I am enamored of wildflowers.
I think gardeners should use more native plants.
But… I’m not a purist. For me, scent trumps intent.
I am a sniffer. I follow my nose around like a hound dog. I am so obsessed with fragrant flowers that I once created a “Fragrance Garden”.
At my place this time of year, when I walk outside (or even past an open window) and take a deep breath, my olfactory nerves experience a powerful and pleasant jolt.
The sweet olive fragrance wafts in and asserts itself. Suddenly sweet olive is my favorite plant ever.
Sweet Olive, tea olive or fragrant olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is no wild flower or native plant. It hails from Asia and is hardy in the U.S. as far north as zone 7b.
Some think this large evergreen shrub resembles a holly. It is actually a member of the Olive Family. In old gardens in Natchez, sweet olive commonly reaches 15′ to 20′. It is often planted near banana shrub (Michelia figo) so that in spring the two can bloom in harmony.
The powerful flowers are diminutive – barely 1/8″ across. They would be easy to miss if they did not emit a wonderful fruity fragrance. The scent is one of my favorite signs of autumn. However, it will repeat during warm spells in winter and again in spring.
My husband Richard thinks that they smell like a perfectly ripe peach. I lean toward mango but that’s not quite it either. I’ve heard it described as being apricot like.
Regardless of the flavor perceived, the scent is prized throughout the world. In China the flowers are used to make a fragrant tea. Flowers of the unusual orange form are distilled to make an expensive essential oil that is used in perfumery.
It’s a delightful pervasive fragrance that I follow around my garden this time of year. The perfume drifts on the wind and I am bathed in it.