FLORIDA — I enjoy the fragrant flowers of a sweet osmanthus shrub in my side yard and a banana shrub in my backyard during late winter through early spring. Many gardeners overlook this aspect of fragrance in their landscape.
It has been said that smell is the sense that is most memorable and reminiscent of a certain time.
Bob Black, retired UF/IFAS Extension Horticulture Specialist, and I share our thoughts on this fourth dimension of fragrance for our landscapes in today’s article.
The purpose of a flower’s fragrance is thought to be that of an attractant to nectar-feeding insects. Not all perfumes are found in the flowers, though. Scents also may be found in roots, bark, gum or oils, leaves stalks, and sometimes in the seed.
Generally, fragrant flowers are lightly colored or white. Brilliantly colored flowers are not usually fragrant, there are exceptions. Flowers thick in texture, such as citrus, magnolia, and gardenia, are often the most distinctive and intense in scent.
There may be a vast difference in the strength of fragrance, even among members of the same species. The degree of fragrance may vary with several conditions such as time of day, age of the flower, air temperature, and moisture level.
The hours when the scent is strongest may even differ for the same plants. The scent depends on the essential oils present in varying amounts depending on these conditions. These oils evaporate at different speeds and different temperatures.
Roses, for example, smell sweetest on mild, damp mornings when the sun hits them. They reach a peak at noon, and by night they may no longer be fragrant.
Some plants that produce flowers that open only at night reveal no scents during daylight hours but are odoriferous at night. Still, other plants send out fragrance both day and night, the scent varies during these times.
Scent also may vary as the flower begins senescence. Drought and heat can rob the flowers of their sweetness. Gardens smell sweetest when the air is mild, and moisture is high.
During periods of drought and heat, the fragrant ethers are much less, and the decrease in scent is noticeable. Frost may release a dormant fragrance, as does a rain shower.
To add fragrance to the garden, many plants may be used, including trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials. Banana shrub, fortune osmanthus, sweet osmanthus, gardenia, rose, confederate jasmine, and sweet viburnum represent a few plants to consider for North Florida landscapes, which produce fragrant flowers.
Plant them where they have room to grow and where their fragrance can be enjoyed.