A WHIFF of orange blossom scent caught while passing a grove is a pleasure not quickly forgotten, yet scarcely to be found within 1,000 miles of our own homes. There are, however, in the citrus family a number of high-ranking hardy plants, all of them notable for their fragrance, either of flower or foliage or both.
Most closely related to the orange is Poncirus trifoliata [Citrus trifoliata], one of the most heavily armoured shrubs. Indeed, it consists almost wholly of great green thorns, curved like vicious beaks and inches long. If plants were available in sufficient quantities, it would make as impenetrable a barrier hedge as a prickly pear, though one would hesitate to plant it within reach of children.
The small trifoliate leaves have little significance, but in May an established and well-placed bush is utterly transformed beneath a mantle of purewhite wonderfully scented blossom – Beauty and the Beast knit in one.
This plant will eventually, if allowed to, grow 6-8ft (1.8-2.4m) tall, but bears clipping well. A sunny position in good soil meets its requirements. After a warm summer it will carry most attractive fruits just like miniature oranges. Seed is available and germinates quickly.
Another bush that hints strongly of its citric connections is the Mexican orange flower (Choisya ternata). This has quantities of cheerful, shining, evergreen foliage which is yet, in a mature specimen, almost completely obliterated by the masses of white blooms in May. The leaves, when crushed, emit a powerful and slightly disconcerting odour akin to varnish, but the flowers are pleasantly scented and their fragrance can be caught at quite a distance. Although the main display is in spring, there is usually an autumn crop.
Choisya makes a spreading bush of comely habit, usually about 4ft (1.2m) high, but sometimes up to 6ft (1.8m). Heavy snowfall has often so broken and wrecked my specimen that I have each time thought I must start afresh, but it has astonishing powers of recovery. By the end of the following summer one would never have guessed at its condition six months earlier. Shelter is this plant’s main requirement; it can do without a great deal of sunshine.
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