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Good Smelling Things

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lots of amazing flowers are blooming right now, stimulated by the shortening days and cooler nights. Cestrum nocturnum, a night-blooming jessamine (Solanaceae) which some of you may remember from the winter greenhouse posts, was liberated in the shade garden, where it has grown to over 6' in height. It is currently festooned with clusters of small green flowers, which emanate a spicy sweet scent at dusk that floats across the yard and into the bedroom windows. Oooh, it is so delightful. I just bury my face in them, fighting for space with brown moths who are driven wild by the aroma and nectar. Of course I've taken cuttings to carry us through the winter, since I'm not hauling this monster inside come frost.
Buddleia has a wonderful scent, and a big shrub can perfume a whole corner of the yard. Great spangled fritillaries, painted ladies, tiger and spicebush swallowtails, and monarchs are wild for it, and hummingbirds get a lot of nectar from it, too. This plant is a half-hardy perennial here, dying out in really cold winters. But some seedlings always survive to come up in the spring, attaining a respectable size by frost. I give away a lot of baby buddleias.
Shila gave me this amazing plant for my birthday three years ago. And it has always had a blossom on my birthday since. And it smells as amazing as it looks.This is Phalaenopsis violacea, a Bornean species orchid that is used in breeding to imbue the lovely but scent-free Phal's with aroma. You can tell if an orchid has P. violacea in its parentage if it bears the telltale half-purple lower petals (and if it smells like Eden). I can't describe its scent, other than to say it's citrusy and light but absolutely intoxicating. It emanates during the morning and early afternoon, ceasing to smell at all by dusk.
That's OK, because the queen of them all takes over as it grows dark: the tuberose. I ADORE tuberoses, and this is a great year for them. I divided all my bulbs this spring and they appreciated it, rewarding me with eight bloom spikes. Each spike puts out dozens of flowers, a couple each night, for weeks on end starting in August. Heady, musky, spicy, even pungent, tuberose is the base for many popular perfumes. I pick a few every night and put them in the bedrooms to give us wild and scenic dreams. It works. Sometimes even three flowers can smell so strong as to keep you awake. Those are our fabulous lima beans behind them. If you've never had a fresh lima bean, you don't know what lima beans are. Ours are the best we've ever tasted this year, creamy and impossibly tender, probably because there was enough rain. The kids actually fight over them! Ask for more! Can this be a vegetable?
We've gotten over 1 1/2" of badly needed rain in the last couple of days. The earth is exhaling moistness. That well-timed soaker rounds out a nearly perfect growing season. Just enough rain to keep everything blooming its head off.
A garden of earthly delights. Can you tell I'm already dreading frost?


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