Sweet Smell of Tropical
Certain smells brings back certain memories. It’s true for everyone. Every time I get a scent of Jasmine it brings me right back to my childhood like it was yesterday. A hand hammered silver bowl of cold water infused with Jasmine that still float in the bowl. One whiff and one sip of that water my fatigue starts melting away. I remember my grandmother sending me out to pick jasmine in the evening when they were not fully open to make an offering. There were rows of them since she grew a few kinds of jasmine, the Arabian Tea Jasmine, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (we called it something different where I grew up), and the one that looked like 3-4 tiny stacked up white stars. I haven’t seen the last one around for years but I still keep my eye out for it. It may have already become extinct.
Growing tropical plants in the Northern Hemisphere is a pain when you don’t have a greenhouse. Our plants spend their winter in the basement under plant lights on a timer. “Winter training camp” we call it. Once the weather is warm enough, night temperature staying above 50 degrees, they can hang out outside. Carrying them in and out the basement every year is not an easy task, especially when some of them are taller than me. But out of love of cooking with fresh ingredients and sweet scent in our home and garden, we happily bear this pain twice a year. OK, well, Bill groans and fakes back pain twice a year in a lame attempt to get out of lifting them. But he likes to eat too so always succumbs eventually. He has suggested that I don’t get any new plants that will become miniature trees since we’re not getting any younger. Point taken.
Our Jasmine provide plenty of flowers that we share with friends and neighbors. I let the plants bloom during the evening so they can perfume the garden then pick them early in the morning to use in the house and take to work. The Arabian Tea Jasmine, Jasminum Sambac, that we grew, proliferated from 2 pots of jasmine I have had from over ten years ago. I’ve been taking them with me wherever I moved to. That two little pots became eleven large ones and bloom profusely every summer. They give us a treat here and there while in their winter training camp as well. You needn’t have a garden to grow them, a windowsill with direct sunlight will do fine. Trust me, a whiff of fresh jasmine will sooth all your senses.
Arabian Tea Jasmine is not just good for their scent, it’s also great to mix with tea and use in potpourri. If you already like this delicate one-layer-petal jasmine, you will fall in love with the Grand Duke of Tuscany, also of the Jasminum Sambac family. Its one inch wide double bloom of white petals plus rich sweet jasmine fragrance can stop you in your tracks. It doesn’t bloom as profusely as the Arabian Tea though.
Jasmine is not the only fragrant tropical flower that perfumes our garden, Gardenia, Orchid, Night Blooming Jasmine, Sweet Almond Verbena, and Orange Jasmine do their share as well. I grow Sweet Almond Verbena, Aloysia virgata, because it smells like sweet incense. I guess it’s not just me that can relate its scent to incense since it’s also known as “Incense Bush”. When I first saw it in the catalog, I could smell it in my memory. I had to have it. Yes, I ended up with two of them. I will not be able to let them grow as big as the ones at my parents house, but two little bushes will do the trick. The clustered tiny little white flowers have never been without insects on them, especially bees. I don’t have to get my nose close to the flower. I can smell this sweet incense when I sit on the pool deck any time there is a light breeze.
I got Orange Jasmine, Murraya paniculata, to surprise Bill. When we were on vacation a couple of years ago, he walked under the canopy of Orange Jasmine and stopped midway under it. He kept smelling their fragrance. I waited until the plants I got flowered then I let him know we had new additions. He remembered the trip.
Night Blooming Jasmine, Cestrum noctumum, will broadcast its sweet scent from tiny pale green star shape flowers as soon as the sun goes down. Its fragrance will linger until early in the morning before it fades away in order to start over again in the evening.
The combination of fragrance from these tropical flowers makes the summer heat bearable when we are outside during the day. Evening is just heaven, except for the mosquitoes. I wish I could have them flower profusely all year round like in the tropics. Well, at this point they can leave the basement and fake sunlight to hang out on the bay window, soaking up real winter sunlight anytime they blossom. I guess it’s a worthy bribe and the orchids seem to like that bribe more than the others.