Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans)

Q: I smell sweet plants in my neighborhood right now. What could they be?

A: When the seasons change, both in the spring and fall, there are many plants that bloom with amazingly fragrant flowers. Some of the flowers are small, so you may not notice them. Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is a great evergreen shrub that can reach tree proportions over time or can be trimmed as a tall hedge. It has clusters of small creamy flowers that emit a sweet citrus-to-peach scent that will waft on the breeze for a long distance. Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra), a south Texas native shrub despite its name, makes a wonderful rambling hedge. The cute pink flowers look like tiny crape myrtle blooms and appear in spring, summer and fall. The scent is similar to old-fashioned baby powder. Barbados cherry may show freeze damage in a severe Houston winter, then will recover in the spring. Shade-loving Oregon grape (Mahonia species) surprises with yellow spikes of fragrant blooms in the winter followed by blue-tinted berries. Its evergreen foliage is jagged and spiky. These are related to the sun-loving Texas native Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata), which can be planted now to produce fragrant blooms in the spring. Wake up your senses with scents in the garden.

Suzzanne Chapman
Author: Suzzanne ChapmanEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Suzzanne Chapman is the botanical collections curator at Mercer Botanic Gardens and promotes organic gardening, growing native plants, and protecting the environment. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..