The mock orange

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Although the planting in my garden is predominantly herbaceous, I will always have room for the begetter of that fabulous scent: the philadelphus, or mock orange.

White philadelphus flowersI have just come back from a fine couple of days at Bloom in Dublin - a great show that happens in the middle of Phoenix Park. It's well worth planning a trip to Ireland next year in order to coincide with the show.

Anyway, I got back late last evening and when I got out of the car the first thing I noticed was scent. A wild romantic perfume floating through the heavy warm air. Although the planting in my garden is predominantly herbaceous, I will always have room for the begetter of that fabulous scent: the philadelphus, or mock orange.

There are a number of different varieties, all deciduous with white flowers and unremarkable foliage. In the first garden I had that actually possessed any soil (the first two were just concrete yards) I planted Philadelphus 'Virginal', which is the biggest variety with, I think, the punchiest smell. It was far too big for the garden and I had to hack it about a bit - eventually I formed it into a sort of one sided arch through which you had to walk to get to the rest of the garden. It is very easy to grow and there is another one planted just outside my office, so if I open the window and inhale … aaaaaahhh!

I have sneaked a couple of other varieties. One is Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile', which is about 1.6m high and is planted by the washing line. The open flowers have a beautiful jam coloured splodge in their centres. The other, Philadelphus 'Manteau d'Hermine', is only about a metre or so tall, with less open - but still scented - flowers.

Others not to be sneezed at (unless you have hay fever, in which case you might not have much choice):

Philadelphus coronarius: a large variety that also comes with golden leaves that lighten up a bit of partial shade (not deep shade or it will never flower).

Philadelphus 'Silver Showers', a shorter variety, with almost starry shaped flowers.

Philadelphus tomentosus, another large one, but it will take more shade than many.

If they get a bit unruly then prune them all directly after flowering.

June smells like philadelphus.

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Gardeners' World Web User 07/06/2010 at 16:10

I have two philadelphus and they are heavenly I agree. Can you help me with a problem? (Of course you can!) We had to remove a deceased and elderly virburnum from the corner of a wall near a seating area and within view of the sitting room. It helpfully obscured the view of the side wall of the house across the road. What shall I put in as a replacement? It's a sunny site; I'd like lots of interest in the different seasons or possibly an evergreen (if it's not boring!; the wall is about 6ft and the roots of the tree/shrub should not interfere with it. I loved cornus kousa which was in Roger Platt's (I hope I've got his name correct) garden at Chelsea but is it too lateral in habit? Should I go for a taller, thinner plant? An eventual height of about 12 ft would be great. Not much criteria there then!! Please help!

Gardeners' World Web User 07/06/2010 at 19:05

when i was out walking my dog this evening,i walked past a house and they had this plant in there front garden,,it smells glorious and i wondered what it was called and 'hey presto' you have it here,,,,im of to garden centre tomorrow to buy the shrub....yippppeeedo.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/06/2010 at 20:31

I have Philiadelphus in my garden it is massif, too big really, in the winter just a mass of twigs, by June the leaves have arrived then comes the lovely perfumed flowers, planted them 35 years ago and didn't realise that I had to cut them down after they had flowered, I live in a very winy place and if you cut it back the new branches are ripped of by the wind, so I just give it a trim now and then.

Gardeners' World Web User 09/06/2010 at 10:27

you have convinced me.I shall have to get one.Maybe the smaller Belle Etoile,now where can I put it.....

Gardeners' World Web User 09/06/2010 at 18:07

I love my philadephus! It is in our front garden, so whenever we get home in summer and open the car doors, the scent welcomes us home. I've also watched people walk past and their faces brighten as they just catch a waft of it's glorious scent. Got some room in our back garden, lost a few plants in the harsh winter so might buy another one!

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