Monday, December 16, 2019

Tea Olive

Horticulture Hotline 12/16/19
  Bill Lamson-Scribner 

While enjoying the beautiful Lowcountry weather yesterday, I observed a few things going on in the landscape. One was my favorite smell in the Lowcountry. Another thing I observed is going to require some action soon for best results, and the third thing I observed was one of those things that make you scratch your head and think that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

The Osmanthus fragrans or Fragrant Tea Olive has always been one of my favorite plants because of its sweet smell. They bloom starting in October with a very sweet fragrance. The flowers are very small. In Charleston with the way the temperatures vary the smell seems to go away on those cold days. Then all the sudden a beautiful day comes and so does the sweet fragrance. I have been told the sun volatizes the oils that give the plant its signature smell on warm days.

The Tea Olive grows fairly upright and likes sun to part shade (sun brings out the smell). They do not like shearing with hedge trimmers or shears. Horticulturally speaking, I don’t know of any plant that does like shearing. Tea Olives do not like a lot of wind or salt air. I remember after Hurricane Hugo I was involved with replacing the landscape at 1 King Street – The Fort Sumter House (the big white building by the Battery aka White Point Gardens) – and we built a trellis with a confederate jasmine on it to block the wind and salt air, so the tourist and others could enjoy this Lowcountry jewel!

I have Tea Olives spread throughout my landscape. By my front door and front porch, by my sidewalk and driveway (multiple), three by the street for walkers enjoyment, and I even planted one by an area that school traffic backs up near my house so that people could enjoy the sweet smell while they wait in line to pick up their children!

Tea Olives are considered to be pest-free. I know I have never encountered any insects or diseases. They grow tall. I have some over 12 feet tall and have seen some that look like trees at some of the local plantations. There are some new varieties on the market that could be worth taking a look at if you are considering adding this plant to your landscape.

Well, I can see I’m going to run out of column inches (newspaper lingo), so I will cover the other two observations next week.

Holiday gifts? Pots, pruning saws, professional pruners, custom programs, soil tests, and what I like best so Santa’s Sleigh doesn’t get overloaded with Cotton Burr Compost – gift certificates!

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.