“ I have two citrus trees and absolutely love the scent of citrus blooms. Do you know of any vines or other plants that produce this incredible scent but aren’t fruit bearing? I read about one called Choisya or mock orange.”
Rich Varga, North Hollywood
Mexican or mock orange (Choisya ternata) is an evergreen shrub in the citrus family that can be grown anywhere south of Santa Clarita and should be on everyone’s fragrant plant list. It is somewhat finicky, in the manner of azalea, requiring acidic soil, and must be kept out of full sun in hot Valley locations. It does produce a heady fragrance this time of year and will continue blooming on and off until fall. Another plant known as mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius) I have personally sniffed and can vouch for its scent, which is clearly heaven-sent. If you can find this deciduous shrub, you really should plant one even if it is does require regular irrigation.
Orange jessamine (Murraya paniculata) is an additional citrus family member you might wish to consider on your fragrant plant list. It is a shrub that makes a pleasant hedge with fragrant flowers and small, non-edible red fruit. I have seen it grown in North Hollywood with some success but it is frost sensitive so cover it with a sheet or blanket when a cold night is forecast. It also requires regular fertilization, like citrus trees generally, to achieve its full potential.
Other than hybrid roses, the list of woody vines and shrubs with sweetly fragrant flowers for your fragrant plant list is rather short. Gardenias and lilacs (Syringa spp.) are at the top of the list, along with orange and other citrus trees. If you do want lilacs, make sure to pick a species compatible with your area since most, but not all, lilacs crave a cold winter. Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) has a most appealingly fruity, if somewhat subtle, fragrance that I find superior, in its own way, to that of any other flower. Most jasmine species are fragrant, but not all of them and, of course, you have strong scented star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), a ground cover and vine which is seen everywhere even if, botanically speaking, it lacks a familial relationship to true jasmine. A few select angel trumpets (Brugmansia spp.) are fragrant, too.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.) flowers are mellifluous enough for your fragrant plant list and are worth planting to hide chain link fences as long as you can keep them under control. Night jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) has colorless tubular flowers that waft a fragrance in the evening but the plant is somewhat thirsty during summer.
Madagascar jasmine (Stephanotis floribunda) is probably the most intensely fragrant vine for your fragrant plant list that you can grow. Although sensitive to frost, I have seen it grown successfully in Woodland Hills in a protected, half-sun location.
When it comes to ornamental trees with fragrant flowers, consider evergreen magnolias, Michelia, Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), and sweetshade (Hymenosperum flavum) for your fragratn plant list. Plumeria, a succulent tree, has many varieties with fragrant flowers and its water requirement equals that of a cactus.
As for indoor fragrance, the species to grow for your fragratn plant list is known as wax plant (Hoya carnosa) on account of what appear to be artificial, wax museum blooms. The plant is amazingly sturdy. Due to its leathery leaves, that point downward from long, dangling stems, it will not die if you forget to water and accidentally let the soil go bone dry. It will grow successfully next to any window as long as it does not get direct sun.
“A few years ago you published several photos from people bragging about their bougainvilleas. Well mine puts theirs all to shame. Its been growing up into my magnolia tree for about 25 years and is 50-60 feet tall.”
Michael Bloodworth, Valley Glen
Your plant is a testimony to the strength of this lavender-violet vining species (Bougainvillea spectabilis), which seems to outgrow all others.
Nothing matches the bougainvillea for drought tolerance. Mature specimens never need to be watered, not even after years of drought. Mysteriously, there is nothing about any bougainvillea’s appearance or habitat that hints at its ability to go for long spells without water. Quite the contrary, like other members of the genus, Bougainvillea spectabilis is tropical in origin. This particular species is native to a Brazilian habitat that receives 40-50 inches of rainfall each year. Some tropical plants have leathery leaves (orchids) or suberized trunks (Chorisia spp.) to keep them hydrated during droughts, but not so bougainvillea, a truly enigmatic botanical wonder.
Tip of the Week: Ron Chong, an orchardist in Hacienda Heights, sent an email as follows:“Our ‘Kelsey’ plum, about 10 years old, flowers nicely every spring but does not set much fruit. I was wondering what the problem might be.” Two different types of plums are generally grown: Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) which actually originated in China but were improved in Japan, and European plums (Prunus domestica). Although having all skin colors, commonly grown Japanese plums usually have red to purple skin, flesh that clings to the pit, and are grown just for eating. ‘Kelsey’ is an unusual heart-shaped Japanese cultivar with green skin. To maximize yield, ‘Kelsey’ requires that another Japanese plum such as ‘Santa Rosa,’ ‘Beauty,’ or Wickson’ be grown nearby for cross-pollination purposes. European plums, which also have all skin colors, are grown both for eating fresh and for being turned into prunes. The most popular European plums are known for their black skin and amber flesh that separates easily from the pit although ‘Greengage,’ with green skin, is also a favorite European cultivar. Japanese and European plums do not cross-pollinate since the bloom period of the former is earlier than that of the latter.