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Photo: Dr. Robert Polomski

Joining summer’s exit are many people who feel that the gardening season is over—there’s nothing left to enjoy in the garden but impending fall color. That’s not true at all. One group of broadleaf evergreens that permeates the air at this time of year with their floral fragrances are the tea-olives or osmanthus.

These magnificent evergreen shrubs or small multi-stemmed trees perfume the air with oranges, cinnamon, and many more scents that give us a reason to come outside to smell the flowers.

Fragrant tea-olive (Osmanthus fragrans) starts blooming in September with clusters of white flowers tucked among the leaves. It hits its stride in the spring, and then blooms sporadically thereafter into summer. The cultivar ‘Fudingzhu’ (a.k.a. 'Nanjing’s Beauty') is a particularly prolific bloomer that's extremely showy and fragrant when in flower.

The orange-flowering tea-olive Osmanthus fragrans f. aurantiacus only flowers in the fall from mid-September to mid-October, and the flowers are a bright apricot-orange and are extremely fragrant. The aroma reminds me of Juicy Fruit® gum. This selection will not begin flowering until it reaches a height of 6 to 7 ft.

Both of these tea-olives are adapted to sun or shade and have few, if any, pest problems. Use them with other broadleaf evergreens in mixed borders, screens, or as hedges. You’ll find their floral display to be a visual and olfactory treat.

Visit your favorite garden center or nursery now. Let your palette decide which variety deserves to be in your landscape.