We’ve all experienced it; that seemingly innocent fragrance, drifting on a slight breeze, from a nearby flower that, rather than simply pass by unnoticed instead, grabs and takes hold of our entire being; causing us to twist our head in all directions and spin our body in circles, in earnest attempt to trace the location of the intoxicating culprit!
Isn’t nature grand?
Scent is the flowers powerful means of attracting pollinators; bees, butterflies, birds, bats, animals and yes, even humans, to do it’s work, as we’re compelled to plummet our nose in a scented flower. Nature’s work may commence as we unwittingly spread pollen on the tip of our nose (or body part of an insect or animal) and complete the pollinating process, transferring the dusty pollen between female and male plants, sniffing (or collecting nectar as we brush past) flowers in the garden.
This very same, body contorting experience, happened to me just the other day, thereby inspiring me to share with you my list of favorite late winter, early spring flowers!
Starting with no particular order, as they are all amazing, I will start with the flower that grabbed me recently- the Michalia!
The Michelia is a somewhat less known, but becoming more popular, small garden tree, native to South & South East Asia and Southern China, belonging to the Magnolia (Magnoliaceae) family, which produces an amazing fragrance from a white and sometimes yellow flower- often, and appropriately named, Joy tree.
Speaking of the Magnolia family, the Magnolia also blooms in late winter and offers a gracious selection of white, pink, violet or yellow flowers, which I often describe as having the fragrant scent of fresh cut apples. The Magnolia grandiflora is native to the Southeastern United States, while the Magnolia liliflora is native to Southeastern China.
The evergreen Daphne odora, native to China and Japan, comes to mind next as another amazing attention grabber, and is one plant we often purposely plant near a window or main entry, to allow its long lasting flower and fragrance to be enjoyed! However, be aware that it can possess unpredictable behavior and, as Sunset Garden book describes, “flourish with little attention until you invite all your gardening friends over to admire it, at which point it promptly succumbs without warning just to show you who’s in charge.” Be aware that all parts of this plant are poisonous.
There are many varieties of Osmanthus, a shrub mostly native to Asia with one variety to Southeast Untied States, belonging to the Oleacea family (same as the Olive tree), from which some bloom in the Spring, but from which all, however insignificant in appearance, produce wonderfully scented flowers.
Another favorite fragrance of mine comes from the Sarcococca shrub (from the buxacae family), native to Himalayas, China. Similar to the Osmanthus, the flowers are barely visible, but the fragrance will demand your attention- its common name is ‘Sweet box.’
I’ve never read anywhere, or heard anyone mention Camellias being considered fragrant, but I personally liken their scent to winter’s end. Camellia’s are native to eastern and south eastern Asia and species of the Theaceae family and are typically planted in Japanese style gardens.
Lastly, but not necessarily last on my list, is the twining vine or groundcover, that most of us are familiar with and refer to as Star Jasmine, but is actually called Trachelospermum- native to China. The fragrance may be considered overpowering for some, but is generally appreciated by most people.
There are many more fragrant late winter and Spring flowers, beyond the short list I’ve mentioned (like Stock, Hyacinth and Cyclamen), however I wanted to share my favorites, the ones that, every winter, while it’s cloudy and cold, grab a hold of me and remind me that Spring is neigh!
I hope that you’ll seek out, a few of the varieties I’ve mentioned, from your local nursery and plant at least one of them in your garden this winter!