In these parts, Fall’s arrival is the perfect time to add new plantings to the landscape. The milder temperatures keep the plants from burning out while the their roots begin to set. I am desperate for a landscape renovation, and my nose knows just what to add.
One of my blogging heroes heroines is Tara Dillard, a well-known landscape designer based in the Atlanta area. Her daily pithy-filled posts provide practical, unpretentious and often economical advice for creating beautiful and timeless landscapes that improve environments and property values. Over the years of reading her words of wisdom, I can recite her Trinity of plants that should make up the bones of any Southern residential landscape:Azaleas Hydrangeas Camellias
With these three specimens, Ms. Dillard promises,
you’ll have blooms everyday in your garden.
I couldn’t agree with her more, and I actually have all three of these in my yard. But a garden is more than just bones. It requires layers, and to create a memorable garden, you’ll want to add some layers of scent. My own olfactory memories conjure up a Triune of sweet-smelling specimens that I long to have linger over my own landscape:Magnolias Gardenias Osmanthus (a/k/a tea olive)
Though they may not provide quite year-round fragrance if planted in your garden, these three Southern classics will grace your family with deep-seeded aromatic memories to be treasured for a lifetime.
The incomparable scent of magnolia, described as creamy sweet with a light citrus nuance, lightly perfumes the air from May through September, reminding you that you are standing on Southern soil. Along with its giant saucer shape blooms, glossy dark green leaves and giant seed pods, a magnolia is a giving tree in so many ways. No wonder it has always been at the top of my landscape wish list. I finally made my magnolia dreams come true when I planted a Little Gem in our side yard a couple of years ago in honor of my husband’s 50th birthday. (Good excuse, huh?)
After a year of settling into its new surroundings, it has blessed us with almost continuous sweet smelling blossoms this summer.
Gardenias have always been an iffy proposition in Zone 7, so I was not as familiar with the strong yet silky scented shrub until 15 years ago. My sister, eDv, chose gardenia for her bridal bouquet. Simple and elegant, it was memorable for its classic design and heady scent.
Around that time, new cultivars were being developed to be hardier in colder climes than the gardenia’s traditional territory. Conveniently, gardenias like the same soil conditions as azaleas and camellias and bloom around here from June to September when the other two are bloom-free, so they make the ideal fragrant companion to these garden stalwarts.
Gardenias have found an optimal location in Ellen’s back door raised beds. Each time I walk through, I stir a bit of the redolent scent. What a way to make an entrance. Just don’t touch the snow white blooms with your fingers if you want to keep the petals pure.
Two powerful smells take me right back to my coed days in Athens, GA. Besides the bourbon & coke that I seem to have mentioned a few times recently, osmanthus fragrans, more commonly known as tea olive, immediately evokes carefree memories in a favorite place. Not as common in Zone 7 as farther south, its spicy scent immediately lifts my spirits the moment I catch a whiff. This amazing tea olive hedge looms around the corner from my house, and once its scent has emerged in the fall, I love to roll down my car windows whenever I drive by.
Hyperbolized by a perfumery as having
the olfactory beauty of an intricate dentelle of fruity-leathery smells evoking plums, apricots and prunes hidden in the suede pouch upon a warrior-poet’s belt, as if taken out of a Chinese vignette,
the tea olive scent comes from tiny flowers
that bloom on this slow-growing bush. Peculiarly, its fragrance is more noticeable from afar than right up into the blossoms. I suppose a whole lot of blooms are needed to create one big scent, so a mass of tea olives makes more sense for a fragrant landscape than just one or two specimens. As a result, a huge hedge of these sun-lovers sits at the top of my landscape wish list now that I have a magnolia.
What have you got at the top of your landscape wish list? Anything deliciously fragrant? Should we add it to the list of scent-laden garden standards? We’d love to hear about what you are planting this fall.