try something new in your garden this year. There are so many good choices.
 

Fragrant Plants for Spring

Spring is busting out all over.  Huge saucer magnolias and dainty flowering cherries adorn trees everywhere you look.  Many spring bloomers are deliciously fragrant, too. Whether you’re planting edibles in the vegetable garden or containers on the deck include plants that entice you to linger and enjoy their sweet scent.

Old fashion lilacs will be blooming soon. Nothing ways "Spring" like the legendary scent of these shrubs.  Give them a spot in full sun with enough room for them to spread 6′ wide. While most plants accept slightly acidic soils, lilacs are an exception.  Dig lime into your soil at planting and side dress yearly if your soil is acidic.

Looking for something in vanilla? Evergreen clematis vines make a great screen with 6" long, glossy leaves and creamy white, saucer shaped, vanilla-scented flower clusters.  Provide study support for them to climb on. They are slow to start but race once established.

Outside the veggie garden, citrus blossoms can scent the air.  Plant lemons oranges, mandarins, kumquats, grapefruit and limes in full sun areas.  Established trees need a good soak every other week so keep them on a separate watering system from your other edibles.

Inside the veggie garden, include scented plants that attract beneficial insects.  Fragrant lavender and sweet alyssum are good choices.  For sheer enjoyment, plant perennial carnation and dianthus for their intense clove fragrance.  Cinnamon Red Hots grow to 15", are deer resistant, bloom all spring and summer and don’t need deadheading.  Velvet and White border carnations are among the least demanding and most satisfying perennials in the garden. As cut flowers they are long lasting and highly fragrant in bouquets.

Another fragrant perennial to tuck among your other plants or veggies is Berries & Cream Sachet nemesia. Intensely fragrant blossoms are purple and white, just like blackberries covered with cream.  They bloom for months without any special care but if flowers decline, cut plants back to stimulate new growth.

Fragrant shrubs that are easy to grow are osmanthus, bush anemone, choisya, philadelphus, butterfly bush, and daphne.  Scented perennials include sweet violets and chocolate cosmos.  Plant several chocolate cosmos for the strongest effect. They really do smell like dark chocolate on a warm day.  Vivid purple heliotrope don’t winter over around here but their vanilla and licorice fragrance make them worth replanting each year.

Plant for fragrance. It’s your reward for all the care and tending you give your garden.