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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sweet Tea Olive Comes in From the Cold


My tea olives are like many other New Englanders; they go to warm places for the cold season. After months outside in my Connecticut garden, these little shrubs with the big perfume have come in from the chill. 


I never would have known the tea olive (aka sweet olive, aka Osmanthus fragrans) would live happily indoors had it not been for the owner of an Asian art gallery in Atlanta. Years ago, I admired the sweet little olive plant inside the gallery she and her husband owned. Assuming it was indoors temporarily, I asked how long it had been inside the building which was geting medium light.

“Five years,” was the surprising answer.

That very day I dug two from my garden in Atlanta, where they were hardy, potted them and grew them indoors until we moved to New England seven years later. During that time the fragrance from the plants covered a lot more air space than the tiny white blooms would indicate.

Here in colder climes that has not changed; with only one or two blooms, the living room is lit sweetly, especially in the morning when temperatures shift from low to higher. As the season goes on and that overnight shift becomes more dramatic, so will the bloom production – and the perfume.

How welcome it will be as the unnaturally heated air enjoys less and less recycling. Sweet olive, along with other fragrant bloomers, will bring a good dose of nature’s good smells to the house, along with a natural soothing.

What this plant is is aromatherapy. I’m sure glad I can get it here because wintering in Florida is not an option.

20 comments:

  1. Hey, Lee. I LOVE tea olives and didn't know they could be kept indoors. This is fabulous news. We have two large tea olives on each side of the front porch, which perfume the neighborhood when in bloom. Having one indoors sounds heavenly. It is absolutely amazing how much fragrance can come from one of those tiny blooms, isn't it? Happy aromatherapy! :-)

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    1. Beth, a lot of people I've talked with didn't know this either. Glad you now know that your indoors can have that same amazing fragrance.

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  2. This sweet plant is way better than an expensive move to Florida for the season. Aromatherapy goes a long way toward soothing the restless gardener up here in winter! If you can't have warmth, at least have fragrance : )

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    1. Laurrie, this is definitely a win-win-win situation.

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  3. I'm not familiar with sweet tea olives, but they must have a wonderful fragrance from your description. Do they bloom year round? Unfortunately, your photos did not come through.

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    1. L, mine bloom mostly fall to winter, with some sparse blooming in other seasons. Sorry about the photos. Try another browser, and see if that works.

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  4. what do you think it smells like?...i have one and i think it smells like peaches!and he lives outdoors even if it freezes and never had a problem..knock wood!

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    1. I think mine smell like a cross between jasmine and honeysuckle. Delicious. If the planet continues to warm, I suspect mine will survive outside. In fact I almost left one in the ground for the winter but brought it in, wanting more aromatherapy.

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  5. This sounds like a wonderful addition for all of us who must spend part of the year with the windows closed to keep out the cold. We can use all the aromatherapy we can get! I'm going to search locally to see if this plant is available here, thanks :)

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    1. Rosemary, I hope you can find one. You'll never tire of its delightful fragrance.

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  6. that sounds so wonderful! i just checked logee's website, and the 2.5"-pot size plants are still available. i may have to make a run up there...

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    1. Bringing one home could be a sweet thing.

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  7. I am not familiar with this plant. It is obviously a Southern plant. It sounds like one I would really like. Having a natural fragrance during winter would sweeten the heavy dull heat of winter. Medium light...my house if full of medium to low light. Those blooms look so tiny it must take many of them to create an aroma to fill the air.

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    1. True, it is not advertised as hardy in the North, but you know how it is: Somebody somewhere in the North grows this plant outside in the ground. I might be one of those next year, as the climate continues to warm.

      But growing it inside is the thing this time of year, Lisa, and some nurseries in the North are selling it, including several I know here in Connecticut.

      No, no, it does *not* take a lot of blooms to perfume the air. Each tiny flower really does cover a lot of air space.

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  8. A wonderful plant to spend the winter indoors, sending out such special fragrance. I love this plant. When I bought mine some years ago I was advised it was not reliably hardy north of Montgomery. But, I bought it anyway. Several winters I kept it indoors. Finally decided to plant it outdoors. It is hardy and is most always covered in bloom, except Summer months.

    The real find, though, several years ago, was Osmanthus fragrans, 'Fudingzhu'. The blooms are much larger, the clusters are larger. The fragrance is powerful.

    I know you will enjoy spending the Winter with yours.

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    1. Hey, Barbara, your experience planting it outdoors in northern Alabama makes me believe that any year, maybe next year, tea olive will survive up here in Connecticut. I like that 'Fudingzhu' too. I give it its own floor, which it easily perfumes. Enjoy.

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  9. I've kept my tea olive on my deck for many years, but repotted it recently after moving it. The idea of bringing it indoors never occurred to me, Lee. The thought of having that heavenly scent inside the house is almost too much to handle.

    Thanks for this awesome tip.

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    1. I'm glad you like the idea. Once you bring one in, you'll never want the house to be without that fragrance. The good thing is the fragrance is neither constant nor overpowering. Enjoy.

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  10. Lee, this is cj, another reader on digginri. For some reason, I couldn't get the "comment as" to identify ne. I'm not really trying to be anonymous on the tea olive post. I love your blog and am very happy to have found it.

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    1. Hey, CJ, I'm happy you found me, and I'm glad to know you love my writings. I appreciate you. Enjoy the fragrance.

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