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Plants that really get up your Nose

Phil Keane

There are four things that make for a pleasant garden - the form, the foliage, the flowers and, last but not least, the perfume of the plants. Blind people and bees in particular are drawn to perfumed plants. So let us look at some that will make your garden a far more pleasant place when your plants burst into bloom.

If you want a light climber that is not too invasive you should try Jasminum suavissisimum. It has fragrant 2 cm diameter white flowers through spring and summer.

Jasminum suavissisimum   
Jasminum suavissimum   
Atractocarpus chartaceus   
Atractocarpus chartaceus   

But you may have a gap for another shrub, so why not plant an Atractocarpus chartaceus (formerly Randia chartacea) the 'Native Gardenia' or its close relative, A.fitzalani. Both are medium to large bushes suitable for a shady position - but you can prune them. They only bear a few white 5-petalled flowers, but what they lack in numbers they more than make up for in perfume. Another shrub with fragrant flowers that you can grow in that shady spot is Alyxia ruscifolia. This one will get to about 2.5 m high by 1.5 m across but as it's very slow growing it will take 10 years to get this tall. It too has white flowers and these are followed by little orange berries that are joined together and look like a small chain - hence its common name 'Chain Fruit'.

Of course you may be one of those folk who just want a garden full of grevilleas. There are a number with scented flowers so try G. leucoclada from Western Australia. This bears a great number of white flowers heads in winter and spring. If you fancy the small of caramel try a G.trachytheca - again from the west and again with white flower heads. If you want to stick with the locals, try G.triloba with its grey foliage and feathery white perfumed flowers heads. It will grow to about 2 m high and spread to 3 to 4 m across - so it needs space. All these grevilleas will grow in part shade.

Another local with perfumed flowers is Kunzea ambigua. This hardy plant will get to over 3 m high in the right conditions but it can be cut back hard and even hedged. This is the plant for all those who like their flowers to come with a honey smell.

And don't forget that many of the acacias have perfumed flowers. One worthy of mention is Acacia suaveolens - it's not called the 'Sweet-Scented Wattle' for nothing!

But perhaps you have room for a tree so nip out and get a Corymbia gummifera, the local 'Bloodwood'. When mature this will produce masses of white flowers with a distinct honey smell - however you may have to nip out again to buy a ladder in order to smell them!

Now for something really different - why not try the strappy-leaved Helmholtzia acorifolia? This plant from north Queensland gets to a little over 1 m tall, has dark green foliage and bears large perfumed plumes of white flowers tinged with pink. It needs a shady spot and also makes a useful indoor plant.

If none of the above turn you on you can always have another attempt at getting one of the boronias to survive in your garden.

From the newsletter of the Australian Plants Society Sutherland Group, May 2005 and Native Plants for New South Wales, July 2005.

If you want to know more about perfumed plants and the ones that could be suitable for that empty spot in your backyard, drop in to see Phil at his Ausplants Nursery, 51 Bunarba Road, Gymea (by appointment only -

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Australian Plants online - 2007
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