Have you ever noticed when someone sees a flower, the first impulse is to smell it! Lilac bushes are well known for their odor as are the Mock Oranges.  I think the old fashioned single blooms smell better and stronger than the doubles that have developed. Another shrub that can scent an entire yard is the Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii). Several times I have had people come to the door wanting to know about that “Gorgeous smell” as they go down the side walk.

          Many of our night blooming plants are white.  Bees and other pollinators would not see much color at night but white and a strong perfume can guide them to the nectar they need.  The first one I think of is the Moonflower vine (Ipomea alba). It is big, it is waxy, and when it opens, it advertises.  The Moonflower (Datura) is known as Jimson Weed by farmers. (Be careful when you go to the garden center or nursery that you get the right Moonflower. This is why use of the scientific name is helpful.)  Moonflower (Datura), and its relative Angel Trumpets (Brugsmania) all smell very good when they have plenty of water and sunshine. The tall Flowering Tobacco plant (Sylvestrus) is neat to have behind a seat so some of the smell can drift over you.  Once you have them you will probably always have them as they produce hundreds of very tiny seeds that will come up only after the soil warms up.  Each bloom is in a cluster of white long slender tubes.  Evening blooming Jasmine (a houseplant in Nebraska as it is not hardy) can fill 2 rooms with a very sweet fragrance from only one plant.

          Some gardens that have been planted especially for the blind have plants with different surfaces (smooth, fine, rough, furry, etc.) but there is usually a section that is planted for “smell”. In spring these include Peonies (in general the whites and light pinks “smell” better than the darker ones), Dames Rocket (Hesperus matronalis), with Hyacinths and Sweet Woodruff (a plant that grows in the shade and spreads quite well after the first year). A late bloomer is the Tuberose which likes sunshine.  It is a bulb that can be pushed a little by starting them in the home early in the spring. 

          All of us have stepped on Thyme or mashed it between our fingers just to sniff.  Some of the Honeysuckles can be planted on your fence

          Then there are herbs! Lavender is well known. Some are hardy in Nebraska but many are not, so be careful what variety you buy and plant. Some people plant their herb garden as close to the kitchen door as possible so they can dash out and add fresh ones to their cooking.  I do not have an herb garden but I do have a number of herbs scattered around the yard. Dill is in many places as it produces much seed. I like it mixed in with my other butterfly flowers as some butterflies lay there eggs on the plant. Don’t spray the caterpillars, or pick them off the Dill or you won’t have as many butterflies. Also it is fun to go by and strip off a few seeds to snack on.  If you take some mints (careful as they are very invasive) mixed with Lemon Balm, Tarragon, and Rose petals, you can make your own potpourri.  Pick these while young so the scent will be stronger and last longer. 

          Lavender, which doesn’t usually bloom until its second year, is not always hardy here.  It is one of the plants I cover with mulch in the late fall. Both leaves and blooms can be used in tiny pillows to perfume your linen and your drawers. Did you know that the roots of a German Iris (Igermanica) are ground and the powder is used as a fixative in other perfumes?

          Two of my favorite perfume factories are the Agastache and Calmodium Orange .  Agastaches are also known as Hummingbird Mint. Some are not hardy in Nebraska (Zone 5). The one that I have was given to me as a “Licorice Plant” so I do not know its specific genus. I pull off a leaf or so, then crush it and rub it on my hands.  I can smell candy for a long time.  It is an annual for me and produces many, many seeds. I also have some perennial Agastaches, any of which can be picked and dried for a “sniffing” wreath. All of them are advertised for xeroscape gardening and will get root rot if kept too wet. 

          The Orange Tree I have never grows over two feet tall and may have blooms and oranges at the same time. The oranges are about 1-1 ½ inches in diameter and take a year to ripen. The blooms are prolific and can perfume an entire room. It prefers slightly acidic, damp soil and drops many bead size oranges on the floor by a large South window. I put it on the East side of the house during the summer where it gets only a limited amount of morning sun and no hot afternoon sun.

Copyright 2009


geranium budworm

by george edgar


          The past few years Geraniums and Petunias have been hit by a “Geranium Budworm”, also known as a Tobacco Budworm.  These worms drill into the bud of the plant and proceed to eat the heart out of the flower bud.  If the bud opens, it is all chewed up. Sometimes, they also attack the leaves. When you see the small (usually green) worm that is the time to spray.

          Budworms can be controlled with repeated applications of Bt (bacillus thuringensis) or permethrin (Eight).  Bt is an organic biological insecticide and sold as a liquid spray or as a wettable powder. Both need to be mixed with water and used as a spray. Mix and use as directed on the label. Repeat weekly until infestation is over. Bt works on most all worms and caterpillars. Remember that not all caterpillars are destructive. Some turn into beautiful Butterflies.

Copyright 2009