Orange smell-o-vision

I’m sure somebody somewhere is working on a technology to transmit smells over the Internet. I wish I had that technology at my fingertips today to share with you the heady scent permeating the backyard and wafting into the house through the open windows: Our Washington navel orange tree is in full bloom. Not only that, it has more blossoms this year than ever before, adding to the intensity of the fragrance.

Blossoms of Washington navel orange

A few years ago, on our way to Death Valley National Park, we drove along miles and miles of orange groves outside of Bakersfield, and the smell of orange blossoms filled the car even though we had all the windows closed.

Many poems have been written about this magnificent scent—especially in Spain where they have a dedicated word for orange flowers, azahar—and if you’ve ever experienced it yourself, you know exactly how sweet and seductive it is.


As if the perfume from an orange tree densely covered with blossoms wasn’t enough, we also have an entire row of Japanese mockorange (Pittosporum tobira) in bloom on the other side of the backyard. Pittosporum tobira isn’t even remotely related to real oranges (Citrus × ​sinensis), but the smell of its blossoms is remarkably similar.

Pittosporum tobira hedge along the backyard fence (sorry for the poor photo quality; due to the extreme contrast, it’s hard to get a good picture on a sunny day)
Pittosporum tobira with Black Lace elderberry (‘Black Lace’)
Pittosporum tobira flowers

Scents always seem to be more intense when it’s dark. Last night, I stepped out into the backyard before I went to bed, and it almost felt like I was in Seville. There, in the spring, the perfume from 20,000 orange trees blankets the city like it has for a thousand year.


  1. The great thing about strong (but nice) scents in the garden is they make people who might normally not give plants a second look or thought curious: "what's that wonderful smell?!"

    Plus you often don't even need to be able to see the plant in order to enjoy it's fragrance.

    Don't think I've ever smelled orange blossoms. :-(

    1. I agree completely about not needing to see the fragrant plant. It actually adds to the mystery.

  2. I do wonder that myself, if such a technology will soon be developed. Perfume companies would rejoice, you can sample perfumes online and no need to send them :)They are great plants and can imagine the loveliness of their scent. Scented plants and blooms add a different dimension to the garden, it catches your attention in a different way, not just visually but also by their scent.


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