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September 2014

Gardening 101:
Scentsational!
Written By: 
Joan McDonald

This beloved shrub lives up to its botanical name—Osmanthus fragrans—offering dainty clusters of heady blooms


Open your windows this fall and inhale the sweet fragrance of the tea olive. A favored evergreen ornamental in the Lowcountry, the Asian native thrives in our climate as a large shrub, creating a beautiful, low-maintenance backdrop of rich green foliage. It’s a slow-to-moderate grower but can be easily trained as a hedge, pruned into a tree, or used as a focal point in the garden. The tea olive’s dainty, highly scented clusters of blooms fill the air with hints of apricot and can range in color from creamy whites to buttery yellows to the less common bold orange. The blossoms are excellent when cut and brought indoors in an arrangement and even retain their heady scent when dried.

‘Conger Yellow’ (Osmanthus fragrans ‘Conger Yellow’) Clusters of tiny, butter-yellow flowers cover this densely branched shrub, whose dark green leaves are much larger than those on other cultivars. Reaching up to 15 feet in both height and width, the ‘Conger’ has a very lush appearance when it blooms in the spring and fall. Its fruit is also an excellent food source for a variety of birds.
Hardiness: Zones 8-11
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-drained
Water: Requires weekly watering
Maintain: Sheer annually for shape.

Tea Olive or sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) The most fragrant variety of the species, the tea olive bursts with creamy white flowers that are held in clusters along the stem. The blossoms peek through leathery, dark green foliage for an exceptionally long time—their bloom period begins in the fall and lasts through the winter and occasionally into the spring and summer. The standard cultivator can reach between 10 and 20 feet in height and eight and 12 feet in width.
Hardiness: Zones 7b-10b
Light: Sun to partial shade
Soil: Adapts to most soil except for the poorest, sandiest soil
Water: Requires weekly watering
Maintain: Sheer annually for shape.

Orange Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans ‘aurantiacus’) This variety’s light-to-bright-orange flowers bloom in abundance during the fall but only last for one to two weeks. It is more cold tolerant than other cultivars, known for withstanding temperatures down to -8°F. It can grow up to 12 feet in height and eight feet in width.
Hardiness: Zones 7b-10b
Light: Sun to partial shade
Soil: Well-drained
Water: Requires weekly watering
Maintain: Sheer annually for shape.




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Photograph by Brianna Weldon

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