Few plants will set even the keenest plantsmen (and women) drooling like a flowering specimen of Emmenopterys henryi, or Chinese emmenopterys. The tall deciduous tree is a member of the same family as gardenia and other mostly tropical genera. It hails from southern and central China where I was fortunate to see a large specimen on Tianmushan. In mid-summer mature trees are loaded with waxy, bell-shaped flowers surrounded by white oval bracts. The incredible fragrance drifts throughout the garden and I first saw this tree minutes after smelling the enticing aroma and tracking it to its source. The deep green foliage makes an ideal backdrop for the flowers and with age the bark becomes quite showy. Unusual naked and pointy winter buds make this easy to identify even when the branches are bare. You may be asking why a fragrant, summer flowering, beautiful tree is not more widely available in the trade. Unfortunately it can take up to a decade for even healthy, vigorous trees to begin flowering – a period longer than many gardeners want to wait. It can be rooted from vigorous new shoots or very easily from seed.
Follow me at
@jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.
Check out all the happenings at http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum