Email Vesta
Blog Home Page

Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gail's Garden march 2010: Spring is in the Air

Fragrance is all around: I love the smells of the spring garden! The subtle sweet fragrance of golden daffodils, and the rich honeyed smell of our beautiful blue california lilac (Ceanothus) are all around now for our enjoyment. Whenever I see spring flowers I am irresistibly drawn to plunge my nose in to savor their delightful perfume. I even enjoy the bright yellow acacia blooms (luckily I’m not allergic).

My favorite fragrant blooming shrub is wonderful Winter Daphne: it blooms so early in the spring and its sweet perfume hangs in the air around my front porch: a lovely start to every day in the garden. If you want to add a Daphne to your garden for its fragrance and glossy evergreen leaves, select a spot in partial shade with adequate water: this beauty is not drought tolerant! I particularly like the variety Daphne odora ’Aureomarginata’ with golden edges on its glossy leaves, or you could try Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carole Mackie’ which has white edging. All daphne can be a little difficult, and they definitely don’t like their roots disturbed, but with a little luck they will give you years of enjoyment.

Another spring blooming favorite is the old-fashioned lilac: beautiful, tough and incredibly fragrant! Growing up in Illinois, we had a 15 foot tall hedge of lilacs that perfumed the entire yard every spring. Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) in California are a bit trickier because many of the older varieties need a good winter chill to bloom: some people report good success by piling ice on the roots a couple times during the winter. You can also try the newer Descanso lilac hybrids: bred in Southern California at Descanso Gardens, they are designed to bloom without winter chill. ‘Lavender Lady’ is a good purple selection; pink and white varieties are also available.

The ultimate spring-flowering tree for both perfume and visual appeal has to be Magnolia soulangiana, now coming into it’s magnificent bloom season: don’t miss the two old beauties in front of the Sebastopol Post Office! This incredible tree, also known as tulip tree, or saucer magnolia, is well worth the investment, as it will provide you with many years of beauty and grace in all seasons: it makes a wonderful centerpiece for any garden with spring flowers and fragrance, summer dappled shade, subtle autumn color, and attractive shape and bark in the winter. Do your homework before you buy: there are so many varieties available with different sizes, colors, and fragrance.

Of course, there are many other more subtle scents in the spring garden: I love brushing against the rosemary along the path; and while cutting back frost damage, I was reminded again of the peppery-scented leaves of bacopa (Sutera cordata), one of my favorite ground covers. The cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) is coming into its bloom season and the fresh new silvery leaves are wonderfully fragrant.

If you are considering adding fragrance to your garden, don’t forget to consider Camellias (a few of which are fragrant), Sarcococca ruscifolia with its tiny white flowers, and Pittosporum tobira: all valuable evergreen shrubs with year-round appeal.

If you need help and advise with your garden, just give me a call at 829-2455. Consultations in your garden start at only $50. Do you have a gardening question you would like to ask? Or a photo to share?
Send your questions and photos (jpg) to

Labels: ,