One of the things I enjoy most about the Christmas season is the smells.
There is the smell of pine from the Christmas tree, cookies and cakes baking, candles burning and turkey cooking.
Most of us don't think about this being the time of the year when we can enjoy the fantastic fragrance from outdoor plants. We think of spring and summer, when most of the plants are in bloom, as the time of year to enjoy the sights and smells of the garden.
You can enjoy spending time in the yard in the winter just as much, because we have plants that will surprise you with the fragrance they produce.
The first plant that I would recommend planting around your home is the fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans ). The small white flowers from this plant are the most fragrant of the Osmanthus species. One or two of the flowers will fill a fair-size room with a sweet perfume.
I have these planted around my home, and no matter where I am in the yard, I can smell the tea olive. Tea olives are large plants, so they need to be planted in areas where they will have plenty of room to grow. They can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet and a width of 15 to 20 feet. I have seen tea olives put in containers and pruned, and they do very well. The containers then can be placed near doors or patios to fill the area with their fragrance.
Tea olives like to grow in full sun or partial shade. You will get more flowers when they are grown in full sun. Also, they will do better if they are planted on the south or southwest side of the house. They can be damaged by extreme cold. However, I have some that are on the north side of my house. They haven't suffered any cold damage yet, but we haven't had a really cold winter lately.
Tea olives like well-drained soils, but need adequate moisture. They will bloom more than just in the winter, so you can enjoy them more than just once during the year.
Another of my favorite shrubs for this time of the year is Fragrant or Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ). I planted two Daphne shrubs beside the steps leading to my front porch. I was told that they would reach about 21/2 feet high and wide. One of the plants died, and the other one reached 4 feet in height and width.
Daphne is very temperamental about its growing conditions. It likes shade or areas that receive morning sun. Also, it likes to grow in soil that is well-drained, but needs a moist soil. The plant that died received more sunlight and the soil did not drain as well as the other side of the steps.
The plant that lived grew so well that it outgrew the space that it was in, and I had to move it to another area. Since moving the plant, it has slowed its growth and is not as showy as it once was, but it still flowers and the fragrance of the blooms are worth the trouble of trying to grow this plant. Daphne grows very well in containers.
The next shrub is Elaeagnus x ebbingii . Most of the Elaeagnus species bloom during the summer. The flowers are very small and most people don't know that the fragrance is coming from Elaeagnus . Also, when many people think of Elaeagnus , they think of a wild and wooly plant that is planted in medians of highways. It is a very drought-tolerant plant that has very few insect or disease problems. But Elaeagnus x ebbingii is smaller, and it is not as aggressive as others in its species. Elaeagnus will grow in any soil type and it likes sun or partial shade.
Shrubs are not the only plants that can be very fragrant. There are numerous vines that grow in our area that are fragrant. There are a number of clematis that grow well in our area. Most of these bloom later in the summer and into the fall.
Then, there are the different Jasmines that have fragrant flowers. One such Jasmine is the Confederate Jasmine. Another vine that produces very fragrant flowers is Wisteria. There are two types of Wisteria. One is the Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis ). This is the invasive plant that will cover up trees. The other wisteria is the American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ). This wisteria is not as aggressive as the Chinese Wisteria and is easy to control. There is a variety that is on the Georgia Gold Medal plant list, and called "Amethyst Falls." This variety will bloom in one year where other Wisterias can take years to bloom.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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