Daily Flower Candy: Nemesia “Wisley Vanilla”

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I like to experiment and try new things in my two tiny gardens; hence I rarely grow the same summer annuals twice. I make a few exceptions, and they are all white-flowered: Begonia semperflorens, bog-standard busy lizzies and Nemesia “Wisley Vanilla”. Asked which of these I would take to my desert island I would answer, without hesitation, the latter.

Nemesias are brilliant bedding plants, but N. “Wisley Vanilla” has star quality. The plants are so hardy (they are technically tender perennials) that they normally come through winter completely unscathed both in London and Broadstairs. During a mild winter they may barely cease flowering. And then the flowers come so early and so prolifically that the plants require a haircut and short siesta mid-season. Cool summers seem to suit N. “Wisley Vanilla” perfectly, making it a great choice for UK gardens.

Nemesia "Wisley Vanilla", The Watch House, May 2016

The plant’s outstanding quality is its scent, which I am enveloped by as I sit in the garden writing this post. It’s a light, sweet and unmistakable vanilla fragrance; not cloying or overpowering, just lovely. When the air is still (which is not often in Broadstairs) the flowers’ summertime scent permeates every corner of the garden. Breathing it in never fails to make me feel happy and content. The flowers themselves are small (about the size of a penny) and exquisitely ruffled: not too much, just enough, like a Spencer sweet pea. The lower petal is pure white, whilst the upper is flushed pink, more so when planted in sunshine. A lemon yellow eye completes the simple composition.

Nemesia "Wisley Vanilla", The Watch House, May 2016

Personally I prefer to grow Nemesia “Wisley Vanilla” on its own, en-masse, often as cover beneath potted shrubs. The bigger plants provide a little protection from cold and wet in winter and the nemesias don’t seem to mid being lightly shaded. This year I have gone to town and planted several more plants in pots dotted around our seaside garden to spread a comforting scent wherever I might be working. Cuttings root easily if taken in spring or autumn and plants are readily found in the “basket plant” section of nurseries. Don’t be ripped off by the large, expensive pot fulls touted by big garden centre chains, there’s no need for these unless you’ve left it very late to get your garden ready for summer.

I sit here now with all my senses satisfied: a gin and tonic in one hand, the sound of collared doves cooing above, evening sun on my face and the scent of a thousand ice creams drifting up my nostrils. What could be more perfect?

Nemesia "Wisley Vanilla", The Watch House, May 2016

Categories: Container gardening, Daily Flower Candy, Flowers, Our Coastal Garden, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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25 comments On "Daily Flower Candy: Nemesia “Wisley Vanilla”"

  1. I’m crying ‘foul.’ You introduce your readers from the US to this gorgeous flower for us to only find it for sale only in the UK. I’ve googled, heck I even went to Amazon. I’m bummed. Have another gin and tonic to console me, will you? Seriously, it’s beautiful and I only wish I could find some here. 🙂

    1. oh, you are right. I live in Italy, and can’t find Nemesia “Wisley Vanilla” here. Would love to try at least seed, but I could only find for now on UK sites plants in pots. Any help? thank you.

      1. Hi Eliza. I have never seen seed offered. I believe one of the reasons “Wisley Vanilla” isn’t grown from seed is either that it doesn’t produce any, or that it doesn’t grow true from seed. That’s such a pity. If you were closer by I could send you some cuttings.

      2. I have never come across this plant before untill today I fell in love with the cent straight away I have had nemesis Amelie I live in Stoke on Trent Staffordshire will I have to bring this plant in during the winter does it have night time cent would it attract moths

    2. Sorry to be such a terrible tease Judy! I wish I could magic a few plants across the Atlantic, but am guessing our respective customs might not be very sympathetic! I had the extra G&T, as instructed, which resulted in me feeling rather squiffy before dinner 😉

  2. Sound an idyllic evening in Kent! I have never really thought much of nemesia as I tought they had a bit of a short season of flowering but after this post I would definitely like to try them out!

    1. You should, they are pretty easy going. Today is not so idyllic In Kent. It’s been raining on and off all day. Big, plonky rain. Having sorted the greenhouse out a bit (it’s exploding!) I have come indoors to dry out.

  3. Way over on other side of world (Australia), I have only a couple of hours ago at local hardware cum garden centre found the source of the wafting vanilla perfume to be a humble white Nemesia under the banner of “proven perennials” – without the renowned name and possibly not as refined a plant as yours – but even second best can supply that perfume.

    Lyn E

  4. Hello from OZ….I planted Nemesis Caerulea for the first time in September and I am really happy with the result. I purchased from Tesselaar mail order. .We live in extreme conditions on outskirts of Melbourne with a temperature range of -4 thru to 43. I have planted under Japanese maples so they get a little protection mixed in with Salvia Vatican and gerbera Garvinea. They certainly did not appreciate our extremely dry summer but are really coming into their own now and I have a lovely display due to our very mild Autumn. Ours don’t have the lovely perfume you are describing though. Dan…do you cut them back and if so how hard??? I have been wondering what I should do now they are going a bit raggy. I have collected a lot of seeds (and put in the Gabriel ash free envelopes we got at Hampton Court!!) as I thought I would try and raise new year and fill out a few other areas. The hellebores are beginning to shoot and I am assuming with take over from the nemesia.

    1. Hi Helen. You can shear them off to 2 or 3 inches when you are fed up with them. Most will reshoot quickly, others might take umbrage and die back. If you’re chopping off some nice flowerless pieces then you should be able to root them as cuttings to replace any casualties. I often find nemesias have a growth spurt during a cool spell, so I’d recommend trimming them back about now, provided you have no hot weather forecast.

      I thought of you just a minute ago as I was watering a new white prostanthera which is coming into bloom. Lovely scent and flowers. Have a good week.

  5. Ah, you are so right about nemesia. I bought a white one to put along a narrow border on a north facing wall 3 years ago and yesterday I noticed how well it is flowering already. Wisley Vanilla looks very fine and with the bonus of its scent I will definitely look out for it.

  6. thanks Dan – will be out wielding the secateurs next weekend! Winter is now about to set in. It has been unusually warm – the ‘hottest’ autumn in 130 years so the poor plants are so confused. I have blossom when I shouldn’t, new spring growth on trees. (Goodness knows what will happen to this when frosts hit) . The joys of gardening. Enjoy Chelsea!

  7. One of my favourites, I bought 6 for £5.00 last weekend, well raised and grown on from plugs they are a brilliant size and flowering away already. Some of them will go in the Belfast sink along with Nemesia ‘Myrtille’, a deep, deep purple, Nemesia ‘Raspberry and Cream’ and some silver Helichrysum. Well, that was the plan until you wrote that you grow them on their own!

  8. Gorgeous things so fresh and lovely. I love Nemesias and white busy lizzies in fact.

    I always had a problem with Begonia semperflorens, they self seed all over the show and unfortunately a previous gardener here had planted hundreds and thousands of colours, about all they planted. This irritated me hugely as they would wreck all my colour schemes in hot pinks, reds and orange seldom did they ever compliment or even contrast in a pleasing way, even with each other! So over the years I managed to eradicate them entirely then start from scratch with white ones which luckily always self seed white too. Now where ever they may grow I find them charming. White in the tropics is deliciously cooling and at dusk positively dazzling.

    Im just imagining my tall snow white Curcuma Queen Sirikit surrounded by a gentle frothy sea of Wisely Vanilla. I would love to try Nemesia “Wisley Vanilla” but it wouldn’t take our heat and humidity sadly. I will have to wait for someone to improve the white Angelonia, which it’s true doesn’t have much of a scent but at the moment the flowers are also far too small to make much of an impact. Meantime I will have to shove an ice cream up my nose. Even the word “plug” from Torrington Tina makes me weak at the knees.

    Im trying to wean myself off flower porn and then I discovered frustrated gardener…..Im already on the rocks.

  9. Ive been a great fan of this plant since i first read about it here last year, it really does flower continuously all year round, pumping out scent that can be picked up meters away. However, i think i might have found an even better cultivar.

    On the way to saltwood today, i stopped in at the garden centre in petham (thompson’s) and followed the scent to find nemesia ‘vanilla mist’…and its like wisley vanilla on steroids.

    Its a much larger plant, getting on for two foot tall, and seems to have a much greater scent which i think must be due to the greater amount of flowers produced as its a bigger plant.

    if you liked wisely vanilla then its definitely worth a trip over to petham for vanilla mist.

    1. Great tip-off Tim. Sadly I could not get to Saltwood today. The first time in years I have missed it. Hope you had a good time there. Funnily enough I purchased three plants of another scented nemesia called ‘Plums and Custard’ locally today. It has extraordinary yellow and violet flowers. Right up my street in terms of colour but not quite as demure as the white varieties. I shall keep an eye out for ‘Vanilla Mist’. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Dan

  10. Hi
    Having looked at this blog, Nemesia is amazing flowers. In Norway we only get seeds of ordinary nemesia ,, Have tried to get hold of from England as nemesia aroma plums and custars, nemesia raspberry and cream without luck, do not deliver to Norway I got in response 🙁 So the one who mentioned nemesia wisley vanilla, lovely flower.
    Is anyone aware of a place that sells seeds to Norway in Engela? I love nemesia, thank you for good advice on this blog.

  11. Hello, Just found your blog as I am looking at how to propagate and overwinter my nemesia wisley vanilla, Its my first time having this in my garden and I adore it! I am in Oxfordshire and wondered if you could offer me any advice? Thank you Gilly x

  12. Hi , can this flower be potted in small hanging pots my Intention was to , but I feel now they may be too tall and not hang over them as I thought initially! Thanks in advance for your help with this .

    1. Hi Michelle. They’re not natural trailers but they aren’t stiff and upright either. They’ll just gently froth over the edges rather than dangle, if that makes sense. Nemesias are commonly used in hanging baskets and pots so I think you’ll be happy with the results. Dan

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