Sunday, October 3, 2010

Osmanthus x fortunei is flowering now at the head of the trail to the Pagoda....small flowers big fragrance

Just a few feet off the road, and you'll have to smell a lot of plants to find a better fragrance. There are a good number of species of Osmanthus, but the most well known to temperate gardeners are Osmanthus heterophyllus , and O. fragrans. Now fragrans, or Sweet Olive, is not really hardy north of USDA Zone 8 so many of us know it as a houseplant. It's floral perfume is out of this world. It's one of the first plants I put into the Florida Garden and I look forward to sitting on the screen porch and breathing its scent this December. Osmanthus heterophyllus is perfectly happy here in Zone 7, it won't begin to flower for won't be long now, and while it has a very nice perfume, it can't compete with fragrans.

Fortunei is a cross between the two species and the happy result is a plant with Zone 7 hardiness and almost the fragrance of Sweet Olive. Now that's what hybridizing is all about. Like heterophyllus, it's a large upright gawky evergreen, readily pruned. I suspect those authorities who claim it can be permantly maintained at any size, but it can be pruned. I would, and do, allocate about an 8' in diameter space for it. It can be kept to this size. Because the fragrance moves nicely on fall breezes it can be sited in an out-of the way location.

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