Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A gift of fragrance, but what to do?

Well, I couldn't believe it.  After working on this blog post for a good two hours yesterday, I tried to see what the photograph and text would look like on the finished page.  But, every time I tried, an error message came up.  This computer has been having trouble lately, with lots of turning beach balls.

So, I thought I should close some windows, shut it down and see if that helped.  When I went to close up the blog, it wouldn't let me.  It warned me that something might be lost if I did so.  But I was stuck.  I couldn't do anything.  Normally, I would copy the text, but I didn't.  Always before, even if you leave the page and come back later, the text and picture are still there.  Not this time.

Sorry to burden you with this, but I know I won't be able to re-create my spiel.  In brief, the story was about that orange tree you see above, how I came home from New York on the evening of September 20th, got out of the car in front of my house and was bowled over by the heavenly fragrance. I couldn't believe the perfume had wafted all the way around the house.  The next morning, I got up to see the shrub/tree loaded with tiny orange blossoms running up and down the branches.

Erica Glasener, host of HGTV's A Gardener's Diary and an esteemed horticulturist and lecturer, gave the plant - Osmanthus fragrans var. aurantiacus (orange tea olive) - when its trunk was the size of a pencil.

Normally, when someone would give me a plant, I would put it right in the ground.  With things I bought, I was not so quick.  I let my penchant for indecision take over, thus keeping some plants for years, dragging them in and out of the basement during very cold snaps and watering them in their containers in the summer.  It was ridiculous and a very bad habit.  Sometimes, I would lose plants, which was a waste of precious growing years, not to mention money.  Other times, the plants would root where I put them.  That was the case of Erica's gift.  It lived in its one-gallon container for years, blooming heroically every September.

That's how it came to be where it is - in the new arch garden (you are seeing it from the far end, looking toward the front corner of the house).  I left it there, and it rooted.  I finally cut the plastic pot off, and it grew too large to move, so we built everything around it.  The plan was to shape it so that it would cover the iron arch next to it.  Now, I'm unable to summon the nerve to take the loppers to it.  I thought I would cut it back at the end of October when my team has the flowers to do at church.  The stiff branches and glossy foliage would make a great background for our arrangements.

But, is this the time to prune it?  Jack Driskell, a self-described plant nerd with a fabulous garden, has the same plant.  I'm hoping he sees this and will tell me if you treat fall blooming evergreens like you would the flowering shrubs of spring.  That is, do you prune right after they bloom?  Will new foliage pop out and get killed by the freezes of December and January?

I just received another warning, so I'm going to copy this text just in case.  Another time, I will tell about the superiority of this plant (for several years, I've had what is supposed to be the most fragrant of all tea olives; it went into the ground immediately, but never grew;  I moved it, and it seemed happier; little white balls formed this year, but then fell off.  The species O. fragrans I bought at an outlet seems ready to bloom; we'll see if its fragrance lives up to its botanical name).

One last word:  If you see this orange osmanthus, buy it.  It's unusual, reliably fragrant, so much so that it perfumes an entire yard in September.  Its blossoms are dropping now, but still that delightful scent was in the air this morning when I went out to feed the birds.