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Fragrance in the Wild Western Garden: Philadelphus

Articles: Fragrance in the Wild Western Garden: Philadelphus

Wild or Western mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii). Author’s photographs

Toward the realization of a truly interesting, fragrant garden in the American West—one that is meaningful and, especially, osmic—Philadelphus is one of the genera with the most to offer. Western mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) was collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition on their return trip through Idaho and Montana in 1806. It is named for Meriwether Lewis. Just one good specimen of this shrub is enough to scent a whole Wild Western garden, all by itself.

However, there is far more to the story. The genus Philadelphus is native to a large swath of land across both North America and Eurasia, stretching, intermittently, from Italy through the Caucasus and Himalayas into China and Siberia and across the sea to Japan. Then it occurs again, on the other side of the Pacific, all the way from Northern California north into British Columbia, east to the Atlantic, and down into Central America. Many of the cultivated species (and their named cultivars) have their origins in China; many more can be found from the deserts of the Americ...

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