Fragrant Plants and Feng Shui

I taught a Feng Shui for Gardens workshop on my recent trip to O‘ahu. It’s been some time since I’ve offered this class, and in preparation, I flipped through Feng Shui for Hawai‘i Gardens and immediately threw out the outline I’d jotted down in the condo the night before. I’d forgotten how many lists I had put into this book, and so I let them be my guide to the topics I covered in the class.

Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens (Watermark Publishing, 2012)

Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens (Watermark Publishing, 2012)

Here’s a list of the lists found in Feng Shui for Hawai‘i Gardens:

  • Succulents with Round or Rounded Leaves, page 10
  • Round- or Rounded-Leaf Plants, pages 12-13
  • Native Plants with Somewhat-Rounded Leaves, page 16
  • Plants for Rock Walls, page 16
  • Plants with Red Flowers, Year-Round, pages 21-22
  • Additional Plants with Red Flowers, page 25
  • Plants with Red Leaves, page 27
  • Plants with Dragon Names, page 52
  • Upward-Shaped Plants, pages 54-56
  • Hedges, pages 64-66
  • Native Hedges, page 69
  • Trellis Plants, pages 70-71
  • White-Flowering Plants, page 92
  • White-Leafed Plants, pages 93-96
  • Yellow-Leafed Plants, page 97
  • Yellow-Flowering Plants, page 98
  • Plants with Flowing Form, page 132
  • Plants Related to Money, pages 137-138
  • Chinese Symbolic Plants, page 140
  • Windbreak Plants, page 146
  • Plants to Attract Butterflies, page 150
  • Upward Edible Plants, pages 162-163
  • Edible Climbing Plants for Screening, page 165
  • Edible Plants with Rounded Leaves, page 166
  • Fragrant Plants, pages 172-174

I’m sharing some favorite plants from one of the lists today—Fragrant Plants, which has more than three dozen fragrant plants, many of which have white blossoms, and therefore add not just scent to a garden, but can serve the feng shui purpose of making a “squeezed” area feel more expansive. If you have a “dust pan” lot, with acute angles, you would put plants with white leaves or flowers in these corners.

Pleasant fragrances are a sure but subtle way to attract good chi energy—just as unpleasant smells repel good energy. Aroma is more diffuse than a source of light or sound, but it’s important not to neglect it. Also, if you have a disagreeable neighbor, plant sweetly fragrant plants along the border between your property and theirs. You are installing sweetness and love between you and the problem.

Hawai‘i has many microclimates, and some plants that are invasive in one place are hard to grow a few miles away. Be a good neighbor and don’t plant things that are invasive in your area. If in doubt, ask a knowledgeable plant person in your area, or consult the University of Hawai‘i Weed Risk Assessment List: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/daehler/wra/full_table.asp. This is the list of plants that have weed potential in Hawai‘i. It is not definitive, and the site explains that another list is being compiled. My first choice to see if a plant has weed potential is Permacopia by Beyer and Martin.

Plant List: Fragrant Plants

(for the complete list, see Feng Shui for Hawai‘i Gardens)
    • Fragrant Plant List photos from Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens

      Fragrant Plant List photos from Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens

      Champaca, White (Michelia ×alba)—also known as pak lan or miulana ke‘oke‘o. It has a wonderful scent. (Photo: A)

    • Citrus (Citrus spp.)—the sweet smell of citrus flowers is enjoyed by all. (Photo: B)
    • Coffee (Coffea arabica)
    • Crepe Gardenia (Tabernaemontana divaricata)—sometimes called crepe jasmine. The double-flowered variety, ‘Flore Pleno,’ is fairly common.
    • Dianthus (Dianthus spp.)—good in beds or pots. Not all dianthus are fragrant, but some are spicy and wonderful. Smell them before buying them, or use seed that specifically says fragrant. Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) is ponimō‘ī in Hawaiian, and sweet William (Dianthus barabtus) is ponimō‘ī li‘ili‘i. (Photo: C)
    • Freesia (Freesia ×hybrida)—the yellow-flowered type is deliciously fragrant; the others are not.
    • Gardenia or Kiele (Gardenia augusta)—the yellow gardenia (Photo: D1) has a more exquisite smell than most white gardenias. Standard white gardenias (Photo: D2) are loved by some, but not all. Their scent is sometimes thought to be heavy and sickeningly sweet. ‘Heaven Scent’ (Photo: D3) is a wonderful white gardenia resistant to the black sooty mold that plagues the leaves of many other white gardenias. There are many low gardenias that can be used as fragrant groundcovers.
    • Ginger, White, or ‘Awapuhi Ke‘oke‘o (Hedychium coronarium) and Ginger, Yellow, or ‘Awapuhi Melemele (Hedychium flavescens)—the white variety (Photo: E1) grows easily and smells wonderful. Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum; Photo: E2) is beautiful, but try to avoid planting it; it’s tremendously invasive in wild areas, as birds transport the seeds.
    • Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)—Although it smells wonderful and the nectar is delicious, it’s hard to control this aggressive plant. A more suitable choice for a small garden might be ‘Serotina Florida’ (L. periclymenum). (Photo: F)
    • Hoya (Hoya spp.)—there are many good-smelling hoyas, but it’s hard to beat the old standard, Hoya carnosa. (Photos: G1, G2, G3)
    • Jasmine (Jasminum spp.)—there are many true jasmines that grow easily in Hawai‘i, including the well-known pīkake lahilahi (Jasminium sambac; H1). Within that species are also double pīkake (‘Grand Duke of Tuscany’) with more petals and triple pīkake (‘Bel of India’ or pīkake pupupu; Photo: H2) with even more petals.
    • Lady-of-the-Night (Brunfelsia americana)—also called queen-of-the-night. The finest choice for night fragrance. It is well-behaved, does not invade and blooms frequently. (Photo: I)
    • Magnolia (Magnolia spp.)—has a fresh, almost lemony aroma. M. grandiflora is the big southern magnolia, and there are several smaller species as well. ‘Little Gem’ is considered the best for Hawai‘i. (Photos: J1, J2)
    • Mock Lime or Chinese Rice Flower (Agalia odorata)—makes a fine potted plant, but be warned, you may find it hard to leave this enchanting fragrance. The Chinese name is mei sui lan, and in Hawaiian it’s mikilana. (Photo: K)
    • Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata)—I find the smell of the flower cloying, but many people enjoy it.
    • Orchid—there are hundreds of fragrant orchids, so you have no excuse not to grow some. ‘Sharry Baby’ (Oncidium, sometimes called chocolate orchid, L1) is a familiar one. Cattleyas (Photos: L2, L3) can be intensely fragrant. I also recommend Aerides falcata (sweet) and Aerides quinquevulnera (spicy). I further suggest you read Fragrant Orchids by Steven Frowine.

      Fragrant Plant List photos from Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens

      Fragrant Plant List photos from Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens

    • Pakalana (Telosma cordata)—the fragrance is loved by all.
    • Philodendron giganteum—has flowers with the unexpected and refreshing smell of wintergreen, especially in the evening. If appropriate, plant it outside your bedroom window. As the name suggests, the leaves are indeed gigantic—up to four feet long. (Photos: M1, M2)
    • Pittosporum tobira—flowers best at higher elevations. I mentioned this plant in my post about Plants for the Tropical Xeriscape by Fred Rauch and Paul Weissich.
    • Plumeria Vine (Chonemorpha fragrans)—it’s not related to plumeria, but the flowers look similar.
    • Pua Kenikeni (Fagraea berteriana)—available in regular, large and super-large flowers. In my opinion the regular smells the best. The exquisite fragrance spreads through a garden in an enchanting way. (Photo: N)
    • Rose—because of their thorns, roses should not be grown near pathways. A variety of very fragrant roses grow well in Hawai‘i. No other flower smells like a rose. (Photo: O)
    • Tuberose (Polianthes tuberose)—a popular flower for lei. It’s called kupaloke in Hawaiian.
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