Scents of Summer in the Garden – Comox Valley Record


Finally – good weather for our gardens – the plants are starting to take off now.

And the perfume! I have become the garden where I grew up in Victoria again.

One of my first gardening chores that my dad bequeathed to me when I was about seven years old was trimming the patch of clove roses at the top of our sloping driveway. I probably inherited the job since I always picked bouquets of these fragrant flowers for my mother.

But what better job to introduce myself to garden chores than working around a fragrant plant?! I gladly gave up climbing trees to sit down and cut the faded flowers.

Dianthus plumarius, more commonly known as roses, cottage roses, garden roses or my favorite – clove roses, has long been a staple in cottage gardens, cutting gardens and gardens. curbs. It is a relatively “bullet resistant” evergreen perennial with a long flowering time (if kept dead) and few pest or disease problems.

Placement in the garden is important though. Although clove roses can tolerate most soil types, they do need good drainage or they may develop crown and/or fungal rot. A sunny site in the garden is beneficial for flowering, but in warm climates they like a little relief from the afternoon sun (this is more true during the periodic heat waves we are beginning to experience).

Once established, this plant is drought tolerant, as well as deer tolerant. Some references claim that slugs, aphids, caterpillars, cutworms and thrips are problematic, but we haven’t seen any on our roses.

However, we see lots of bees and butterflies in the flowers and occasionally hummingbirds. Certainly a useful plant addition to any garden design.

Another interesting addition to the plant is dictamnus albus despite its unusual common name of gas plant (this plant is also known as dictamnus fraxinella ‘rosea’. Totally confusing, huh?)

We receive many questions about this plant from visitors to our garden. It’s easily noticeable at three feet (0.9m) tall and in full bloom, being on the edge of the bed as it is but where it really shouldn’t be. Reason #1: For its height, I should have planted it more towards the middle of the bed. Reason #2: This plant prefers full sun and is in my shady bed where it only gets morning sun. Therefore, the plant should be surrounded by a peony ring to correct its inclination towards the light. Otherwise, it would lay almost flat on the floor.

Why not move it, you ask? Good question. The answer is: I can’t. It turns out that the dictamnus is rather a capricious plant. Along with wanting full sun, annual fertilization, and regular watering throughout the season, it absolutely hates being moved. And I have this information on a very good authority from none other than Hans Hansen who is the propagator/breeder at Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina. (I actually asked him.)

So the plant stays where it is with its peony ring in place. It does, however, make it easier to smell the flowers. In the heat of the day, there is a slight lemon smell produced by the oily compounds in the plant (Warning: some people find these oily compounds irritating to the skin).

But the gasworks deserves its name because there’s also a highly flammable organic compound in the oils that will cause a freshly lit match to flare when held against a flower. Be warned. It is not recommended to test this fact or the whole plant may catch fire!

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Our garden is open Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact me at if you need directions.

Leslie Cox is co-owner of Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. His website is at



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