You can grow unique plants, such as almond verbena, and foster a sweet-smelling garden.
• Aloysia virgata
• Unlike lemon verbena (A. triphylla), which smells like citrus, almond verbena smells like baby powder.
We frequently encounter products that attempt to mimic natural fragrances, but it’s highly unusual to find a plant that smells like a household product. Enter almond verbena. It smells strongly and unmistakably of baby powder.
Driving home from the nursery with the blooming plant, I found the scent to be almost overpoweringly sweet. At home, I planted it near the back of a border, where the fragrance could waft pleasantly through the air. Don’t put it where people will brush against it frequently, as oils in the foliage can provoke dermatitis. My almond verbena produced heavy flushes of flowers every two to three weeks through the summer. When in full flower, it looks as though it’s covered with a bolster of creamy white bloom. The blooms attract many insects, particularly bees. When not in bloom, the plant is undistinguished. Since almond verbena blooms in flushes, it’s either looking and smelling spectacular or doing nothing at all.
Aloysia virgata is perennial where winter temperatures do not drop below zero. In areas with little frost, it can form a small tree up to 15 feet high with a cascading habit. In colder regions, it will die back to the ground in the winter, making a dieback shrub to 6 feet. In winter hardiness Zones 6 and above, it must be treated as an annual. It grows quickly. A gallon plant planted in late spring can reach 4 to 6 feet by the end of the growing season.
Almond verbena prefers fertile soils and moderate moisture. My plant wilted during hot spells, which seemed to delay bloom. In hot areas, provide some afternoon shade and water with care.
Almond verbena is not widely used for culinary or medicinal purposes, but the aroma will intrigue your garden guests. They won’t believe that you found a plant that smells exactly like baby powder.
Caleb Melchior grows unusual herbs and perennials and studies for a Master of Landscape Architecture degree.
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