Gardenia augusta 'Magnifica' (Rubiaceae)
How quickly do Gardenia flowers turn from pure white to the colour of an old newspaper, well almost overnight it seems, but all is forgiven when you have a plant which scents the air with a wonderful perfume. All this week I have been working alongside some left over plants which are waiting to be cut back and potted on as soon as they finish their flush of flowers.
Gardenias are not the most sustainable of shrubs as they require generous amounts of water and fertilizer to perform well, and, though established plants in old gardens will often reach tree like proportion, they need regular pruning to keep them from becoming ungainly. During the peak flowering time it is almost impossible to avoid the mass of brown spent flowers covering the bush unless you are diligent at removing them on a daily basis.
I prefer this large flowered variety over the many smaller ones such as the 'Florida' types and even the leaves of 'Magnifica' tend to be larger and glossier.
Gardenias have been worn as hair ornaments for centuries particularly in China from where some species originate, though it is the jazz/blues singer Billie Holiday who made them her own in the 20th Century.