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Norman Bezona Prof emeritus University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture

Norman Bezona
Prof emeritus
University of Hawaii
College of Tropical Agriculture

“April showers bring May flowers” on the mainland, but in Hawaii, spring is all year. However, there is a noticeble spring fever effect when it comes to local gardeners because many flowers start heavy blooming at this time. Garden groups like the Hawaii Island Palm Society have programs open to the public to stimulate interest and share their expertise this time of year. Friday, April 8th the public is invited to a program on rare palms of Malaysia. The guest speaker will be Jeff Marcus, famed nurseryman, plant explorer and collector of palms. His Big Island nursery probably carries more palm species than any other in the USA. The program will be held at the University of Hawaii, Hilo, room 100 at 7:00 PM. The lecture will be the first of a two part series with the second one on Friday , April 29th. The latter will focus on Palms of Sarawak, Borneo.
The Hawaii Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society is having their annual membership drive and meeting on Sunday, April 17th noon at the Kea’au Community Center for all you folks who want to learn about and grow tropical Vireya Rhododendrons. You may call president Bill Miller at 982-8290 for meeting details.

Fragrant Lemon scented Magnolia grandiflora graces farms and upland gardens of the Big island Photo courtesy of Voltaire Moise

Fragrant Lemon scented Magnolia grandiflora graces farms and upland gardens of the Big island
Photo courtesy of Voltaire Moise

Have you ever noticed Hawaiian air smells better than most other places on the mainland? Visitors and residents returning from a trip often comment about the sweet heavy fragrance the moment they step off the plane. This is especially true now as Plumeria, Jasmine and other flowers begin their spring bloom. Coffee trees bloom this time of year adding fragrance along country roads along with Ylang Ylang (cananga oderata), Mulang (Michelia champaca), Lemon scented Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and many other flowering trees.
Hawaii has a special magic. The scent of flowers perfumes the air and sets a tropical, romantic mood whether you live mauka or makai. By adding more flowering plants to your area, you can combat unpleasant smells like car exhaust fumes or rubbish cans. There are many good choices for your garden. The scent of orange blossoms and, of course, grapefruit, lime, lemon, and tangerine blossoms all have delicious fragrance. During the longer days of summer, many species of ginger are in full bloom and in the evening white, yellow and rose flowered Angel Trumpets make for perfect garden romance.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

But, there are many other less known and more varied plants that can add to our gardens. All the plants listed below have fragrant flowers. Some of them such as plumeria, night blooming jasmine, fragrant dracaena, gardenia and mock orange are equipped with fragrance so potent that it can fill every inch of garden air space and drift into the house, too. Others like the spider lily produce more subtle perfumes that usually won’t travel quite as far and are best appreciated at close range. There are dozens of species of ginger and let us not forget our native alahe’e and Hoawa available at some nurseries.
One very striking shade lover is the Brunfelsia. The shrub is a native of South America. Its scientific name is Brunfelsia calycina floribunda. It gets its common name, yesterday-today-and tomorrow, from the fact that the 2-inch tubular, flaring flowers are purple one day, violet the next, and almost white the next. They flower chiefly spring through fall, but may continue much of the year where conditions like warmth and humidity are ideal. There are several other species sometimes available at local nurseries.
The plant may grow as high as 10 feet in partial shade, but can be kept as low as 3 feet by pruning.

Star Jasmine

Star Jasmine

There are many kinds of jasmine as well as several other plants called by that name including star jasmine and orange jasmine (mock orange) that are not jasmines at all. There are several true jasmines that bloom with fragrant flowers. Jasminum ilicifolium and Jasminum multifolorum are two shrubs used as foundation plantings. They may also be grown as vines and will bloom more profusely. Jasminum sambac is the one we call pikake.
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a vine. Tie this plant to a post, fence, or some other support and it will climb. Pinch out the viny branch tips and it will cover the ground. The clusters of star-shaped, white flowers contrast nicely with shiny dark green leaves. This vine is sometimes referred to as Maile Jasmine because the leaves resemble Maile.
Mock orange (Murraya paniculata) or Orange Jasmine is a member of the citrus family and is an attractive evergreen shrub or small tree with glossy green pinnately-compound leaves. The white, very fragrant flowers are produced at intervals throughout the year, followed by clusters of red ovoid fruit. It is a vigorous grower and may be used as a small tree, an informal high hedge or screen, or may be trimmed to a formal shape.
Night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) produces flowers with a powerful scent. A single plant per garden should be plenty. These evergreen shrubs grow 6 to 8 feet tall or more and bloom off and on throughout the year.

Mock Orange

Mock Orange

The ever popular plumeria should be found in most gardens, but a close relative is rare. It is known as Tabernaemontana or cinnamon gardenia and was originally introduced by Paul Weissich in 1960 from Africa. Flowers are produced all during the year and have a cinnamon fragrance. The odor is delicate, but one or two flowers perfume the whole garden. Close relatives are Ervatamia (Crepe Jasmine) Cerbera, Stemmadenia and Oleander.
Stop by your local garden shops and nurseries to find these and many others for garden fragrance. A great reference book to help you chose plants for your garden and their care is Sunset’s New Western Garden Book, available at most garden shops.