Down in the garden figs should be cropping again, but there may be snakes about under the bushes so watch out for them if you are working there. This month many evening-scented plants will be sharing their perfumes with us. Those flowering plants that delight us now are mostly pollinated by moths that are only around in the evenings so that the flowers open up then and as well as exuding their perfume they hope that the moths will fertilise them. Cestrum nocturnum, known in Cyprus as ‘Pakistani Nights’, but which originally came from the West Indies, is very popular here. This evergreen shrub has greenish-white tubular flowers usually pollinated by the moths. Nicotiana sylvestris, a native of Argentina and Bolivia and in some countries, known as ‘The Woodland Tobacco Plant’, is another member of the same family. The tall stems towering above the leaves, cascade into a star burst of long white flowers. The fragrance is especially strong in the evening for pollination purposes. Did you know that petunias are lightly-perfumed too? What would we do without them, adorning our window boxes and courtyards with their cheery flowers in a multitude of colours?
Jasmines are well known for their perfumes. A popular jasmine in many gardens here is Jasminum officinale, also known as ‘Spanish Jasmine’, ‘Catalonian Jasmine’ or ‘Royal Jasmine’ and even ‘Poet’s Jasmine’! Despite these common names, this jasmine originally came from South East Asia and is related to the olive family. It is a rampant grower, clothing arches and pergolas in no time at all and putting on as much as 3 metres in a season. It looks charming over an umbrella-shaped support, so that the long stems drape elegantly downwards. The climber really benefits from heavy pruning right back to the old wood in the late winter or early spring and if you are not severe with the pruning, then there will not be any flowers, as the old leaves and stems will die back during the summer. The flowers appearing on the ends of the new stems are quite large and very fragrant with a pink blush on the outside.
Stephanotis, from Madagascar, is a particular favourite of mine. The crowning glory of this heavily fragrant climber, are the waxy-white flowers that appear on new growth. Usually when you buy this plant, the stems are twined around a circular support and when the flowers are in bloom they really look like a bridal wreath, hence it’s common names of ‘Bridal Veil’ or ‘Bridal Wreath’. Their heady perfume is intoxicating.
Whilst datura and brugmansia are not native to these shores either, both share their evening scented flowers with us. However care should be taken when tending them as they are poisonous, so wear latex gloves and lots of hand washing after handling them. We are so lucky to be able to enjoy these plants from so many foreign lands, which give us such pleasant perfumed evenings during the summer.