Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Snow in summer

When I glanced outside early this morning it looked like we'd had a dusting of snow overnight. The paving was white and all the nearby plants were flecked with 'snowflakes'. Then, when I opened the back door and stepped outside the powerfully sweet (some would say sickly sweet) subtropical scent of murraya in bloom seized me by the nose.

It's not an alluring, classy gentle scent like a frangipani's – murraya has a cheap scent, too abundant and too strong. Yet it is one of the scents of summer here in Sydney, and this year's murraya flowering has been the best in many years. Everywhere I go around town right now these big, glossy green shrubs are covered with fragrant white blooms, and they're at their peak here at our place today. 

I know many of my friends in the USA and UK
are having a terrible time with bitter winter
winds and snow drifts piling up against their
doors, so sorry if my mention of 'snow' is as
welcome as yet another snowstorm, but that
was my first thought on seeing this scene today.

The bush has been building up to this little
avalanche of white petals for several days.
This is a weekend cluster of buds straining
to be set free – one of many.

And this morning they've been allowed out. It'll all
be over in a few days, which is a good thing,
as the scent is very strong, but as I know it's here
for just a couple of days I do enjoy it.

Standing back a few feet, this is the shrub in its awful spot.
I really do need to point out that this murraya is planted at
the foot of a large olive tree, gets nowhere near enough sun,
its roots are cramped and competed with by the olive. It's
a pretty horrible spot for any shrub yet that's the beauty of the
murrayas in Sydney. They'll grow almost anywhere. The level
of flowering on mine in well down on the ones in full sun,
which are evenly coated in white blooms. 

This part of the murraya, above the pergola roof,
gets more sun and so flowering is a bit better.

You don't see a lot of bromeliads dusted in snow, do you?
While I was taking this photo I was being steadily showered
with fragrant, falling white petals. The coating of the pergola
area's paving will eventually be so thick that I'll be scooping
up many whole dustpans full of them in a few days' time.

Out the front of our house, the murraya hedge is as blandly
evergreen as ever. Murrayas are a very popular hedging
plant in Sydney because they grow so well here, but the price you
pay with murraya hedges is that they hardly flower. When I looked
closely there were about a dozen flowers on this whole 3-metre
long hedge right now. The regular clipping hedges need cuts
off the flower buds, and with the rate of growth of murrayas
in summer, they do need clipping back quite often.
I've blogged about these plants before, and I've mentioned previously that murrayas are one of those plants that are so successful and so popular that they are frowned upon by many a 'serious' Sydney gardener. As if being too easy to grow is a bad thing anywhere. Maybe it's that tacky cheap scent that's the turn-off? Fortunately for me I'm not all that serious about gardening, I just love it, and so there's a spot both in my garden and in my heart for these evergreen performers that can even produce a bit of snowy magic in summer.


Chartreuse said...

I agree with your description: a "sweet (some would say sickly sweet) subtropical scent". And of course, the flowers smell strongest at night - especially the 'sickly' part of the scent. Arriving here for a weekend visit one recent evening, my stepson thought that the overpowering smell when he got out of his car was perhaps a malfunctioning septic system! The smell of murrayas at certain times in the flowers' life cycle does in fact sit on the fence between sweet and yukky. Like you, I love them. But I'm also pleased the flowering period is short.

dirtgirl said...

Yes it is funny how suddenly every street is just full of these in full bloom. We have a couple of large trees, which look beautiful. However I have to agree with Chartreuse about the overwhelming aroma, especially on the balmy nights,we always joke that it is akin to sitting next to someone who has marinated in stale perfume! I know when daughter arrives for a visit this weekend she will start sneezing the minute she gets on our driveway...she finds it overwhelming, as well as the Jasmine aroma!
Whilst the Murraya hedges don't flower as such, I love them for the absolute speed with which you can establish a thick hardy hedge. In less than 18 months our new driveway was transformed.

KB said...

Thank you for blogging about this - I've been stepping through drifts of murraya blooms all over Annandale for the past two days and wondering what they were. I love the scent, although I don't have to live with it. Yesterday I stopped out the front of another house on my street just to breathe it in for a few moments. Beautiful.

Jess said...

I had to laugh at this post because the Murrayas (or Mock Oranges as I've always called them) are flowering up here in Queensland too, and after all the wind we've been having the petals end up all over the place.

However I think they look less like snow and more like toenail clippings owing to the crescent shape. Not as lovely a picture to imagine as snow though, right?! ;)