Tropical Gardening: Fragrance adds another pleasure to Mother’s Day

  • Courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE Fragrant angel trumpet trees come in colors ranging from white, yellow, orange and rose.

It is Mother’s Day weekend. What can we add to this special day during our long COVID-19 lockdown? We can find the sweet smells in our gardens.

In Hawaii, spring is all year. However, there is a noticeable spring fever effect because many flowers start heavy blooming at this time. Even with the coronavirus lockdown, we can still enjoy the sweet breezes as well as the beauty of flowering ohia, jacaranda, African tulip and silver oak.


Have you ever noticed Hawaiian air smells better than most other places on the mainland? This is especially true now as plumeria, jasmine and other flowers begin to bloom. Coffee trees frequently bloom, along with ylang ylang (Cananga oderata), mulang (Michelia champaca), magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and many other flowering trees, adding fragrance along country roads.

There are many fragrant choices for your garden.

The scent of orange blossoms and, of course, grapefruit, lime, lemon and tangerine blossoms all have delicious fragrance. During the longer days of summer, many species of ginger are in full bloom, and in the evening white, yellow and rose flowered angel trumpets make for perfect garden romance.

But there are many other lesser-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, night blooming jasmine, fragrant dracaena, gardenia and mock orange, are equipped with fragrance so potent it can fill every inch of garden air space and drift into the house, too. Others, such as the spider lily, produce more subtle perfumes that are best appreciated at close range. And let us not forget the native alahe‘e and hoawa.

One very striking shade lover is a shrub native to 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. They flower chiefly from spring through fall, but can continue much of the year where conditions such as warmth and humidity are ideal. There are several other species sometimes available at local nurseries.

The plant can 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. Jasminum ilicifolium and Jasminum multifolorum are two shrubs used as foundation plantings. They also can be grown as vines and will bloom more profusely. Jasminum sambac is the one we call pikake.

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a vine. Tie this plant to a post, fence or some other support and it will climb. Pinch out the viny branch tips and it will cover the ground. The clusters of star-shaped, white flowers contrast nicely with shiny dark green leaves. This vine is sometimes referred to as maile jasmine because the leaves resemble maile.

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 can be used as a small tree or an informal high hedge or screen, or can be trimmed to a formal shape.


Night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) produces flowers with a powerful scent. These evergreen shrubs grow 6-8 feet tall or more and bloom off and on throughout the year.

The ever popular plumeria has a rare cousin known as Tabernaemontana, or cinnamon gardenia, which was introduced from Africa. Flowers are produced throughout 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.

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