GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show22
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Show #22

This week we visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Tom Harvey. We learn how to make sense of scent - how to use fragrance to add another dimension to your garden.

We as gardeners often get caught up in how our garden looks. There is nothing wrong with that concept, but it may overlook an important area, that of smell. The sense of smell is one of our six senses. Fragrance can enhance our garden. Sometimes it's a wonderful aroma, other times, less than wonderful. There are two ways to enjoy a fragrance, one is tactile, rub or crush plants parts, the other is just simply enjoying the fragrance in the air. Plants, like Thyme, must be touched or rubbed to release their smell. Some plants are more fragrant later in the day. As the humidity and heat build up these plants begin to release their fragrance. Some do this to attract pollinators. When designing a fragrance garden it is ideal to set it back so strong wind isn't always blowing through, this allows the fragrance to settle, to linger. It isn't necessary to have tall walls surrounding this garden, but an area that is somewhat enclosed helps. It is also helpful to have raised beds, not the normal ankle level garden, but something closer to waist level, closer to our nose. Place fragrant plants where people would normally gather. During the Victorian era Thyme and Oregano were planted or placed on benches. When people sat they crushed the plants and the smell was noticeable.

We start with plants that need to be crushed or broken to fully enjoy their smell. Bay, Laurus Nobilis, is not a hardy plant above zone 7. If you have temperatures that reach into the lower 20's you can expect some stem damage or die-back. It's an ideal container plant but can reach 15-25 feet tall. Bay is the seasoning used in stews, soups and pot roasts. It has a wonderful sweet, spicy smell. Tom has placed this plant close to the building, where he gets some leakage from the windows. In the winter some heat is released, protecting the plant.

Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean and is another seasoning favorite. It is a fantastic spice to use when cooking lamb. Run your hand across the stem and the smell is strong. This plant has beautiful blue blossoms in the spring and early summer. There are different forms of this plant, prostrate, rambling, upright, even a gnarling form. The different types have different types of blue blossoms. They like full sun and well drained soil. Some say they are hard to transfer, Tom has had no trouble with these plants in that regard whatsoever. They should thrive in all parts of this country, cold or hot. They don't like wet feet.

Thyme is another crushable plant that emits a wonderful fragrance. It likes well drained alkaline soil, full sun or a even a little shade. Tom adds a little lime to the soil early in the season and often just shears it to the ground after the first flush of growth, sometime around June or July. It then flushes out again during the season and it doesn't look tattered. When doing the maintenance the smell is enjoyable. Various cultivars of Thyme have gold leaves, some have white blossoms, some pink blossoms even blue blossoms. The scientific names are constantly changing, Rick and Tom just call it Thyme.

Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Cinerea is often thought of as a novelty plant, one often seen in dried arrangements. It is a primary food source for Koalas. There are some species, introduced within the last 4 or 5 years, that can be grown in areas that get down to minus 10 degrees. It is an open plant, kind of wiry. As a tree they can grow to 80 feet tall with trunks that are gigantic. When these plants advance from their juvenile stage to the mature stage their leaf shape changes, into a long lance shaped leaf. People keep it cut back to keep it in the juvenile form so it retains its ornamental leaf. Because there is an large amount of oil in this plant, their leaves, when crushed, emit the incredibly strong Eucalyptus odor. The leaf has a sort of white sheen to it, almost an ice-blue appearance. The correct term is Glaucas, it is almost powerdy and offers some protection. Eucalyptus is very ornamental.

Hibiscus are among the most showy and versatile plants in a garden. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are tender varieties native to Hawaii as well as shrubs that live in almost any climate. Hibiscus Soriacus, Rose of Sharon or Shrub Althea is a large shrub or a small tree. It produces a very showy flower from early summer all the way into fall. All Hibiscus flowers are funnel shaped and have a prominent stamen in the middle, in fact that is an easy way to identify the plant as a member of the Hibiscus family. The center of the flower is usually darker than the outside, providing an interesting focal point. Rose of Sharon produces a lot of seeds. Those seeds fall to the ground and germinate, thus the plant spreads easily. A sterile Triploid has an extra set of genes that causes them to produce a better looking flower bloom for a longer time but it doesn't produce seeds. In dry areas it is a good idea to mulch new plants when first getting them established. Rose of Sharon is a beautiful, drought tolerant plant.

Agastash is a member of the mint family. It has square stems and a long tubular flower. It has become one of the hot new plants over the past several years. You can smell this plant when anywhere near it. Bees, Butterflies and Hummingbirds also like this plant. It has many different colors ranging from orangish coral to yellow to pink. We look at one variety, Fortune Blue, that has a beautiful blue flower. It tends to flop over towards the middle of the summer. Tom cuts them back in the middle of the season for this reason. It grows vigorously as the summer begins and gets so tall and brittle that wind and rain bend it over. It then tends to break in the center. When it gets tattered looking cut it back by half, it will re-flush and thrive throughout the rest of the season with new blossoms.

Phlox, Phlox Paniculata is everybody's favorite and they too are fragrant, their fragrance lingers in a garden They have a wide range of colors from a very clear white to pink to magenta. Most varieties are susceptible to Powerdy Mildew; the David variety is not. Phlox likes full sun but can take some shade.

Tenor is a plant that hasn't been out long. It isn't susceptible to Powerdy Mildew and provides a striking color in the garden. It has a very intense clarity of color and doesn't fade in hot weather. It doesn't work with all other color combinations because it has such strong colors. If after it finishes blooming you deadhead it back to the leaves, about a third of the way, in many cases it will blossom again, not as large as the first but it will extend their season.

Hosta, Royal Standard is a large Hosta and it has very strong fragrance. Add this to your fragrance setting and the whole area will be scented. Most grow this plant for its foliage, but it has a wonderful blossom. It provides shade for some of the plants that don't like as much sun. Hostas are generally problem free. Slugs are the one problem for Hostas but typically Hostas don't experience problems with other insects or bacteria. They don't need to be planted deep because you want the growing point to be at the surface of the soil. After frost hits them, cut out all dead foliage and wait for them to come back in the spring. Don't fertilize the crown of the plant, that will kill the plant. Divide them every 4-5 years at most, even longer if you want a larger clump.

Georgia this week visits with Scott Canning, the director of Horticulture at Wave Hill. Space is at a premium in today's yards and gardens since many of our living areas are becoming smaller. The garden Scott shows us has ample space but it offers ideas that homeowners can use to make a small space seem more complex. To make a small space seem more complex reveal some things, conceal others. As someone moves through a space it can be an adventure. A change in grade makes one pay attention to what's at your feet, when there are intricate planting at ones feet that too makes us pay attention. When turning a corner it provides a whole new vista that wasn't visible before. Scott uses specimen Conifers to draw the eye into the distance. When changing direction use a taller evergreen, like Lavender, to help one turn the corner, to guide them through the garden. There are Conifers for almost any situation, except very dark and very wet. Lavenders require proper drainage, but like hot, dry, exposed conditions. They can also withstand wind and salt. They are very durable next to a hot path. Hedges and grasses should also be considered, they're available in a wide range of heights and colors. There are little brown hedges and tall blue grasses. Most like sun, there are varieties available that like moist conditions, some like dry conditions. Also, Lupens are wonderful as a vertical accent in a garden. They can be tricky to grow, but give them a second chance because their range of color is spectacular, their foliage highly ornamental and the vertical accent they provide is special.

Georgia thanks Scott for showing us different ways to utilize smaller spaces. The use of different levels and different points of view add a feeling of open spaces to a smaller garden.

Fragrant plants don't necessarily need to be tender, some are used as shrubs. Abelia Chinensis is an heirloom plant and has been around for a long time. This particular plant is a new variety, recently introduced. It originates from China, it is a vigorous grower, makes clusters of tubular blossoms on the ends of the growing stems and they are amazingly fragrant. This plant begins blooming in early summer and continues through August. It attracts Butterflies, Bees and Hummingbirds. Once it stops blooming it creates a pink panicle. It is 3/4 evergreen, in the fall it doesn't lose all of its leaves but doesn't keep all of them either. The leaves will turn reddish orange, even burgundy. Thus it has some winter interest.

Edgeworthii or Papyrifera, Rice Paper Plant has beautiful summer foliage but the major show is in the winter. It is in full bloom in late winter, in January or February. It has cluster blossoms, cream colored on the outside and a beautiful yellow on the inside that hang from the stems. It is related to Daphne, thus is highly fragrant, but is a larger plant. At one point their stems were used to make paper, thus the name. The blossom comes out of the stem. It can be held down by ice or the temperature can drop below zero but when it warms the blossom will revive and it will revert to its upright form. It is a wonderful plant to watch as it progresses through its blooming season and it provides fragrance in your garden at a time of year you wouldn't expect anything to bloom or smell.

Clethra Barbin, Sweet Pepper Bush, is from China. Some genus are native to China and some genus are native to North America. Generally all bloom with spires and have blossoms coming from one end to the other. They have a very sweet fragrance. One form, Sixteen Candles, is a tight version but still has the sweet, almost sugary fragrance. This hedge has a variety of shapes and sizes that will fit almost any landscape. Even if placed as far away as 50 feet the fragrance is present. Bees like this bush adding another element of interest.

Tom reminds us fragrance is the sense we remember the most and the longest. Tom likes to create fragrance in a garden rather than creating a fragrance garden. Fragrance in your garden can be achieved in sun or shade, in winter or summer, in well drained soil or dry conditions. But remember, we feel satisfied when we experience smell in a garden. Dr. Rick thanks Tom for his time and efforts.

Link: Atlanta Botanical Garden

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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