It is not the prettiest. Not that showy at all, in fact the flowers are quite small and insignificant. But baby oh baby oh, do they pack an odiferous wallop. Osmanthus fragrans is the name of this late summer into fall blooming evergreen shrub. It is also known as sweet olive, tea olive and fragrant olive and is native to Asia. Now blooming in the Fairegarden.
The original idea was an evergreen planting along the fenceline that would provide privacy, planted to replace the zebra grass, Miscanthus sinesis ‘Zebrinus’ that was a poor idea on so many levels, in January of 2008. Read the original post about that by clicking here-Grass to Osmanthus, with a follow up here-Update, if you are interested.
Fast forward to September, 2011. The silver chain link fence has been covered over with rolls of bamboo. The nice sized specimens have taken a hit from several years of drought and a harsher than usual winter last year. In addition, vandalistic squirrels had dug up the soil around the rootballs in order to plant a forest of black walnut trees for the feeding of future rodent generations. Bags of good compost were applied to the exposed roots and pruning of dead branches neatened them up a bit. Things are looking up for the sweet smelling Osmanthus fragrans now.
Looking up, but not looking particularly good. Several have died outright and have been replaced with Fothergilla. Even some of those replacements have died. This is a tough location to plant. Extra water in times of drought and extra mulching to keep those roots covered are the doctor’s orders.
This extra effort is worth it, I promise you. If only computers had smell-o-vision, you would understand. These little mini popcorn looking flowers are the source of the sweetest scent I have ever sniffed. From anywhere in the garden, a slight breeze will bring the wafting of wonderfulness that has one lift their head and look around to determine from whence it came.
Some fact about Osmanthus fragrans:
*Small shrub or tree growing 10-15 feet tall under good conditions. (not here)
*Winter hardy in USDA zones 8b-11. (we are 7a)
*Likes consistently moist, well-drained soil, including heavy clay. (we have that except the moist part)
*Genus name comes from Greek osme (fragrant) and anthos (flower). (it is that)
*Enjoys full sun to partial shade, afternoon shade best. (yes)
*Blooms in early spring, late summer, autumn and winter (amazing!)
*Broadleaf evergreen with dark green, shiny, oval, sometimes toothed leaves.
*Can be grown in a container to be brought inside in colder zones.
*Pruning helps keep a neater shape and size.
*Winter dieback can be a set-back, but not fatal. Wait until warm weather to prune back to green leaves.
In trying to think of words to describe the extraordinary sweet scent, fruity, apricot, peachy come to mind. Difficulty in growing this should not be a deterrent, due to the delicious fragrance. Even if not everyone is cognizant of the perfume as they make their way along the fence to the top of the hill.