The Scent Of Sugar

Tea Olive

Tea Olive

Known to have one of the sweetest scents in all the plant kingdom, one small, blooming specimen of Osmanthus fragrans can perfume an entire room.  Also known as Tea Olive or Sweet Olive, I first learned of this plant when reading “The Unexpected Houseplant” by Tovah Martin.

An avid houseplant aficionado and tropical plant expert, Ms. Martin had included a photo of a potted Tea Olive, which quite frankly didn’t look like much.  It was only a few feet tall, gangly and spindly, sparsely clothed in finely toothed, linear shaped leaves.  The white flowers were so small, they were hardly noticeable, despite the lack of foliage.  And yet, the written description was so enticing that I could not wait to go online and order one for myself.

Ms. Martin assured me that, though the plant itself would not grow quickly, nor reach more than a few feet as a houseplant, it was easy to bring into bloom in January, in my zone 5 window.  The scent, she wrote, was like “sugar sprinkled on the air”. Who can resist a description such as that?  I had no idea what sugar sprinkled on the air smelled like, but I knew that if it was possible to have such a thing in the gardenless month of January, I was definitely going to give it a try.

When my plant arrived last Fall, I could see she was right.  It wasn’t much to look at!  But bloom it did.  I potted my 2 year old, bare root, 18 inch tall shrub, gave it my blessing and a prime location on my desk, under an East/South window where it would get the morning and midday light.  It started blooming in December, only two months into its new location.  Unbelievably, as I write this, it is blooming still, while just a few inches beyond the windowsill the air outside is a frigid -16 below.

At first, I didn’t even notice the tiny blooms.  So gangly and unobtrusive is my Tea Olive that I barely gave it a glance, sitting behind a host of other, more lush and colorful potted plants.  But there was no ignoring the scent.  It drew me in, eager to find the source.  Now, my day is not complete without pressing my nose to the tiny white petals, closing my eyes in pure bliss and trying to inhale as much of the sweet perfume as my breath allows.

Despite the decidedly sweet aspect of its odor, the scent is not sickeningly so, nor is it cloying or overpowering.  It is light, gentle on the brain, refreshing and pleasant.  Other descriptions I have read liken the scent to apricots or peaches, with a touch of jasmine, but I don’t find those descriptions very fitting.  They don’t it justice.  Words fail the olfactory sensation.  Ms. Martin said it best.

So, what does “sugar sprinkled on the air smell like?”  Pure heaven. PLANT SPECS:

  • Evergreen, shrub
  • Natural outdoor habitat is China, approximately 30 degrees Latitude.  In the U.S., that would put it’s cold hardiness range in Florida and the southern half of Texas, in zones 8b through 10.  Some websites, however, have suggested ranges as broad as through zone 7b.
  • Tea Olive is the subject of several romantic Lunar legends, and used extensively during the Chinese Moon Festival.  The flowers are also used in the production of perfumes and herbal remedies, and added to tea leaves to make scented tea.
  • Growth Rate:  Slow to moderate, to about 3 feet indoors.  Can be pruned to encourage more branching, as leaves grow on the branch tips and the plant will get very leggy with time.
  • Bloom Period:  Indoors, will bloom intermittently from October through early Spring.

Welcome, Author Introduction

Collector Crocus

Collector Crocus


Once, not so long ago, I did a lot of research on why it is that I just can’t sleep well at night.  Let me rephrase that…. why I just can’t sleep well period.  Night didn’t seem to have anything to do with it.

I tried all the various sleep aid advice.  No caffeine, don’t drink after X p.m., don’t eat after X p.m., DO eat after X p.m., supplements, douse the light, shut off the electronics, listen to relaxing music, hypnosis, exercise, meditate, develop a routine…. yadda, yadda, yadda.  In the end, I was still sleepless, but a lot more educated about it.

I became obsessed with the whole light issue, and it’s affect on me, you, the plants and animals.  It leaked over into my writing life and eventually light became the focus of most of what I write about, sometimes directly, often indirectly, but always there, always reacting with us.  (Note I said “reacting”, a reverse action response of stimuli).

Light, and it’s corresponding absence (dark) has a profound effect on all of life.  So what happens when day is no longer easily distinguished from night?  When you pull all the shades in your house and flip all the switches off at midnight and there is STILL enough light within your home to wander room to room by sight alone?

You learn new words, as I did.  Words like “light pollution”, “scotobiology”, “phototropism” and “photoperiodism”.  I learned some helpful stuff, but I learned some scary stuff too, about disease caused from too much light, and biological and behavioral changes in plants and animals.  And us.

To be clear, I’m not writing this to descry conspiracy theories or pull a red flag and shout warnings from the rooftop.  Rather, I’ve developed this blog, and two others, because I want to explore more fully the link between light, dark, and the world around us.  And because I think maybe we would all be a little better off if we stepped off the gerbil wheel for a moment and tried to work in conjunction with our planets cycle.  At least part of the time.

For the sake of clearly defining my particular interests I have three main topics… 1) Plants and animal life, 2) Science, and 3) Spirituality.  I write articles about plants, sci-fi stories, and inspirational fiction.  Those three may seem incompatible at first glance, but when you throw light into the equation you see that they are all linked, as are the three blogs I have created to address them.  One geared towards plants, one toward science, and one exploring our spirituality.

By way of introduction, this (my first blog entry), is the same on all three blogs.  But hereafter, entries will be tailored to meet the specific slant and subject matter of each.  Feel free to contact me and leave comments for discussion.

And please…. do come back and travel this journey of light with me.  I look forward to meeting you.