Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Can't Photograph Fragrance!

If you could photograph a fragrance, this would be easy. This week the Agarista populifolia, or Florida Leucothoe is flowering in Fern Valley and the whole collection smells like warm honey. Seriously, it does. It isn't the most delicate floral smell, it doesn't evoke citrus, or cloves or any spice for that matter, it really smells like honey. If you come to Fern Valley this week, I guarantee (excepting any olfactory issues) you will experience it.

Florida Leucothoe, I first learned it as Leucothoe populifolia, is a mounding evergreen shrub that reaches a fair size, maybe 10 feet tall with a somewhat larger diameter. It tolerates shade which makes it a plant that will grow in your shady back yard. So far as I can tell deer don't seem to bother it, nor is it as susceptible to the leaf spots that plague the "true" Leucothoes. Now I have made it sound like a perfect plant and really I have to admit that its probably just a very good plant. Because it iis native much farther south, it suffers a bit in average winters, including yellowing of the leaves, and even some branch dieback. Severe winters produce a bit more severe symptoms. The good news is two-fold: winters are really mild now and regeneration pruning is a quick and sure solution if problems do occur.

Because it will grow in shade and so many people have shade, I have used this plant for years in garden designs. I have to admit though, that I was doing this somewhat in a state of ignorance; until I came to Fern Valley I had no idea how large these plants could grow. I had seen specimans 8' tall and 6' across, but they would be dwarfed by some of the older plants in Fern Valley that are a few feet higher and fully 15' across.

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