Our Plants

October 2004 Highlight: Osmanthus fragrans forma aurantiacus
Image of O. fragrans   Image of O. fragrans flower

Many visitors to the Ruth Bancroft Garden at this time of year are struck by a sweet fragrance that perfumes the air around the Folly at the entrance to the garden. The source of this delightful scent is an evergreen bush planted along the drive, Osmanthus fragrans forma aurantiacus. While our plant is a bush, this species can eventually grow into a small tree, attaining a height of up to 30 feet.

Osmanthus is a member of the Oleaceae, or olive family, and most species are native to east Asia, though some occur in the Pacific and the southern U.S. In addition to the olive, other members of the family include jasmine and forsythia. O. fragrans is thought to be native to China, although it has been cultivated for its fragrance so widely and for so long that it is hard to pinpoint its precise place of origin. Common names for it include fragrant olive and tea olive. White or cream are the usual flower colors in the genus Osmanthus, and this holds true for the typical form of O. fragrans. However, our specimen is of the form with pale apricot flowers (forma aurantiacus). While the flowers are small, and their pastel hue is subtle rather than ostentatious, their remarkable fragrance is a wonderful addition to the garden.

Text and Photos by Brian Kemble

Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.
Centennial Celebration
We are celebrating Garden Founder Ruth Bancroft's 100th year throughout 2009. If you would like to get involved in this historic milestone, you can help by contributing to the Centennial Fund or by attending on of our many special events this year.
Grant Funders
The Ruth Bancroft Garden would like to recognize the Quest Foundation for funding our Education Coordinator’s position, and the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding our Volunteer Coordinator’s position, as well as for their generous support over the years.
The Ruth Bancroft Garden GardenConservancy