Keep garden sweet with fragrant plants

Frostproof gardenia is a Louisiana Super Plant. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

My sweet olive is in its third cycle of bloom so that means I’m spending a lot of time practicing deep breathing exercises on the back deck. And feeling sorry for my husband because, even if he puts his nose right up against the flowers, he can’t smell them. Now that’s sad.

It’s sad, too, to limit yourself to just one fragrant plant. Here’s a list, from retired LSU AgCenter horticulturist Denyse Cummins, of other trees and shrubs that will have you spending lots of time outside:

  • Sweet olive: An evergreen that can be grown as a large shrub or small tree. It produces several cycles of bloom from fall through spring. Although the flowers are inconspicuous, the fragrance it wonderful, soft and subtle.
  • Sweet bay magnolia. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter

    Sweet bay magnolia:  A native evergreen tree, this one needs some space. It grows to about 50 feet tall by 30 feet wide. Fragrant, creamy white flowers — Denyse says they smell like roses — are borne in spring and intermittently during summer. It was named a Louisiana Super Plant for 2012 by the AgCenter.

  •  Sasanqua: These evergreens flower in the fall and winter in shades of white, pink, rose and red. Not all varieties give off perfume, so you might want to do the sniff test before purchasing.  Give them filtered sun and acid soil for best results.
  • Wisteria: Who doesn’t love the fragrance given off by the clouds of purple flowers produced by wisteria each spring? Just be sure you’re prepared to love — or at least cope with — its rampant growth. Turn your back for a minute and it will eat your house.
  • Citrus: Both beautiful and sweetly fragrant, it’s easy to see why orange blossoms have been a traditional wedding bouquet flower. Citrus isn’t reliably hardy in North Louisiana so be prepared to protect them from extreme temperatures. Satsumas and kumquats are the most cold-hardy, with mature specimens able to withstand temperatures in the low 20s without too much damage.
  • Brugmansia: One of several plants commonly called angel’s trumpet, brugmansia flowers emit a soft, lemony fragrance that drifts in the evening breeze.

More fragrant trees and shrubs:

  • Banana shrub:  If you love the scent of banana bread, you’ll adore banana shrub. This evergreen prefers well-drained, acid soil.
  • Gardenia: Few scents are as intoxicating as gardenia and few plants are as finicky about growing conditions. In fertile, well-drained acid soil, they’ll flourish and produce glossy, dark green leaves and loads of creamy white flowers. Gardenias planted in poorly drained or alkaline soil will struggle and are susceptible to insect problems. Make sure you have the right conditions to avoid heartache. Frostproof is a variety named a Louisiana Super Plant by the AgCenter.
  • Mock orange: Sometimes called English dogwood, this huge arching shrub produces masses of white flowers in spring — but not all of them are fragrant. Sniff test required. Bonus: It’s as easy to grow as gardenia is difficult.
  • Sweet shrub: For about a month in spring, this one produces small red flowers  that have been described as smelling like strawberries — or Juicy Fruit gum. Sweet!

What’s missing?

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