Summer Scents: Philadelphus

Philadelphus Coronarius flowers
Our neighbours’ beautiful philadelphus leans over the fence into our garden.

As a photographer, it would be easy for me to forget that being in a garden is not just a visual experience.

Scent is something that I tend not to think about until I am greeted by an unexpected waft of perfume from some nearby flowers.

For the past few weeks, a shrub in my neighbours’ garden has been flowering magnificently and leaning right over the fence into my garden. It has been a most welcome sight, but, beautiful as the flowers were, their scent was even more impressive. Strong and sweet, this scent has been filling the air near our back door and has made it a pleasure to step outside.

The shrub is a philadelphus or ‘mock orange’. I’m guessing, from its strong perfume and height (about 9-10 ft.) that it is likely to be Philadelphus coronarious. (You can see it in the top photo.) It has just finished flowering and now the two philadelphus shrubs in my own garden have taken over.

White philadelphus (mock orange) flowers
This Philadelphus was in the garden when we came here – I think it’s probably ‘Virginal’.

In the photograph above, you can see the older of these. I think it has been in the garden for a very long time and it was terribly overgrown and straggly when we arrived. I cut it back a lot and it has grown back strongly.

Despite now having quite a lot of shade from nearby trees, this philadelphus is heavily covered with flowers but their scent is not as strong as those on the neighbours’ shrub. By the look of it, I think that this one must be the cultivar ‘Virginal’ – it was one of the commonest ones. (Nowadays, there seems to be a very large number of cultivars available.)

In contrast, I do know the name of the philadelphus in the bottom photograph. It is ‘Belle Etoile’ย  – I’m sure, because I planted that one!

(Not knowing the full names of plants that you’ve ‘inherited’ or else photographed in other people’s gardens makes titling photographs accurately very difficult.)

Belle Etoile seems to have less scent than the others, however, it makes it up for that with the pretty purplish colouration at the centre. This makes it attractive to photograph, as well as blending it nicely with its dark pink and purple flowered neighbours in that border.

I’m enjoying the company of these lovely shrubs at the moment – what more could a flower photographer ask, than a beautiful subject that also happens to smell good while you’re working up close to it. Sweet!

Flowers of Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile'
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ has a magenta blush at the centre of the flower.

13 thoughts on “Summer Scents: Philadelphus

    1. Yes, I remember – mine is still a youngster. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sadly, its scent isn’t all that strong – the RHS described it as ‘usually scented’, so maybe mine is ‘unusual’, or maybe it will get better as it gets older. The neighbours’ one was heavenly!

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    1. Thanks Syd! ๐Ÿ™‚ I reckon that you should be able to find one that would suit your climate because there are around 60 species. (That includes a tender one called Philadelphus mexicanus.) I think you would need the chance to have a good sniff at the one you were thinking of buying – the scent can vary! (As I have found with my Belle Etoile, which seems less scented than it ‘should’ be… it’s described as ‘usually’ scented.)

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    1. My laurel bushes were also wonderfully scented this year. They’re our most reliably scented plant, but, unfortunately, the pigeons have decided to eat the leaves from my youngest one. I’m having the devil of a job keeping them away from it!

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  1. These are lovely. Too bad you canโ€™t make a scented blog post๐Ÿ˜„. Not knowing the names of plants I have inherited or that I see is certainly something that frustrates me too!

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    1. Thanks Laurel! ๐Ÿ™‚ Hmmm, can you imagine what the internet would be like if we had ‘smelliblog’ posts, hehehe! Identifying plants can be really difficult – especially if you try Google search – then you see lots of different plant with supposedly the same name…not helpful!

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