Isn't it wonderful to "meet" a plant that you have been reading of but never experienced in real life? Well, this morning, I walked past one of the houses here and was greeted by a strong but delicate scent wafting towards me from a whole row of flowering Sweet Olives, Osmanthus fragrans. As it's common name indicates (in this case, quite correctly), it belongs to the family of olives, Oleaceae, and the word Osmanthus is derived from Greek osma, meaning "fragrant", combined with anthos, meaning "flower". The fragrance is similar to some of the winter flowering jasmines, which belong to the same plant family. Coming from the Nordic latitudes, I've always considered any plants that are either green, flowering and/or scented during the winter months a complete luxury. So this evergreen plant that fills all these categories, and in addition to that, flowers for months here in Seattle, will definately be up there on my list for must-have plants for my future garden.
Camellias, which are other winter-flowering favorites from my time in Melbourne, are beginning to flower here now. The Sasanquas with single blooms are out, with their frilly yellow pillows of stamens brightening up the grey and cloudy days. Here, they can start flowering as early (or late...) as in September or October and bloom off and on throughout the late fall and early winter. After them, the Japonicas will start blooming sometimes as early as Christmas, but more commonly in January. The mild, almost frost free climate in the Northwest suits well these beauties from China and Japan, and like so many other influences from there, have been a feature in local gardens here for more than 100 years.