Friday, September 21, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Fragrant Tea Olive

Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus 'Beni Kin Mokusei'.
Photo courtesy of Nurseries Caroliniana Inc.
By Katherine Hale

The first sign of fall isn’t shorter days or cooler nights—it’s the apricot-like scent  wafting through the air as the fragrant tea olives bloom. Hailing from China, these evergreen shrubs boast hundreds of tiny flowers that pack a big punch, filling the air with massive quantities of perfume. When the season peaks here at Duke Gardens (it’s starting now!), you can follow your nose to the tea olives lining the paths near the lower parking lot and in the Historic Gardens, long before you see them.

The plant’s official name—Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus—is a lengthy one, but don’t let that intimidate you. The first three words are a fancy way of saying it’s an especially fragrant tea olive with orange flowers in place of the usual white. What makes 'Beni Kin Mokusei' so special is that its blooms are much deeper orange than the garden variety auranticus, so much so that they appear almost red in certain lights.

The late horticulturist J.C. Raulston of N.C. State University once saw a sprig of ‘Beni Kin Mokusei’ in a flower arrangement during a visit to a Korean temple and fell in love; he reportedly claimed he would have been willing to risk jail to acquire a specimen of his own.  Fortunately, you don’t have to go to such lengths—this variety has now been introduced to the United States and will be available for purchase at Duke Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale on Sept. 29.

What to do with ‘Beni Kin Mokusei’ once you’ve purchased it? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Take advantage of its heavenly scent and plant it in a sunny place near a porch or patio or anywhere you care to linger on cool autumn evenings. Or use it as a privacy hedge or to line outdoor paths, as we do with the Osmanthus at Duke Gardens. Tea olives are deer- and disease-resistant, and incredibly low-maintenance once established, fading into the background until the fall. You’ll wonder how you ever managed to live without them.

Read more about Osmanthus at Duke Gardens in this 2016 blog post.

Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

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