Gardenia memories

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Gardenia jasminoides Florida

The scent of Gardenia flowers always makes me realise that Christmas is approaching. It is said that the sense of smell is the one most powerfully connected to memory, and indeed when I catch a whiff of the Gardenia at my front door, I am instantly transported back 40 years to our Christmas lunches at my aunt's place in Turramurra. A big Gardenia bush grew just outside her back door, and its perfume was inextricably linked with the excitement of the day. I seem to remember in those days that people often wore the blooms as a 'buttonhole' when going out at Christmastime.

Gardenia jasminoides (syn. G. florida, G. angusta), the most common species, is a frost-tender evergreen shrub hailing from south-east China, Taiwan and Japan. The thick waxy petals of the flower are usually formed into a kind of a double rosette, and can vary in size from petite in the prostrate cultivar 'Radicans' (ht 50cm) to large in the cultivar 'Grandiflora' (ht 2m). Medium-sized 'Florida' (ht 1m), the one I grow, is the most well known.

Potted Gardenia jasminoides Florida

Gardenia are very suited to our Sydney climate, as they enjoy humidity, and have a lush look which fits in well with the semi-tropical plants I grow these days. Unfortunately, the plants have suffered from over-exposure in recent years, being beloved by many landscapers to use as hedging. I have never had a lot of luck growing them in the garden, as I found they became lanky and lacked a good form, so now I grow them in large pots, where they flower for many months from late spring into autumn, most profusely in November and December.

Generally, they enjoy a lightly shaded position with neutral to slightly acid soil which is well drained and rich in humus. They do like adequate moisture and fertiliser in the growing season to give optimum blooms. I shape mine in early spring if they look rangy. They can become a bit woody and straggly with age and may need to be replaced every so often.

I once grew a more tree-like species, Gardenia thunbergia (ht 3m), which had very fragrant flowers like little pinwheels, but I found it shy to bloom and it took up too much space so it was eventually axed.

Happy Christmas to all my readers, and thank you for following my blogs this year. I am taking a break until mid-January, when I will be back with more gardening musings!

Reader Comments

  • By jil 3937 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 14 December 2009

    My Mum carried gardenias at her wedding. They have a special place in my family! Merry Christmas Deirdre, and thanks for all the gardening info. Jil

    Thanks Jil, a lovely flower for a wedding bouquet. Have a great Christmas! Deirdre

  • By jan 2072 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2009

    Happy Christmas Deidre and thank you so much for every blog you have posted which has given me endless pleasure throughout the year. I shall look forward to next year and the friendship of gardening with you. Cheers Jan.B.

    Thanks, Jan. I appreciated your comments during the year. Deirdre.

  • By Sue T. 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2009

    I have a long suffering Gardenia flowering in a pot but Christmas for me is the blue Agapanthus and NSW Christmas bush my Mum brought us every year. Have a good Christmas and thanks for the blogs.

    Yes, the aggies do remind me of Christmas too, as my mother used to use them for flower arrangements in a huge vase on the day. Thanks for your feedback during the year. Deirdre

  • By Ian 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 16 December 2009

    Hi Deidre. As a result of your note on Wendy Whiteleys garden at Lavender Bay, I took my Thursday walking gpoup there. We spent an hour chatting to a landscape garden who volunteers maintenance when he is not busy. Our group is now providing struck cuttings and Clivia from Frank who breeds his own.

    That is great, Ian!

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 16 December 2009

    love gardenias too, but have not had much success with them. My neighbour has a lovely one, which she does not look after at all, but I enjoy her plant, without the work! Many thanks for your blogs over the year - fantastic! Looking forward to next years efforts!

    Thanks, Margaret, and thanks for all your feedback through the year. Deirdre

  • By Sue 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Sunday, 20 December 2009

    They are very special flowers and my memory is of a grandmother who nurtured one in SA. Thanks for your lovely blogs. Happy Christmas. Sue.

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