September 9, 2009

Fragrantissima! It must be college time.

Late summer does bring more to gardeners than cold nights and mums, it also means that plants are maturing, and competing for bees, pollinators and our noses. I have mentioned before that I think that we may have the largest, or at least the oldest Gardenia in New England, for it is nearly 8 feet tall, with a trunk diameter of around 12 inches, nothing, I suppose, if you live in the south, but here, this is a potted plant, and our Gardenia tub is so heavy, that it takes three men to lift it, when we need to bring it back into the greenhouse every autumn. As if it knows that winter is coming, it always has a last flush of bloom in late summer, and this year is no exception. There must be 75 blossoms on it today, and here, Joe has picked an armload.

It may sound silly, but to me, these rich fragrant flowers of September remind me of returning to college. Surely this is because I went to college in Hawaii,but every September it's not the Staples commercials that send me back to the land of nostalgia and palm trees, it's the end-of -summer blooming of those fragrant flowers, many of which are common flowers used to make Lei's with in Hawaii- mainly, the Tuberose, white ginger and Jasmine. Gardenias are not usually used for lei's, but the scent is everywhere on the sidewalks near Waikiki since the scent drift out of the tourist shops where the perfume is popular with the Japanese tourists. Hawaii is the number one wedding spot for many Tokyoites.

White Ginger is sharply fragrant around the full moons of September. I know that right now, it is completely in full bloom under the high tension wires in the Tantalus mountains on Oahu, where I use to rent a house in Hawaii for college. We would drive the winding road on the full moon evenings, just to go smell it.
Besides Gardenia flowers, September also brings other intoxicatingly fragrant flowers into bloom, one of my favorite is the Tuberose, a bulb plant that instantly takes me back to Hawaii, for I went to college there for 5 years, scents are a powerful memory indeed. The scent of Tuberose is omnipresent on the Island, since many tourist lei's are constructed out of them ( as well as from other fragrant plants that bloom this time of year, like pearl Jasmine, called Pikake in Hawaii, and often reserved for the most special of events like a graduation or a visit from a State official, and 5 strand Pikake lei for the fanciest of weddings, for the look like pearls).

Murraya is a great houseplant, that also is grown as a hedge in Hawaii ( and in the southern US), where it can make a big presence. We lost our large potted one, which started to become too woody, but this smaller plant, started from a cutting last taken last summer, is starting to reach nice size again.
Other white fragrant flowers blooming now, perfect for September weddings, are Mock Orange blossoms, the Murraya, the scent reminds me of our hedge around out home in Hawaii, that woudl be trimmed after it bloomed in October so that it would bloom again, usually just after January, when I would return after Christmas break. The scent would sweep in on evenings and seem shockingly intense for someone who has just flown in from snowy Boston.

Below, the Neofinetia, a more sweet and less intense fragrance is much more acceptable. This Japanese native is our official end of summer flower.


  1. How I wish I were in your garden to smell all those wonderful fragrences!

  2. Matt, I'm envious of your exotic college locale..., I grew up with a large Gardenia bush that did indeed put off a late Summer show. My Gingers just finished, but the Neofinetia is starting up again!Such a nice well proportioned plant, one of my favorites.(the scent ain't bad either :)

  3. Beautiful pua of Hawai'i! I still remember you used to bring me ginger and gardena :). I still have the Pikake that I brought back from the islands. Still bloom every summer in the great ole upper midwest


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