UCCE Master Gardener El Dorado County
Before planting any plant, think about what it needs in terms of irrigation, soil nutrients, sun, air and space.
There is nothing more delightful than fragrance in the garden. Most recognize roses and honeysuckle for their fragrance, but did you know that there are many plants that have wonderful scents that can be grown in the foothills or as house plants? Here are some favorite Òperfume plants,Ó all of which grow in El Dorado County.
Before planting any plant, think about what it needs in terms of irrigation, soil nutrients, sun, air, and space. If the plantÕs requirements can be met it will thrive and is a welcome addition to the yard.
An all time favorite fragrant plant is the gardenia. The gardenia needs acid soil and bright sunlight. It needs summer heat to thrive and bloom. Plant it high enough so that the trunk of the plant is slightly above ground level. This ensures that when planting is complete, the surrounding soil slopes ever so gently downward from the base of the plant. Also avoid crowding the plant by giving its roots space to grow in the flower bed. Feed every three to four weeks during the growing season with a complete fertilizer formulated for acid loving plants.
Jasminum (jasmine) typifies summer with its delicate aromatic blossoms. It does best in bright sunlight and fertile soil.
Philadelphus (mock orange) is a large plant with white flowers that blooms in late spring to early summer. It will flourish in any type of soil as long as it has good drainage. Prune the mock orange after it blooms by cutting out the oldest wood and extra shoots down at the base.
Salvia elegans (pineapple sage) has striking red or orange blooms from late fall through summer. Its leaves smell like pineapple Ñ crush them with your fingers and smell. If deer are hungry enough, they will eat the Salvia. Plants in a fenced backyard do much better than those outside the fence.
Marsdenia floribunda or Stephanotis floribunda (Madagascar jasmine) is a vine that can grow and twine to between 15 and 30 feet and has one to two inch long white blooms. The flowers, which bloom from spring to summer, smell divine.
Stephanotis does best in bright sun and good draining soil.
Clematis armandii is an evergreen vine with white flowers with long petals. Provide it an arbor or trellis on which to grow. Like all clematis, this one likes its head in the sun and feet in the shade. Plant it where it will receive five to six hours of sunlight each day. Clematis will bloom from early to mid spring. Prune Clematis only once every three years.
A low growing and delightfully scented plant is Viola odorata (sweet violet). Plant it in rich and moist soil where it will have light shade. Sweet violet reseeds itself and will fill in wherever you allow it to. Fertilize it in early spring.
Syringia vulgaris (lilac) blooms in early spring if it gets an adequate winter chill. Plant it in light shade in slightly alkaline soil.
Lilacs bloom on wood formed the previous year, so prune just when the flowering ends. Encourage new shoots by cutting a few old stems. Deer do not like lilac bushes.
Deer also do not eat freesia, narcissus, lily, or hyacinth. The freesia, a corm, has a tubular flower that will fill your house with spring fragrance. Old-fashioned freesias are stronger scented than the hybrid ones.
I am now picking my early blooming paper white narcissus, Ziva. These blooms give images of spring on these gray, winter days. Corms and bulbs should be planted in the fall in good draining soil. Make sure to plant them with enough space to produce bulblets. Fertilize the bulbs three times a year: in the fall to promote development of healthy roots, in early spring when the tips emerge to feed the foliage and encourage flowering, and again when the buds show their first bit of color. Wait until the stems die down before you clip off the dead foliage. This ensures the bulbs have enough food stored to sprout, grow and flower again next year.
Tall spires of Mattiola incana (stock) give off a cinnamon scent. Stock likes full sun and a light fertile soil. Sow seeds in March or April or transplant young plants in early fall for winter or early spring bloom. Stock might not be the most attractive flower, but it does have a magnificent scent.
Daphne odora (winter daphne) on the other hand is beautiful to look at and fragrant as well. Daphne is very shallow rooted so avoid cultivating around its roots. Plant it in very porous soil so its roots have access to air. Locate daphne where it will receive at least three hours of shade protection each day. Water this plant lightly during the dry season to encourage blooms in early spring.
Personally, I canÕt wait until June when I can cut my first oriental hybrid lily. The ÒCasablancaÓ and ÒstargazerÓ varieties grow in my yard. These lilies grow to be four feet tall so stake them to keep them from toppling over. Plant them in dappled shade so their roots are shielded from the hot summer sun.
Give any one of these plants a try and youÕll be enjoying fragrance in your garden. However, before selecting a plant, be sure to check it out in the Western Gardening Book to ensure it is suitable for your garden climate and elevation.
Saturday Master Gardeners will be presenting a class on ÒWeather and Climate for Foothill GardensÓ at 9 a.m. The class will be held in the Bethell-Delfino Agriculture Building at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville.
Master Gardeners are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling (530) 621-5512. The office is located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville.