By Norman C. Bezona
Cooperative Extension Service University of Hawaii at Manoa
Pollution from fireworks is soon to be over, and we can again complain about the vog from Kilauea Volcano.
We can’t do much about the vog, but there are other ways we can clean up our little piece of paradise. The obvious tack is to clean up roadside trash that accumulates over the holidays. Air quality is a little more difficult, but by proper landscaping, we can improve that as well.
Hawaii has a special magic. The scent of flowers perfumes the air and sets a tropical, romantic mood whether you live mauka or makai. By adding more flowering plants to your area, you can combat unpleasant smells like car exhaust fumes or rubbish cans.
There are many good choices for your garden. The scent of orange blossoms and, of course, grapefruit, lime, lemon and tangerine blossoms, all have delicious fragrance. But, there are many other less-known and more-varied plants that can add to our gardens.
All the plants listed below have fragrant flowers. Some of them, such as plumeria, ginger, angel’s trumpet, night-blooming jasmine, fragrant dracaena, gardenia and mock orange are equipped with fragrance so potent that it can fill every inch of garden air space and drift into the house, too.
Others, like the spider lily, produce more subtle perfumes that usually won’t travel quite as far and are best appreciated at close range.
A drive in the country is a delight now, since many species of ginger are beginning to bloom. In West Hawaii makai, the native alahe‘e is blooming with a fragrance similar to orange blossoms and Kaloko mauka evenings are rich with angel’s trumpets.
Other forms of pollution include visual blight and sound pollution. Fortunately, landscaping can help reduce visual and noise pollution while adding fragrance to the garden.
Now let’s get back to some other fragrant plants that will also beautify and help reduce carbon dioxide and add oxygen to your garden. One very striking shade lover is the Brunfelsia. The shrub is a native of South America. Its scientific name is Brunfelsia calycina floribunda. It gets its common name, yesterday-today-and-tomorrow, from the fact that the 2-inch tubular, flaring flowers are purple one day, violet the next, and almost white the next.
The flowers form chiefly in spring, but sometimes spring through fall, or in spring and again in fall. The plant may grow as high as 10 feet in partial shade, but can be kept as low as 3 feet by pruning.
There are many kinds of jasmine, as well as several other plants called by that name — including star jasmine and orange jasmine (mock orange) — that are not jasmines at all. There are several true jasmines that bloom with fragrant flowers. Jasminum ilicifolium and Jasminum multifolorum are two shrubs used as foundation plantings. They may also be grown as vines and will bloom more profusely.
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a viny shrub. Tie this plant to a post, fence, or some other support and it will climb; or pinch out branch tips and it will cover the ground. The clusters of star-shaped, white flowers contrast nicely with shiny dark green leaves.
Mock orange (Murraya paniculata) or orange jasmine, is a member of the citrus family and is an attractive evergreen shrub or small tree with glossy green pinnately-compound leaves. The white, very fragrant flowers are produced at intervals throughout the year, followed by clusters of red ovoid fruit. It is a vigorous grower and may be used as a small tree, an informal high hedge or screen, or may be trimmed to a formal shape.
Night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) produces flowers with a powerful scent. A single plant per garden should be plenty. These evergreen shrubs grow 6 to 8 feet tall or more and bloom off and on throughout the year.
The ever-popular plumeria should be found in most gardens, but a close relative is rare. It is known as Tabernaemontana, or cinnamon gardenia, and was originally introduced by Paul Weissich at Foster Gardens in Honolulu. Flowers are produced all during the year and have a cinnamon fragrance. The odor is delicate, but one or two flowers perfume the whole garden. Close relatives are Ervatamia (crepe jasmine) cerbera, Stemmadenia and oleander.
Look for these and more at your local nurseries and garden shops. Sweeten your garden for the new year with the scent of flowers.