All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A
by Pernell Gerver

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"The Best Fragrant Indoor Plants for the Home or Office"

There's nothing better than smelling a sweet, fragrant flower in the home or office. During winter, especially, when outdoor gardens are but a memory, it's a pleasure to be indoors enjoying the fragrance of these indoor plants. There are many different indoor plants with fragrant blooms and I can't think of anything better than standing inside by the window sniffing their fragrant blooms while a snow storm rages outside.

Some of the fragrant indoor plants throw their scent, in effect becoming a natural air freshener, while others invite you to stick your nose right into their blooms to enjoy their wonderful bouquet. There's something about smelling a fragrant flower that makes you feel good. Click on a plant below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Fragrant oliveOne of my favorite house plants for fragrance is fragrant olive. It's a shrubby plant that has oblong, glossy, almost-leathery, leaves. It bears tiny, creamy-white flowers that in themselves are nearly insignificant and easy to overlook, unless you happen to smell them. They have a sweet fragrance that to me resembles apricots. It's amazing how strong their fragrance is considering how tiny they are. Each flower is only about a quarter of an inch long and wide. They are borne in small clusters in the leaf axils as well as all along its woody stems, even on bare branches. It blooms all year long.



"The Best Fragrant Indoor Plants for the Home or Office"
Workshop with Organic Lawn and Garden Products Sale


Wednesday, November 18, 7 p.m., Asnuntuck Community College L.R.C. conference room, 170 Elm Street (Route 220), Enfield, CT

Thursday, November 19, 7 p.m., Kiley Middle School auditorium, 180 Cooley Street, Springfield, MA

Saturday, November 21, 3 p.m., Historic Northampton Museum Parsons House, 58 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA


Free and open to the public

For more info.:

Click here to read Pernell Gerver's Gardening Workshop Series schedule and to get directions from your location to any of the locations listed above.

African GardeniaAfrican gardenia is an easy-to-grow relative of gardenia that blooms reliably in the home, blooming almost continuously all year long with no extra effort. It bears small, star-shaped flowers that are pink in bud and open creamy white. The flowers are carried in clusters all up and down its stems and even the smallest stem will have a few flowers on it. There are dozens and dozens of flowers in bloom at any one time and their fragrance is wonderful, very similar to gardenia, albeit a little more subtle. The fragrance easily carries on the breeze, perfuming a room. It's a shrubby plant that looks similar to gardenia, but on a smaller scale. It has short, slender leaves that are carried on woody stems. It rarely grows larger than a couple of feet high and wide, making a good choice for even a small windowsill garden. Not a fussy plant, African gardenia can be grown just about anywhere in the home - in sunny or shady window, in cool or warm temperatures, and in low or high humidity.

Jasmine flowersWinter-blooming jasmine is another favorite fragrant house plant of mine. It's a vining plant that has slender stems that carry segmented leaves. In mid winter it bears large clusters of star-shaped flowers. The flowers are pink in bud and unfurl pure white. Their fragrance is sweet with a hint of spice and it's used in the perfume industry. The fragrance easily perfumes a room and you'll smell this plant before you see it. The flower clusters are long lasting and continue to bloom for many weeks right in the middle of winter.

White heliotropeHeliotrope is an old-fashioned flower that's been grown for many generations. It was popular during Victorian times and it's still a favorite of indoor and outdoor gardeners. It bears large umbels of flowers that stand atop its foliage. It's always in bloom. There are both white and purple varieties of heliotrope. Purple heliotrope smells like cherry pie and white heliotrope has a fragrance like baby powder. It's said that our sense of smell is the strongest at evoking memories and that's certainly true. Whenever I smell white heliotrope, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with the late John Quill, the former longtime local TV weatherman. In one of my TV segments I talked about fragrant house plants and had brought to the studio with me examples of each and what each plant smelled like. Because white heliotrope smells like baby powder, I had baby powder there in front of the plant to help describe its fragrance. As John was walking around the studio in his daily exercise routine, he noticed my display. I had him smell the white heliotrope and he swore I had poured the baby powder on it. To this day I'm not sure if I convinced him that I had not! Unfortunately, modern varieties of heliotrope have no fragrance, but I've kept both of these fragrant white and purple varieties going for years and years.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Asparagus Beds Don't Require Tilling"

Q. Love your column. I have had an asparagus patch for several years now. Recently, I was asked if I ever "tilled" the patch. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know if I should have been doing this all these years. Should I?

A. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that once planted should not be disturbed. Tilling is not necessary, in fact it could destroy the patch by cutting apart the roots. The only tilling required is to prepare the soil when initially planting the asparagus bed. If the tilling is to control weeds between the rows of asparagus, a better way is to put down a permanent layer of mulch such as salt marsh hay. Once planted, you can expect to harvest asparagus spears for up to 20 years. When harvesting the new shoots, never cut from below the soil level. Doing so could harm still-developing shoots. Just bend the shoots so they snap. Stop harvesting when all the stalks begin to dwindle in size. Allow these shoots to develop into the fern-like foliage.

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