Smells like autumn (and winter…and early spring)

Today, the high temperature was about 75 F (24 C), and the humidity was lower than it has been in weeks, if not months.  It feels like autumn, so when I got home from work, I wasn’t entirely surprised to find the entire garden filled with a sweet perfume reminiscent of apricots.  My tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is blooming.

The tiny yellowish flowers of Osmanthus fragrans

O. fragrans blooms in the autumn, during warm spells in winter, and in spring.  In fact, about the only time that it is unlikely to flower is during the middle of summer.  Although the flowers aren’t much to look at, a single shrub can perfume a huge area.

I bought an inexpensive little O. fragrans in a 4″ pot about fifteen years ago.  For the first five or six years, I grew it in a succession of pots and tubs, keeping it in the greenhouse during the winter so that I could enjoy its fragrance.  Eventually, it grew too large to haul around easily, so I planted it on the east side of the house where it is protected from the cold west winds that blow in winter.  It is now about eight feet tall.  Flower buds and young leaves are occasionally frozen by very cold weather, but once the new growth has hardened off, it is untroubled by our winters.  The plant has never been bothered by insects, fungus, or bacterial diseases, even in the hottest, most humid weather.

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