One of the most stunning perfumed plants of summer is the gardenia. Its beautifully fragrant flowers displayed against dark glossy green foliage come in a few varieties.
Gardenia "radicans" is perfect for pot culture or as a ground cover. It grows to height of around 50 centimetres and bursts forth with a dazzling display of white flowers and exquisite perfume.
Its smaller leaves make it a little more drought hardy than other gardenia varieties. Radicans does well in full sun or semi-shaded position.
Gardenia jasminoides, "star", is a stunning variety of gardenia with a slight difference. Its heavily scented white flowers fan out in a star shape with a little yellow centre.
This petite shrub from Japan only grows to about 50 centimetres and is more cold-hardy than most gardenias.
Gardenia augusta, "florida", is the most popular garden variety and is commonly known as the florist gardenia.
Growing to a height of 1.5 metres with a spread of two metres, this is a great selection as a specimen shrub or makes an ideal hedge for a court yard garden.
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Taller varieties worthy of a place in the garden include "magnifica", which grows to 2.5 metres and has larger leaves and flowers.
A sensational new variety called "white gold" is moderately vigorous and dense, growing to around 1.5 metres.
The luxuriantly fragrant large creamy white flowers age to a rich gold tone, providing an interesting and striking two-tone effect over the whole bush before falling.
One of the best taller flowering cultivars is "professor pucci" used as a feature plant, or a background plant in the border where the foliage acts a good contrast to other plants.
Gardenias prefer well-drained compost-rich soil. Fertilise during the growing season.
If leaves begin to display a patchy-yellow discolouration, an application of magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) at about 60 grams to a nine litres of water can rectify the problem. General yellowing of older leaves in gardenia is usually an indication of nitrogen deficiency.
The best time to prune gardenia is after flowering to keep in prime condition.
This easy-to-grow plant will reward you all summer long with its sweet fragrance.
For a natural air freshener in the home, float some flowers heads in a shallow bowl of water.
- John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.
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