Monday, October 10, 2016

Follow Your Nose, It's Osmanthus Season!

Osmanthus fragrans in the Asiatic Arboretum.
Photo by Orla Swift.
By Rose James T'20

With crisp autumn weather upon us at last, the brisk breezes are stirring-up some wonderful scents in Duke Gardens. One of my favorite fall fragrances is that of the Osmanthus fragrans, commonly called the tea olive. It gives off a heady, exotic perfume with fruity, floral top notes and creamy, suede undertones.

There are a few places you can find this plant in Duke Gardens, and it certainly is worth a walk to enjoy the gorgeous fragrance—there is truly nothing like closing your eyes and smelling the swirls of aroma wafting on exhilarating fall winds.

The fragrant gardens are a way for me to escape from my hectic life as a Duke student, even if only for a short while. With midterms just ending, it’s nice to have a spot to relax and recover from the last few stress-filled weeks. As the weather cools off, I look forward to studying in the gardens, as well as spending time with my friends—an afternoon spent searching for the best-smelling plants is always fun. The Osmanthus fragrans’ distinctive aroma will grab you long before you reach the plant.

Osmanthus fragrans (at right) in the Asiatic Arboretum.
Photo by Orla Swift.
Walking from the Doris Duke Center, it’s easy to find several Osmanthus fragrans plants. As you walk into the arboretum from the lower parking lot, look to your right until you see a very large shrub with vivid orange flowers. You can also find Osmanthus fragrans between the Azalea Court and the Terrace Gardens pergola, as well as at the foot of the terraces, near the South Lawn. The perfume is easily carried on the wind, and it is simply impossible to miss when walking along the paths—just follow your nose.

The Osmanthus fragrans will continue to bloom for several weeks, so be sure to keep your nose attuned to its spicy scent during your fall garden strolls. Soon you will also smell Osmanthus x fortunei near the Gothic Gates, and other species elsewhere in the gardens.

While you’re following your nose, be sure to check out the flowering species of roses in the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden. The bubbling fountain and sweet rose aromas in the cool autumn air make this a perfect place to stop and enjoy nature. Fall is known for its warm smells and sweater weather, and there is no better place to find both than in Duke Gardens.

Rose James is a Duke freshman and a work-study marketing assistant at Duke Gardens.

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