April may have a plethora of fragrant shrubs but May doesn’t do too badly either. Two distinctly different fragrant May-blooming shrubs are Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ (taking over as the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ starts to wane) and fragrant deciduous azaleas.
Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’
I moved last year to a house with a Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’. ‘Carol Mackie’ looks a bit like a refined version of Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’. The leaves are similarly edged in gold, but smaller, and the whole shrub is denser and twiggier.
During the winter of 2010/11, a tough one for Seattle, my ‘Carol’ had defoliated, which is no surprise because it falls into that semi-evergreen group. It leafed out late and bloomed little. It is located on the north side of the house as a “foundation” plant. Realistically, it receives some morning sun. I have absolutely no recollection of watering it last summer but it was a cool, wet summer. ‘Carol’ came through this past winter with all its leaves and is now blooming abundantly.
Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ cultural requirements
- Sun to part shade best
- well drained soil with some summer water
- avoid pruning
- 4′ x 4′
Exbury and other fragrant deciduous azaleas
A completely different group of fragrant plants are the deciduous azaleas called Exbury azaleas. I come from Georgia, the land of evergreen and scentless azaleas. When I moved here I found big, deciduous, fragrant shrubs in luscious shades of yellow and orange. To my astonishment, they were azaleas – I was told they were Exbury azaleas and they can be seen in many older yards in Seattle. They are biggish, rangy shrubs and when they aren’t in bloom they don’t have much else to recommend them so they may not be the ideal choice for a small yard where every plant needs to provide several seasons of interest.
Exbury azaleas actually come in more colors than yellow and orange and have an exceedingly complicated parentage. (If that kind of thing interests you go here for an Exbury breeding history lesson.) Furthermore, they aren’t the only fragrant azaleas out there. The Rhodyman.net page has well over 2 dozen fragrant deciduous azaleas listed with photos and brief descriptions.
Deciduous azalea cultural requirements
- sun to part shade
- summer water
- acidic soil (no problem around here)
- flower color and plant size varies, buy a size that won’t require pruning. I’d only buy one in bloom so I could perform a sniff test.