I love fragrant flowers and try my best to collect them in our garden. Many of them have to stay in pots as they are tropical plants. As we are running out of space in the basement, I try not to get a new tropical plant. I also try not to propagate plants I have. It’s hard to do since I regularly prune them in spring when I take them out in the garden. I don’t want to throw healthy branches away so I stick them in a new pot and they take root. Some plants have been with us for many years and have grown much bigger so space is getting tight down there.
I couldn’t pass up the Cashmere Bouquet (Clerodendrum philippinum) when I saw one in a nursery offering a couple of years ago. Even though I know how fast it can grow and its need for space, but one is enough.
It a big leaf plant with white, sometimes pale pink clustered flowers. It’s fragrance is lightly sweet and musky and cannot be replicated. It reminded me of home, of childhood. I think it’s the same reason why I grow jasmine and have been collecting varieties of them.
I mentioned that one plant is enough, but they are two now. The old habit is hard to get rid of. I repotted it in spring to give it some legroom but I also split it at the same time. I wish I could grow it in the garden so I could have a whole patch. It can be grown out side in warmer USDA Zone 7 and up. But be warned, they can produce suckers and develop a colony very fast.
If you wish to grow it in a pot, it may not bloom as it likes direct sunlight. But if you have a window with plenty of light, it’s doable. One year I had a plant light right on it, to my surprise it bloomed in winter. Keep the soil on the dry side otherwise it will rot.
I’ve been buying one or two stems of Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) at the Union Square Farmer’s Market for the last couple of years. I love its fragrance, very sweet and unique. The scent brought me back to my childhood when my grandmother grew them in her garden. The memory of walking in the garden when they were in full bloom will always stay with me. The long stems with pure white flowers that opened up, one or two at a time, like a small version of Gladiolus. I was allowed to cut them just to make an offering, nothing else. I guess it was because it was mainly used in a funeral arrangement over there at that time. The name in the local language means ‘to hide a smell’. The locals probably used the flowers in the temple during a funeral ceremony before embalming existed, hence the name. When you put a lot of Tuberose together, you won’t smell anything else but the sweetness of the flowers. It’s like being in a room full of Oriental Lilies or Hyacinths, if you’re not sure how strong Tuberose is.
Anyway, I was warned by the farmer who sold me the Tuberose flowers about the difficulty of growing it in this latitude. He said I can grow them but they won’t flower because the hot season is not long enough for the plant to develop flower buds. He added that in the Northern part of the US it’s grown successfully only in a greenhouse. His answer discouraged me from trying to grow them for a few years.
What have I got to loose? I can’t get Gardenia and Ginger Lily to flower but I still grow them. Hopefully one of these years they will give me a break and flower. I decided to try growing tuberose this year with three small bulbs. They have taken their sweet time to come up from under the soil but, to my surprise, one of them bloomed. There are just two flowers on the long stem but they are enough to give me hope.
We have two Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata) that have never stopped blooming. It doesn’t matter where they are, under artificial light in the basement, in the bay window or on the pool deck in summer, they bloom. They deliver that delicious scent reminiscent of the tropics in the middle of winter. I let the flowers set fruit that look a little like small oranges and take a while to mature to a bright red.
I didn’t think the seeds would sprout, but I put each one of them in individual pots anyway. I took a chance since air-layering on tropical plants is hard to do because of the very short summer in my area. If the seeds sprout, great. If not, I have nothing to loose. Surprisingly enough, four of them came up. Even more surprising to me was that when they reached an inch and a half tall, they flowered. A little white flower perched on the top of each plant. I expected them to take a year or two before flowering. I guess growing in mostly compost helps.
This summer, I let the fruits fall in the parents pots and let nature do the work. I have a couple more seedlings now. I only wish I could grow them outside so I could have a whole hedge of Orange Jasmine that would perfume the garden year round.