Summer scents

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July is the month when our seaside garden is at its most fragrant. In a normal year we’ll spend many happy evenings outside, enjoying the scent of the regal lilies (Lilium regale) and star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). They always smell more potent and heady after dark, their white flowers glowing in the twilight.

Less romantically, when repotting the regal lilies last autumn I discovered that almost all of them had been eaten away by vine weevil larvae. I put the whole lot in the bin and started again with fresh bulbs, 21 in all. Consequently they are a bit later into bloom than normal, but have lots of flowers. I grow them in three 14″ pots positioned along the passageway to the front door. That way the fragrance greets visitors as soon as they arrive. We have to be careful not to brush past and get covered in the indelible pollen, but it’s worth it for the unbeatable scent. Thankfully, we have not seen a lily beetle in 2 years – and if I don’t see one again it will be too soon.

Star jasmine is incredibly happy with us, cloaking a 5m long wall from top to bottom, in fairly substantial shade. It is not supposed to like chalk soils, but suffers no ill effects here, despite being planted in a narrow border that was virtually hewn out of solid stone. Being in the rain shadow of the wall it is also quite dry, but the plants must get their roots down to water. We started with three fairly large plants from Italy (before star jasmine was so commonly available in Garden Centres) and it took 2 or 3 years before it really took off. Now I look out of the window to enjoy its crisp, apple green foliage which will soon be spangled with small white blossoms. Their diminutive size belies the big, intoxicating scent which lasts for a good month or so. I’d recommend this climber to anyone who has the right spot – it looks good year round as it’s evergreen and clings quite tightly to a wall or fence. It is self supporting once established, but may need a little help to begin with. It also holds onto its leaves lower down, so makes a lovely even covering. The only drawback is that it is not thought to be totally hardy in more northerly gardens, but here in the east it is completely weather proof.

There is a slight difference between Trachelospermum jasminoides and Trachelospermum jasminoides “Wilsonii”, which we also have in the garden. The latter has slightly creamy coloured flowers and carries fewer of them, but has nice silvery veining on the narrow, dark green leaves.

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