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Longwood’s major exhibition, “Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance” will no doubt inspire home gardeners to consider scent when choosing and installing plants. Jim Sutton, Display Designer, is a passionate outdoor entertainer with some “scents”ible recommendations for enhancing the olfactory pleasures of your garden.
● Elevate. Use containers to get plant material up to nose level. Install scented plants in hanging baskets or use flowerpots on stands to lift the aroma. Climbing plants such as moonflower (Ipomoea alba) are ideal for a trellis or arbor; flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata), and heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) are good container choices.
● Give `em the brush off. Put scented foliage plants near walkways so you’ll brush up against them as you walk past. Just touching the foliage of scented geraniums (Pelargonium), mint, lavender, or other fragrant herbs will release their scent.
● Delight in the night. Many scented plants are night bloomers, often with bright white flowers that put on a dramatic show after the sun sets. Consider these for spaces you use in the evening. Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) and moonflowers are two good choices. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch sight of a striking pollinator: the beautiful luna moth. With its pale green wings spanning up to four-and-a-half inches, it is one of the largest moths in North America and an unforgettable sight in the night garden.
● Create perennial pleasures. Along with shrubs like lilacs and mock orange, fragrant perennial lilies can add a delicious aroma to your garden year after year. And don’t overlook stalwarts like peonies and lily of the valley.
● Go for the old. Many heirloom plants are highly scented. Browse your seed catalogs with this in mind.
● Variety is the spice of life. “Fragrance” doesn’t only mean “rose-scented.” Plants can smell musky, sweet, fruity, woody, or like foods from coconut to chocolate mint. You may, however, want to stay away from plants collectively known as “carrion flowers.” These stinkers simulate the odor of rotting meat to attract beetles and flies!
Whoever said “Timing is everything” must have had the plantings along Longwood’s 600-foot-long Flower Garden Walk in mind. “It gets tricky,” admits Juergen Steininger, Horticulture Specialty Grower. “There’s two things: You want to have cultivars with matched flowering time, and then you also want to have things coming into bloom in sequence.”
One trick of the trade is to plant two tulip varieties with different blooming times, like a Single Early Tulip and a Single Late Tulip, in the same bed. Each type is planted on a six-inch center so there is a bulb every three inches. “The idea is to have an extended period of bloom in each of those sweeps,” says Edward Broadbent, Section Gardener. “We deadhead the early bulb when it is finished blooming in order not to distract from the later-blooming tulip.” Small feet and a careful touch are required so that the plants aren’t damaged when staff members reach into the flowerbeds to remove spent blossoms.
Bulb selection is crucial, and that’s where a grower or gardener relies on his or her experience as well as advice from industry experts. “I help with cultivar selection,” says Steininger. “Since I’m doing indoor bulb forcing, I work very closely with the top Dutch companies. Their representatives come here to tell us what’s new and exciting, to discuss their product assortment, and to help us decide what might fit in our display. We spend hours talking about how we can match the cultivars up, their color, height, and flowering time. Sometimes we get ideas that are not actually realized for two or three years.”
Along with the always popular masses of tulips, visitors can expect to see some other standouts this spring. Eremurus, also called foxtail lily, is a beautiful plant that grows three to five feet tall with spires of dense flowers in orange, white, and reddish tones. Fritilarias with their nodding heads are always impressive. Narcissus ‘Pink Charm’ is the essence of spring with its striking pink-peach ruffled trumpet and creamy white petals.
Cultivar selection: check. Bulbs forced on time: check. Beds tilled, plants planted, signage installed: check, check, check. Then there’s the ultimate variable: weather. “A couple of years ago we had a really nice, cool spring with the right amount of rain,” says Steininger,” and the flowers were wonderfully long-lasting. On the other hand, a hard rain can knock off the petals.”
Generally, peak tulip bloom is mid-April through the third week in April. Because early April temperatures approached eighty degrees this year, Broadbent expects the peak to occur earlier than usual. But never fear; although even Longwood’s talented staff can’t control Mother Nature, they seem to be able handle everything else. Steininger says that in the ten years he has been at Longwood, the Flower Garden Walk has bloomed like clockwork.
For more information about what’s in bloom along the Flower Garden Walk, visit http://www.longwoodgardens.org/GardensWhatsinBloom.html.
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Enjoy family-fun activities, an outdoor concert, and behind-the-scenes experiences.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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