Fragrant Flowers for the Greenhouse

Many flowers are famous for their scent, and it is not difficult to fill a greenhouse full of fragrance. We include others here that become more sweet-smelling under greenhouse or conservatory conditions.

When growing flowers for their scent it is important to choose your varieties carefully. Many flowers, usually thought of as sweet-smelling, such as lilies and freesias, also have varieties that are completely scentless.

Fragrant lilies

strongly-perfumed Lilium auratumAmong the easiest plants to grow are the bulbs and other storage organs. Lilies immediately spring to mind, but most of those that make the best pot plants are not particularly scented. But certain lilies can be temperamental outdoors and by growing them indoors under glass you may get more reliable results – and more perfume.

Also some of the new hybrid lilies are expensive and you may prefer to give them protection. However, when cultivated this way the plants do tend to grow tall and will need staking.

One of the most powerfully-scented lilies is Lilium auratum (goldband lily). The variety Lilium a. platyphyllum has very large, beautiful flowers and a strong stem. The various forms of Lilium speciosum are also good for the greenhouse. They have charming flowers with reflexed petals in carmine and red shades as well as white. Their height varies from about 90cm-1.5m (3-5 ft). Lilium japonicum (bamboo lily) is of neat habit and makes fine pot plants when grouped in threes in 18cm (7 in) pots. It has fragrant, pinky, trumpet flowers and rarely exceeds 90cm (3 ft) in height.

Tuberose and Peruvian daffodil

Polianthes tuberosa (tuberose) has been an important plant in the manufacture of perfume. For pots a good choice is the variety The Pearl with its attractive spikes of double white flowers. It is, however, an untidy plant and is best grown as three bulbs to each 18cm (7 in) pot. Plant the large, elongated bulbs with their tops well protruding from the surface of the compost. You can force the bulbs in gentle warmth to flower at almost any time of year, but spring is the easiest time to get them to flower. After flowering, expose the bulbs to as much sunlight as possible. This seems to ‘ripen’ them and they are more likely to flower again the following year.

Provided you buy the largest possible bulbs, Hymenocallis narcissiflora (Peruvian daffodil) is easy to grow and very impressive. The variety usually sold is Hymenocallis narcissiflora Advance. This has a tall, strong stem that bears several large, spidery, white flowers with a structure similar to the daffodil (they belong to the same family) but sweetly scented. If potted in spring, flowering will continue during summer. Plant one bulb in each 18cm (7 in) pot.

Cyclamen and freesia

freesiasAt one time the cyclamen also gave its name to many fancy perfumes. Like so many plants where there have been attempts to breed larger flowers, the scent has often become faint or lost altogether. Even so, there are still strongly-scented strains such as Sweet-scented Mixed. The flowers are not so large as the giant-flowered forms, but the scent is strong and the range of colours delightful. The Puppet strain of cyclamen are also strongly fragrant. These are pleasing miniatures that can be grown in very small pots.

The freesia is another plant that may or may not be scented. Flowers grown from seed or from corms of obscure origin may have no fragrance at all. The strain Van Staaveren, however, has a lovely perfume and can be sown in mid winter (late December) for summer flowers and in late spring to mid summer (April to June) for flowers in autumn and winter. About seven seeds to each 13cm (5 in) pot will make a good group of bloom for decoration. They also make fine cut flowers.

Certain freesia varieties available as corms also have a superb fragrance — for example Snow Queen, Blue Banner and Golden Melody. In addition, these all have very large, beautiful flowers.

Scented flowers from seed

Several very fragrant plants can be raised quickly from seed. The lovely Calonyction aculeatum (moonflower) is one that is not well known. It opens its large, white, convolvulus-like flowers in the evening and fills the air with scent. Although perennial, it is easy to raise as an annual and it will climb up a few bamboo canes or can be trained on a wall support.

Exacum affine is best grown as several seedlings per 13cm (5 in) pot. The blue flowers are small but have a strong, spicy scent, providing you take care to choose a scented strain of seed.

Several types of stock make good pot plants or can be used for cutting in winter. The strain Giant Brilliant Column produces handsome spikes of exhibition blooms and some of them are excellent for cutting. For exhibition, remove all sideshoots and allow one central spike only to develop. Beauty of Nice is also a favourite with flower arrangers. For winter cut flowers, sow the seed from late summer to early autumn (July to August). For the large double flowers get the Hansens 100 per cent double strains and prick out only those seedlings with light green leaves; these are the ones that give the double flowers.

Sweet-smelling climbers

There are three perennial greenhouse climbers outstanding for both beautiful flowers and perfume. The easiest is Jasminum polyanthum, which is happy with a winter minimum temperature of about 4-7°C (40-45°F). It can be kept within bounds by drastic pruning, but it tends to become rampant and is ideal for covering a large expanse of wall, for example in a lean-to. It becomes covered with masses of white flowers from about early spring (February) onwards (depending on temperature) and its scent is very strong. Not difficult, but needing more overall warmth for healthy growth, is Stephanotis floribunda (Madagascar jasmine), which has clusters of white tubular flowers during summer, and Hoya carnosa, with its umbels of pink-to-white starry flowers from mid summer to mid autumn (June to September).

Carnations and gardenias

Of the specialists’ flowers, carnations are probably the most renowned for scent — but again the variety is very important. Consult the catalogue of a specialist grower of perpetual-flowering types; varieties with good scent will be so described.

Gardenias have tended to go out of fashion. This may be because they often need a fairly high level of greenhouse heating, at least during part of their development, and now that fuel is so expensive fewer people, want to grow them. Unless you can give a winter minimum of about 13°C (55°F) it is better to avoid them.

Cold greenhouse flowers

For cold greenhouses, roses in pots should not be forgotten for early fragrant blooms, and, of course, many of the favourite spring-flowering bulbs (such as narcissus and hyacinth) are also highly fragrant. In addition, there are scented shrubs like daphne — the best for the greenhouse being Daphne odora that has strongly citrus-scented, pale purplish flowers in winter.

12. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Fragrant Flowers, Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Fragrant Flowers for the Greenhouse


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