My New Favorite Plant…Sweet Olive

The original magical tree, located in the American Cemetery.
The original magical tree, located in the American Cemetery.

If you read the posts on Natchitoches, you know that I discovered the most fragrant bush I have ever smelled.  Sweet olive is a bush that can provide thick coverage, if needing a barrier.  When I first saw it in a cemetery, it appeared more like a tree or crepe myrtle.  However, a landscaper staying at the same bed and breakfast at which my husband and I were staying, said it is a bit more pricey, so it is best used by the entrance to your home so that the lovely smell can be enjoyed.

While in Savannah and touring the Massie Museum, we went out to the girl’s garden.  Immediately we smelling the intoxicating aroma.  We started smelled around for the source, which we thought was sweet olive.  Around the corner we found sweet tea, which is another name for sweet olive.  Wow!  It had filled the entire little garden with its fragrance.  Why has no one bottled this stuff to use as  perfume?

The flowers are small, but have a big aroma.
The flowers are small but have a big aroma.

The plant, Osmanthus Fragrans, is know as sweet olive,  tea olive, fragrant tea olive, and sweet osmanthus.  It grows in zones 8-10 and blooms in late winter and spring and late fall to early winter, although my friend who has one says she has blooms all year long.  Mild winters are needed for this plant to survive.

Apparently they need a bit of care during their first year or two after planting, but after that they are hardy, drought tolerant plants.  A staple in old Southern gardens, I am excited for the two I have added to my yard.

The marker beneath the sweet olive in the girl's garden of the Massie Heritage Center.
The marker beneath the sweet olive in the girl’s garden of the Massie Heritage Center.

There are several closely related specimens, but my favorite is osmanthus fragrans. If you run across this plant while in bloom with small white, yellow or orange flowers, you will never forget its heavenly smell.  Seriously, I am addicted to the fragrance.  It outshines my former favorite, gardenia, by a long shot (sorry, gardenia).

The smell is enchanting.  Sweet, floral, fresh, with a hint of citrus would be the way I would describe it.  It is literally the most wonderful thing I have ever smelled.

An up close photo of the tree at the Massie Heritage Center.
An up close photo of the tree at the Massie Heritage Center.

The bush/tree is nothing exciting, with dark green leaves. The flowers are small, white and clustered. It is the fragrance that will get your attention, even from a pretty good distance.  While in Natchitoches’ American Cemetey, the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase, we scoured the area until we found the source of the smell.  It is that amazing!

Have you smelled the Osmanthus Fragrans?  How would you describe the scent?

 

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