Fragrant flowers bring serenity in the garden

Although, true in general, these days, I find working in the garden exceptionally calming, perhaps because some of our trees and shrubs that bear fragrance-bearing flowers are in full bloom. The scent often pleasantly catching me off-guard, while not enough, can be said about the beauty and perfume of the flowers of southern magnolias and this year, the hardy gardenias. They have truly outperformed the previous seasons. And, of course, there are the beloved tropical jasmines growing indoors in containers, which we bring outside during summer time.

Whereas growing magnolias is not as much of a challenge around here, success with gardenias, the ones sold as winter hardy for this area, can be tricky until the plants are well established.  Luck plays a role too, for if the first winter after planting is harsh, young plants can suffer damage that can be difficult to reverse; fortunately, ours are growing cozily against the tool shed, with the nearby fence protection from winter winds. As gardenias prefer acidic soil, I use Holly-tone in spring to provide nutrients to the new growth, making sure to water regularly particularly in the absence of rain.

The potted jasmines we have collected and nurtured over the years are indeed our pride and joy. Hard-to-find some years back, the Arabian jasmine, Jasminum sambac, is now available as a houseplant pretty much at most garden centers. Pure white flowers are single or double depending upon the variety, and very sweetly scented; in fact, these days, I make it a point to bring some ready-to-open buds or opened flowers inside and relish the fragrance, which lasts a long time. These bushy, evergreen plants are sun-loving with a scrambling growth habit, and can be grown as patio plants during summer months. But, because of their tropical origin, the plants are cold-sensitive and need to be brought inside when the nighttime temperature drops to about 50 degrees or below. Once inside, allocate them a sunny spot away from cold and hot air drafts, provide water when the soil looks dry and a balanced fertilizer during active growth period.

Another jasmine unrelated to the Arabian jasmine, which we really look forward to coming to bloom, is fondly called the “Queen of the Night”; living up to the name, Cestrum nocturnum, plants bear flowers, which while are quite inconspicuous, emit an intoxicating scent at night. Though not as often seen in garden centers as some other jasmines, I have recently purchased this night-blooming jasmine from a vendor who specializes in selling unusual plants at our local farmers market. However, plants can be propagated quite easily by rooting cuttings; so, if someone you know has one, it won’t hurt to ask for a branch and try to root it yourself. In all likelihood, the owner of the plant will be happy to spread the fragrance around.

Tip of the Month: True, a gardeners’ work never ends, but do take the time to relax and savor the hard work done since the onset of spring.

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