One of the most fun aspects of hosting GardenLine is how talking about a specific plant, even briefly, can generate so much email. And that interest almost always seems to come as a delayed reaction. Here’s a good example.
“I heard you talking about a plant you dearly love that smells great; some kind of almond plant! But I couldn’t write it down when you were talking about it, and I can’t remember what it was. And now I want to go get one.” One such plant is the sweet almond verbena.
Technically, it’s known as the Aloysia, Aloysia virgata. Its most remarkable attribute is wonderfully fragrant blooms. In fact, other than the night-blooming cereus, not many fragrant plants sweeten up the air as much as almond verbena. And personally, I’m not a big fan of the night-blooming cereus because I think its fragrance can be overwhelming.
Aloysia is a perfect choice for a moonlight or “white” garden with its silver/gray foliage and white flowers. When the moonlight hits, the garden will look as if it is glowing! The tiny white flowers attract birds, butterflies and honeybees galore, and did I mention the fragrance? Its intoxicating scent is far reaching and long lasting. You can take an evening stroll and still catch the sweet fragrance in the breeze from dozens of feet away! What does it smell like? You get varying answers from a wide array of people. I think it smells like almonds that have been sugared up – Sweet Almonds!!! Others say it smells like a sweet cola.
And, yes, it can withstand our winters. I didn’t lose any of mine in the freezes of January 2010 or February 2011. While it may shed its leaves during the heart of winter, it always seems to come roaring back by springtime. I have some in pots and one massive planting in the landscape. While it’s obviously easier to provide winter protection for the containerized ones, the landscape specimens will become drought-tolerant after a year.
I guess there are only a couple of downsides to the plant. First, while the blooms are fragrant and beautiful, the plant and its leaves don’t stand out too much, and they’re rather boring. Second, those in containers will need to be watered a lot by hand, because the leaf canopy is so dense Mother Nature’s rains rarely get to the roots. And its root system is so prolific and dense, it requires more than normal watering.
I think you can feed it just about anything for blooming plants. I’ve fed mine a number of things, and it seems to like them all. So, as long as you use at least a 1-2-1 ratio fertilizer, it should respond well. Products like Medina Hasta Gro fit that bill. I’ve used Nelson’s Color Star with great success as well, although it’s not a 1-2-1 blooming-plant food … it’s a slow- or controlled-release blooming plant food. That means you only have to use it every 2-3 months.