Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On my radar this week

Osmanthus fragrans thunbergii

Despite the second really dry summer in a row, we are having a beautiful autumn in Atlanta this year. Temperatures have mostly been mild, and the leaves are starting to turn.

Unfortunately, due to two summers of drought and severe watering restrictions, I've lost several well-loved plants in the yard, so I'm feeling even more appreciative of the tough guys that are still hanging around in my Zone 7 yard. I thought I'd share with you a couple of the bright spots in the garden this month. The definite rock stars this week are the Osmanthus plants, commonly known as Fragrant Tea Olives. The standard Tea Olives are evergreen, and have small, not very showy, but very fragrant flowers that typically bloom in the fall. The bonus: they will often rebloom throughout the year.

About 4 years ago now, I planted a pair of hard-to-find cultivars that have orange flowers instead of the typical white ones. Osmanthus fragrans aurantiacus is every bit as fragrant as the species, but have slightly larger, peachy-orange flowers. It took them a few years to actually bloom, but they are wonderful! The shrubs are typically denser and (probably) bloom more in full sun than in the partial shade of my yard. Here's an example:

There' s a Tea Olive that I may like even better though. This one is Osmanthus fragrans fudingzhu, or Nanjing's Beauty. The flowers on thisdifficult-to-pronounce plant are bigger and showier than the species, cover much more of the plant stems, and the plant starts blooming at a much younger age. Two or three years ago, I planted a small, one gallon plant in my sunny side yard. This week, after two extremely dry summers in a yard with no irrigation system and no babying, the Fudingzhu plant is nearly four feet tall and loaded with sweet smelling flowers.

There's even a pale yellow flowering Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans thunbergii, shown in the image at the top of the post.

I highly recommend any of the plants; they're durable, fast growing, can take sun to shade, and have a fantastic fragrance! Photos shown here from the Nurseries Caroliniana mail order website, a fantastic resource for unusual plants. Gardening geeks like me will love the catalog.

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