It is March and the days are getting warmer. Our gardens are beginning to explode with shades of green that remind us that spring is just around the corner and with fragrances that evoke fond memories of days gone by.
I personally don’t get much of a scent from most flowers, but when it’s there I am taken back to my past with unusual clarity. I can tell you the year that I discovered fragrant honeysuckle. It was 1989 on the University of Georgia’s campus with Bob Hill, our student advisor at the School of Environmental Design. Professor Hill taught a plant ID class and I loved it.
There were so many plants on campus, some brought to this country in the early 20th century, and others, the newest cultivar, straight from the Horticulture School. I was taken with fragrant honeysuckle’s sweet odor, a scent that still transports me back to my college days.
Thanks to Bob, I realized there are so many plant choices you can make. Since it’s the end of the planting season, I suggest making room for some fragrant shrubs. Fragrance creates a multi-sensory experience in your garden, as if a picture had a scent.
Have you run out of room in the garden after subscribing faithfully to my planting advice this past year? I suggest looking for some plants to remove and replace in your garden that are potentially invasive, or exotic plants that just don’t do much of anything but take up space, like Ligustrum.
I recently asked Emily and Madison, from Trees Atlanta’s restoration program, what plant they would want to see removed out of people’s gardens if they could choose only one. They both said nandina, and they see a lot of plants that take over our forest. Beyond nandina’s invasive behavior, their berries can kill our native birds. But if you’re not ready to say goodbye quite yet, consider cutting off the berries before they turn red.
There are several techniques for removing invasive plants.
- Manual removal requires a shovel and some muscle. If you have a lot of nandina, consider buying a weed wrench.
- “Cut and treat” involves cutting the unwanted plant and then treating the stump with the appropriate type and amount of herbicide. Foliar spraying of herbicide should be used sparingly and usually on vines and groundcover.
- Repetitive cutting is the easiest on the back and best for the environment, but it is the slowest technique.
Learn how to remove invasive plants by visiting TreesAtlanta.org, where you’ll find more information under the “Forest Restoration” program tab.
Once you have more room for some fragrant plants, consider these, plus one non-fragrant March bloomer.
Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) This Asian evergreen shrub grows to be just over three feet tall. Its pink or yellow flowers last for about three weeks, and their fragrance is just sweet enough to make you want more. I have found it to be a bit temperamental. It needs moisture, but better drainage than your average Georgia soil, and a bit of shade. Most people I know are excited if their plants live past five years, but I promise it is worth trying.
Edgeworthia (Edgeworthia chrysantha) This Chinese deciduous shrub grows over five feet tall. When it’s fall yellow leaves drop, they leave silvery, ball-shaped flower buds that remind me of spaceships. As they open, they show their bright yellow flowers with a fragrance that stops people in their tracks. On my street, five houses in a row have them planted and no plant gets more questions: “What is this and how do I get one?”
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) This native shrub or small tree can get to be 12 feet tall. It prefers moist soils and some shade. Its leaves, twigs, and small yellow flowers all smell sweet and spicy, hence the name. It is a host plant for the swallowtail butterfly and its red berries are enjoyed by most any bird and small mammal.
Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) This native yellow-flowering vine can bloom for three months, starting as early as February. It is evergreen and tough as nails. Its’ sweet fragrance competes with our native wisteria and the shrubs above. Apartment dwellers, you can grow this sweet thing in a large container for years as long as you keep it watered. My personal favorites include the hard-to-find double variety and a softer yellow selection.
Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) Well, this native woodland plant isn’t fragrant, but it is too darn cute not to mention. It is an ephemeral perennial that comes up in February, blooms before all the other herbaceous plants, and usually disappears in mid-summer.
Its dainty leaves often have a bronze tinge and pink flowers a bit smaller than a dime. It’s great for rock gardens with well-drained yet moist soil. It will make a nice small mass which works well in the foreground of your beds, along with trillium and bloodroot.
It may be hard to find, but if you join the Georgia Native Plant society you might find it on a plant save outing. GNPS helps save native plants where a future development will destroy them, so consider joining to learn more and help save some of Georgia’s beauties.