Words: “fill the air with fragrance”

It has been said that there is no place on earth more sensuous than a garden. I think that sentiment is the truth. I realize when I make this statement that it is actually saying a lot. Can gardens be compared to the sensuality of a beach on Fiji or the clear purity of an alpine meadow? You have to admit that the senses are attacked with great vigor on New York’s Times Square. But taking into account all the sensuous experiences, gardens are a paradise.

We are well aware of how a garden can delight the eye. The trickling sound of water in the fountain pleases the ear. Or have you ever felt the downy softness of the foliage of Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)? It brings a smile to your face just to think of it. Then there’s that other sense, the most ethereal of them all- fragrance. Our gardens at times can be full of fragrance, and when these moments come they are quite vivid; yet when one tries to grasp and hold the experience, it slips away with a garden breeze.

Let me suggest a plant that will bring fragrance to your garden- Michelia figo, commonly known as banana shrub. This shrub, closely related to the magnolias, is originally from China. Its foliage is quite attractive and (in our gardens) is evergreen. The leaves are glossy and leather like, at the most three inches long. The shrub is slow-growing and, thus, is easy to maintain; but if you absolutely never trim it, it can grow to fifteen feet tall in a decade. Banana shrubs make fine hedges or can be used as accent plants when one wants to bring a unique texture into the shrubbery.

What sets the banana shrub apart from other merely evergreen shrubs is its fragrant blooms. They are one to one-half inches wide and are creamy yellow. The shrub can cover itself in the spring but then continues to bloom off and on throughout the summer. The blooms, themselves, are a delight to one’s sense of smell. Sometimes the blooms are described as ‘fruity’- somewhere between the smell of cantaloupe or that delicious scent you smell when you peel back a banana.

If you want a banana shrub, you must call around. Not all nurseries carry them. I’ve seen them at King’s Nursery in Teneha, or sometimes the SFA-Mast Arboretum sells them at their Spring Gala.

I have a banana shrub planted in our side garden, which is enclosed by a high, brick wall. On warm, still days the fragrance is trapped to linger with other sensual, garden delights.

through the mind’s eye
words & images © Jeff Abt
Friday, March 23, 2007
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