GARDENING: Pefect scents in your garden

WHEN planning a new garden, one plant species that should not be overlooked is the gardenia.

Regarded as one of the world’s most fragrant flowers, and with its origins throughout Asia, the South Pacific (including Australia) and tropical Africa, this plant is highly desirable for the home garden.

Gardenias have been popular for many years, with one gardening book from the 1920s listing the species as “one of the most handsome shrubs a woman could desire for her garden, as it possesses glossy leaves and large number of creamy-white, thick petalled flowers and very strongly perfumed, a must for any garden”.

This is happening at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens at the moment with one the most widely sold varieties of native gardenia in bloom. With perfume drifting across the lagoon end of the gardens, this species, known as Randia fitzalani, is making an impact.

This plant is found from Central Queensland through to Cape York and grows into an attractive small tree that is very suitable for street plantings or a shade tree in your own garden. The white, starlike flowers on this variety are also sweetly scented and make for a showy display during autumn and spring.

Randia fitzalani
Randia fitzalani

When you visit your local nursery, you will find an enormous array of exotic gardenia varieties, however, there are particular varieties to look for that are more suitable for local conditions.

The near-groundcover varieties of Gardenia radicans are one of my particular favourite. Growing to a maximum of approximately 0.5m high, this dense shrub is ideal to use as an edging plant for a tropical garden, or even to be pruned or shaped to make a border plant for a formal garden. Flowers are very much the traditional waxy white, with a delightfully sweet perfume.

Gardenia magnifica has been in cultivation in Australia for nearly 100 years, and is still regarded as one of the best shrubs commercially available. I know within our own landscaping projects we have always found this shrub to perform under a variety of conditions, from quite protected to being reasonably exposed, as well as in positions of varying light conditions.

Several years ago, in one particular project, we planted nearly 100 plants, and found nearly all of them came into full bloom before the year was out.

That would have to be the best recommendation of all!

One of the taller Gardenia varieties is the Professor Pucci, commonly known as the Giant Gardenia, even though I have not seen any specimens above 2.5m high.

Its flower is similar to Gardenia magnifica, but not as full, and with the outer petals folding down over the stem.

Randia fitzalani in fruit
Randia fitzalani in fruit

One of the most waterwise gardenias available to local gardeners is Gardenia florida. It has glossy, green foliage and a dense habit and growing to 1-1.5m high.

It will flower throughout the year with highly perfumed, double white flowers. It is best grown in a position away from the hot afternoon sun; a northerly or easterly position is best.

Gardenia jardinei is another gardenia native to Queensland, with this particular variety being used in street plantings in the Dutton Park/Annerley area of Brisbane to great effect.

This small tree will grow to approximately 6-7m high, with large, dark green, shiny leaves up to 25cm long. Around this time each year they will be in full bloom, filling the street with their unique aroma.

Gardenia kershawii is an extremely pretty native shrub, also known as the Star Flower, and is found throughout Far North Queensland to the Cape York Peninsula.

A number of nurseries in North Queensland grow this as an alternative to the exotic varieties, due to its resilience against most insect attack, in particular scale.

This plant may be a little harder to find in our local nurseries, but it is worth askin after, or if you are travelling north in the near future, you should be able to locate this pretty flower.

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