Tag Archives: fragrant plants

Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)

Evergreen shrubs are often considered the backbone of a garden.  I have a decided preference for evergreens that also offer seasonal interest and I love fragrant plants.  Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) offers all three, with fragrant spring flowers, a solid evergreen presence and, on some varieties, colorful new growth.

There are three varieties growing at the Garden in the Woods.  When we moved in, there were two large mature shrubs in the front yard.  One of them is at the end of its life, but I’m hoping to take cuttings.  The other graces the front door, and blooms in mid-Spring,

Pieris japonica, 22 March 2012

covering itself with long chains of delicate bell shaped flowers

Pieris japonica, 15 April 2011

which are much loved by bees.

Pieris japonica, 14 April 2011

This is probably a 25 or 30 year old shrub and most likely the plain species Pieris japonica.  There’s been some breeding and selection focused on pink flowers and colorful new growth.  P. j. ‘Valley Valentine’ is widely available with pink flowers and red new growth.  The pink variety in the Garden in the Woods is P. j. ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’.  It’s a lovely shrub, in full bloom just a few months after fall planting in this picture.

Pieris japonica 'Dorothy Wyckoff', 27 March 2010

The flowers fade from pale pink to white, but the stems and calyces remain red.

Pieris japonica 'Dorothy Wyckoff', 27 March 2010

This variety blooms a little earlier than the plain species, but that may be due to a warmer spot.  About half of the shrub has died back which seems to be a problem with Pieris if they’re not perfectly sited.  I’ll give it another year or so to recover before either moving it or dispatching it to that great garden in the sky.

The third variety in the Garden in the Woods is Pieris japonica ‘Prelude’ a dwarf shrub that blooms later in spring.  This year that translates to just starting now, although in previous years, it’s been in bloom during April and early May.

Pieris japonica 'Prelude', 10 April 2010

I’m particularly fond of the combination of P. j. ‘Prelude’ and Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’) shown here.  Blue Eyed Grass seems to be a short lived perennial for me, perhaps because even with amendment, the soil is still clay.

Pieris japonica 'Prelude' & Sisyrinchium angustifolium 'Lucerne', 1 May 2010

Pieris japonica is a hardy shrub, preferring well drained moist soil and partial shade.

Locations

  • West Front, Sidewalk to House
  • Southwest Front Corner
  • West End of House
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Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis)

Day before yesterday was a stunning spring day, warming up to nearly 65 F, so I opened the front door to let fresh air circulate through the screened storm door.  After a while I noticed a lovely fragrance drifting in.  The Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) out front is blooming.  The flowers are described as “insignificant” but the fragrance can be quite powerful on warm winter and spring days.  For me, this is one of the first signs that spring is coming, sometimes noticeable on warm days in December or January.

Sweet Box on both sides of sidewalk from driveway and far side of sidewalk from street, 6 May 2010

Sweet Box under Weeping Cherry, 8 May 2011

Sweet box is a short (12-24 inch tall) slowly spreading evergreen.  Its charms are subtle and understated, but I really enjoy this plant.  Most of the year, it provides a lush green background on both sides of the front door of the house here at the Garden in the Woods.  The blooms are very small, but leave a tantalizing scent on the air.  During warm spells in winter, and the very earliest days of spring, that scent drifts on the air, enticing us outside even when it’s too early or wet to plant.  The flowers develop into dark berries, adding a little more subtle color later in the season.

Sweet Box, showing flowers and last year's berries, 1 March 2012

The Garden in the Woods provides an idea location for Sweet Box — plenty of shade and moisture.  The large planting here was probably put in during the 1980’s when the front and west end of the house were professionally landscaped.  I’m very glad to have inherited this lovely foundation plant and have plans for spreading its babies around the yard over time.

This plant is native to the Himalayas and hardy in USDA zones 7-9.  It’s also highly deer resistant here in the Garden in the Woods and very tolerant of clay soil.

Locations
East of Front Door
West of Front Door, Lawn to Sidewalk
West of Front Door, Sidewalk to House

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I’m Waiting Patiently…

When my oldest daughter was about two years old, she would stand, waiting for us to take her on an adventure, tap her toe, and say, “I’m waiting patiently.”  That’s how I feel about Spring these days.  Winter, such as it has been, has been mostly warmer than usual, but coldest of all the last few weeks, with several episodes of spitting snow.  Low temps the last week or so have been at or below freezing.

Several other gardeners have mentioned bulbs blooming much earlier than usual, but I think Spring for me will be only a couple of weeks early.  The snowdrops came up last week, two or three weeks earlier than usual and are holding very well, perhaps because the weather has been so cool.

Snowdrops, 14 February 2012

Daffodil Buds, 14 February 2012

The daffodils are stretching up their buds ever so slo-o-w-ly, with not a hint of color yet.  As cold as the nights are, I don’t blame them for huddling under the ground.

I have had time for an absolute flurry of seed planting.  My winter sown milk jug count is up to 53 jugs, although three are from last year and may be hopeless cases and four contain recently pricked out babies from last year.  This year for winter sowing, I focused mostly on seeds that definitely need a cold period to germinate or hardy annuals that I want to plant out as soon as I reasonably can.

Winter Sown Milk Jugs, 14 February 2012

I consciously tried to use less seed after I realized that I have NEVER looked at a pot of seedlings and thought, “Gee, I should have sown that seed more densely.”  I sprayed water sparingly rather than submerging because last years jugs stayed far wetter than needed.

I spent an hour or so yesterday pricking out the year old, half inch tall wintergreen seedlings (Gaultheria procumbens ‘Very Berry’.)  I didn’t anticipate this much success; there are between 75 and 100 seedlings spread out among four milk jug or pretzel containers.  The other tiny babies are Ramonda myconii, a hardy African violet relative.

Winter Sown Wintergreen after Transplanting, 12 February 2012

I’ll keep them in their milk jug greenhouses until they’re big enough to set out, perhaps Fall 2012, perhaps later.  I’ll also have to provide some protection for the wintergreen, since SOMEONE has devoured my current wintergreen plant for the second year in a row.

I also planted pepper seeds and tomatoes for containers to plant out in early to mid May, along with a flat of greens to plant out in early March.  Hopefully the Chief of Implementation and I can work out lights for the seedlings before they become seedlings!  Since I was making a mess anyway, I potted up Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) and Peppermint Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum) cuttings that have been slowly rooting for a couple of months.  Those are two of my favorite scented plants, and I’m willing to baby them through winter indoors to enjoy big happy plants each summer.  Everyone is installed on the new plant shelf assembled by the Chief of Implementation.

Plant Shelf, Dining Room, 12 February 2012

When the Nun’s Orchid finishes blooming, I’ll section and pot up the bloom stems hoping to make more babies.

May all your gardens be fruitful, and may today in particular be filled with love!

 

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