Tag Archives: fragrant shrubs

Plant Collector – Philadelphus

The exquisite simplicity of the fragrant philadelphus

The exquisite simplicity of the fragrant philadelphus

I went out to the garden looking for something Christmas-y but the recent rains haven’t helped. The perfect red dahlia did not quite cut the mustard for this column but my eye fell on the pristine, snow white flowers of the philadelphus. I think this one is P. coronarius, the most commonly grown species. The whole family is often referred to as mock orange blossom. Sweetly scented though this plant is, as one whose garden is at times awash with the genuine orange blossom scent, all I can say is that to label the philadelphus so was the work of either an optimist or a plant marketer.

Philadelphus only star when in flower. For the rest of the year, they are largely anonymous border shrubs but that is fine because gardens need some quiet fillers in order to highlight showier plants. While there are a few evergreen ones, they are generally deciduous. The simple blooms remain pristine white, not burning in the sun or turning brown with age.

We saw a large range of particularly showy philadelphus in early summer English gardens, many much larger flowers, semi doubles, doubles, even pink tones. We figured they are hugely more popular there because they are such an obliging plant in a wide variety of conditions including alkaline soils and hard winters. New Zealand gardeners tend not to be fans of twiggy, deciduous shrubs. Plants flower on the previous season’s new growth which means that it is better to prune and shape by taking out older, woody stems entirely rather than giving the plant a hair cut all over. However, these are well behaved shrubs which only need attention every few years.

Apparently they pick well. I may have to try combining them with my red dahlias for a Christmas themed vase.

First published in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.

Plant Collector – Syringia palibiniana

Syringia palibiniana - Korean lilac

Syringia palibiniana - Korean lilac

We are not the world’s greatest territory for growing lilacs, those wonderfully fragrant cones of lilac blooms in spring, which is why you don’t see them around this area a great deal. They favour a more continental climate with cold winters and, preferably, hot summers, heavy soil and more alkaline conditions. Taranaki with its friable, volcanic soils and very mild climate is at the opposite end of the scale. But this dwarf Korean lilac is wonderfully adaptable to our conditions. It doesn’t have as strong a scent as the common lilac (Syringia vulgaris), but it is sweetly perfumed and makes a compact little shrub to about 100cm x 100cm. Like all lilacs, it is deciduous and when its little leaves appear, they are completely in scale to the dainty flowers and the small habit of growth. It is one of those handy little shrubs that you can fit in anywhere in the garden which gets reasonable sun and it will delight you at this time each year as it opens its many panicles of little lavender flowers.