The pristine white flowers with a special, orange-blossom-like scent make the mockorange a staple of late spring flowers and fragrance in a garden. Mockoranges are currently out of fashion and much maligned by garden gurus but a season without them would be a miss!
Depicted are the flowers of the magnificent ‘Snow Velvet’ cultivar of the Western U.S. native mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii) “discovered” by Lewis & Clark.
Powell Gardens’ Snow Velvet Mockorange can be seen below the wall south of the Cafe. It has the most showy blossoms of any of our mockoranges with a good scent too. It often has some repeat bloom through the summer.
We are lucky to display an heirloom Sweet Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius) I obtained as a division from a shrub that is well more than 100 years old from a friend’s farm near Decorah, Iowa. Sweet Mockorange was grown on many family farms across the Midwest and often persist near abandoned buildings to this day. They have the sweetest scent and bring back many fond memories. They also are a good nectar source for butterflies and insects.
The heirloom sweet mockorange is often blasted as a poor plant but this heirloom has full flowers of freshest fragrance. It makes a huge vase or fountain shaped shrub. Look for this plant south of the Visitor Center, another one is on the Island Garden.
We have other mockoranges on the grounds but none are as magnificent as these two. The cultivar ‘Innocence’ in the Perennial Garden’s “white garden” may have the sweetest scent but is a weaker grower with marbled variegation to the leaves. The cultivar ‘Belle Etoile‘ (on the upper edge of the Perennial Garden) is currently just budded and has purplish centers to richly fragrant blooms. There is one Missouri native species; just entering the state in its southwesternmost corner: the Downy Mockorange (Philadelphus pubescens). The Mockoranges are a taxonomist’s nightmare and often defy identification to species with lots of regional variability. Who cares what they are called, enjoy their special fragrance and exquisite white flowers.