Garden in Bloom

February at the Botanical Garden

With Orchid Mania:Vibrant Vietnam fully underway and winter blooming witch-hazels unfurling their flowers, February is the perfect time to get your fragrant floral fix indoors and out here at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

There are plenty of orchids of all shapes and sizes gracing the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouses, the Clark Hall exhibit gallery, and the exquisitely transformed hallways. You will find some orchids that are seemingly scentless, for example a majority of the moth orchids (Phalaenopsis cultivars) on display lack a detectable fragrance. Do not be discouraged! While fragrance may vary from day to day, person to person, or flower to flower, the following should help to sniff out the waft-worthy winners.

Dendrochilum glumaceum
Dendrochilum glumaceum

In Clark Hall there is an exhibit of orchids of Southeast Asian origin, some fragrant, some not. The Dendrochilum glumaceum exudes a warm yet bright, slightly spicy scent of citrus and sweet almond. Come for the delicately arranged white flowers, stay for the inviting aroma. Not too far from this orchid in the northwest corner of Clark Hall you will find the sharp, demanding fragrance of the Rhynchostylis gigantea ‘Cartoon.’ A soft sniff is all that is required to experience the nasal sensation of pine and orange zest. Cross the room and visit the Coelogyne lactea orchid for a tantalizingly strange fragrance. Try your hand at describing this unique blend of aromatics that hits you in the back of the nose and leaves you curious for more.

gongora orchids
Gongora orchids

The streets of Vietnam can be entirely stimulating. The impossibly dainty yellow flowers of Oncidium cheirophorum produce an intoxicating, sweet citrus perfume and the mottled maroon Oncidium Sharry Baby ‘Sweet Fragrance’ exudes a more grounding scent reminiscent of chocolate. In the Costa Rica biome be sure not to miss the Gongora orchids in hanging baskets beneath the strangler fig canopy. Suspended in midair, these structurally intriguing flowers exude an intoxicating jasmine-like scent. Be sure to sniff around as the flowers near the top of the dangling inflorescence tend to be more fragrant than those below.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’

Alas, we’ve travelled around the world and back sniffing the exotic scents of tropical orchids but let us not forget the wonders in our own backyard! Witch-hazel shrubs (Hamamelis) offer a variety of colors and light, citrusy fragrance in the otherwise monochromatic days of February. For those of us eager for spring, bundle up and head out to experience the Tim Burton-esque blooms! The alluring red blooms of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’ are on display in the Secret Garden nestled between the Terrace and the Rose Garden. Here you can get up close and personal with the kinked ribbon-like petals and on a warmer day enjoy the lemony fragrance. In the Campsey-Stauffer Gateway Entrance Garden enjoy the yellow blooms of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Primavera’ and later in the month Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise.’ Both have lovely, fragrant yellow flowers and are planted en masse in the bed that runs parallel to East Boulevard. Hamamelis vernalis ‘Lombart’s Weeping’ situated at the northwest end of the parking garage entrance holds tight to its brown leaves (a characteristic known as marcescent leaves) but on closer inspection the small orange flowers unfurl whimsically from winter buds. Just be sure to mind parking garage traffic! Other Hamamelis species and cultivars can be found blooming in the Sunken Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Hershey Children’s Garden, and the Western Reserve Herb Society’s Medicinal Garden. Come through and enjoy the indoor and outdoor delights of the season!