Smell is said to be the sense that triggers the most powerful memories, and whenever I catch a whiff of eucalyptus I am brought to my grandmother’s kitchen table, where she loves to have a vase with fresh eucalyptus and sprigs of pussy-willow blooms to smell and touch. Eucalyptus is a great companion in the clematis vase or with any flower arrangement, adding texture, fragrance and foliage. It can be purchased at the flower market or be grown at home in large containers; those living in mild coastal areas may be able to successfully grow hardier eucalyptus right in their garden beds.
Eucalyptus has a mildly menthol fragrance believed to help relieve chest congestion and open the lungs. Usually tropical-looking, the grey-blue glaucous foliage works well in bouquets as it accents every colour in nature’s flower palette.
Growing eucalyptus in containers is easy as it is drought tolerant and doesn’t mind having having tight quarters for the roots; its fragrance makes it naturally pest resistant. Do remember to move the container to a sheltered location, perhaps indoors or in the greenhouse, when winter comes and be sure to not overwater. During summer, when the plant is actively growing, snip and enjoy sprigs often, as eucalyptus can take regular pruning and will regrow quickly. Keep in mind that eucalyptus can secrete a toxin that prevents other plants from growing near its root zone, so if you are underplanting, use caution; plant an inexpensive seed or bedding plant rather than a favourite family heirloom perennial.
Two hardier varieties with nice foliage are snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila) and silver dollar (E. cinerea). Both are easily found at garden centres and farmer’s markets and can be propagated by seed or cuttings.
Grow eucalyptus and create long-lasting memories with its fragrance that will last for generations.