These days I do not only go down to my garden to check on things. I go there to take in the scent of the mock orange next to the garden. When it is not blooming, it is an unspectacular sight but its blossoms with their intoxicating fragrance make mock orange one of my favorite shrubs.
When I smell mock orange, I feel transported back to my Tunisian grandmother’s elevated courtyard garden, which had a couple of orange trees. My grandmother died thirty years ago yet when I stand under the blooming shrub I remember it as clearly as ever.To let the lovely fragrance linger for longer, when I walk back to the house I usually stick a twig with blossoms behind my ear, like the jasmine vendors do in Tunisia. And, of course, I cut a few twigs to put in a vase or to float in a bowl of water.
Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) is easy to grow. I started mine from a root sucker taken from a friend’s huge bush that must be 50 years old. It needs space though, it can grow up to 10 feet high and wide and once established, it grows quickly. Mock orange is native to the Western US.
I cannot grow oranges in my garden but I can have a mock orange. And in the winter, I often make Tunisian Orange Cake, dreaming of the time when the mock orange will bloom again.