Breathe in the smell of spring at Phipps' 'Scents of Wonder' flower show
It's easy to tell that spring is in the air by the sweet smell of seasonal blooms at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden's flower show, “Scents of Wonder.”
The spring show, which opened March 10 at the Oakland glasshouse, puts an emphasis on fragrances associated with the welcome return of warm weather to the garden — and the tulips, daffodils and especially hyacinths that make a strong statement that the long-awaited new season has arrived.
“We invite visitors to take a closer smell at this sensory-rich show,” says Jordyn Melino, Phipps exhibit coordinator and the show designer.
She didn't require a large quantity of hyacinths in the plantings of beds and containers that fill the conservatory's rooms since, at least when it comes to fragrance, a little hyacinth tends to go a long way.
Visitors will find the popular perennial interspersed among other flowering plants, such as primrose and delphinium and shrubs such as azaleas and hydrangeas.
It may be surprising to those of us who think only positive thoughts about spring — but Melino says not all the odors associated with the season are sweet; or, to put it in gardeners' terms, everything's not coming up roses when it involves nature's scents.
There's a reason for that, says Melino, as she enters the East Room that bears the title, “We Want the Funk,” for the show. It seems that some pollinators, such as beetles and flies, prefer funkier smells, like those that brought attention to Phipps' two infamous corpse flowers when they last bloomed in 2017.
The disagreeable odor that guests might detect in the East Room comes from examples of the unique perennial fritillaria in selected window boxes. Not all species of fritillaria emit a pungent scent, but the ‘Rubra Maxima — Crown Imperial' variety certainly does.
The family of skunks in the room fits the theme of the vignette. It includes a mama and her five babies, created by Phipps staff from bleached wheat seed heads and dyed and dried preserved reindeer moss for an effect that resembles fur.
The East Room also contains many non-offensive varieties of ‘Potomac Royal' and ‘Opus Plumblossom' snapdragons, ‘Professor Einstein' narcissus, purple ‘Balpepin' Pinstripe petunias and ‘Matrix Clear Orange' pansies.
Adding their sweet scents to the Broderie Room's formal gardens' “Enchanting Aromas” are plantings of gardenia, grape hyacinth and daffodils, and a variety of narcissus that is among the designer's favorite flowers in the spring show — the eye-catching ‘Sir Winston Churchill,' with its large creamy-white blooms with striking orange centers.
Not only blooming flowers, but fragrant herbs will add to the scents in the show, Melino says, including in the South Conservatory, which features a classic herb garden with aromatic rosemary and germander plants and citrus trees.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contrbuting writer.