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For The Garden

Fragrance Imposters

Author: Lori A. Johnson
Issue: April, 2017, Page 130
Photo by Lori A. Johnson
texas mountain laurel
(Sophora secundiflora)

Type: Tree

Smells like: Grape juice

Blooms: Purple; spring

Size: 8-15'H by 6-10'W

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low to moderate

Maintenance: Very low, with no leaf clean-up and minimal pruning.

Attracts: Honeybees,
hoverflies and caterpillars

Note: A Southwest native, Texas mountain laurel is well-adapted to the low desert. It keeps its leaves year-round, making it a great small- to medium-sized landscape tree, especially near pools. This slow-growing tree retains its relatively compact size and requires little, if any, pruning.

Why we like it: Also known as mescal bean, Texas mountain laurel is prized for its profusion of lavender-blue wisterialike bloom clusters that impart a delicious aroma. After flowering is over, it produces attractive bean pods for a continuing ornamental appearance.

Photo by Lori A. Johnson
(Berlandiera lyrata)

Type: Perennial

Smells like: Chocolate

Blooms: Yellow; spring through summer

Size: 18"H by 24"W

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Drought-tolerant and self-sowing; deadhead spent flowers to prolong blooming period.

Attracts: Beneficial insects including bees and hoverflies

Note: This member of the sunflower family may bloom year-round in frost-free areas. The flowers are at their peak in the mornings and petals gradually close or drop as daytime temperatures rise.

Why we like it: Also known as chocolate daisy, the flower’s fragrance infuses the entire garden when planted in large groups. The edible stamens are said to have a chocolate flavor.

Photo by Dick Culbert
(Aloysia gratissima)

Type: Shrub

Smells like: Vanilla

Blooms: White; spring through fall

Size: 3-10'H by 6-10'W

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Low; may be pruned to control shape and size.

Attracts: Bees, birds, butterflies

Note: This member of the verbena family is well-adapted to the low desert. It can have a scraggly appearance but can be pruned to shape similar to a small tree or hedge.

Why we like it: During warmer months, beebrush produces showy spikes containing dozens of tiny white flowers. The blooms are a nectar source for both butterflies and bees.

(Pelargonium citronellum ‘Mabel Gray’)

Type: Perennial

Smells like: Lemon

Blooms: Pink; summer

Size: 12-24"H by 12-15"W

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Water regularly in summer only when dry, but sparingly in winter. Deadhead regularly.
Attracts: Bees

Note: Mabel Gray can take full sun in three seasons, but morning sun is best during the hottest summer months. It performs well in containers and hanging baskets.

Why we like it: This cultivar blooms repeatedly but is mainly prized for its aromatic evergreen foliage, which has an intense scent similar to lemon sherbet. The leaves have several culinary uses, including herbal teas and desserts such as lemon cheesecake and tarts.

Other Favorites: Grape-scented sage (Salvia melissodora), Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus), Strawberry-scented geranium (Pelargonium x scarboroviae), Winter iris (Iris unguicularis), Sweet almond verbena (Aloysia virgate)
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