For years, I've heard Margaret Moseley, my 95 year old garden guru, talk about her Cemetery Gardenia. When I was at her house recently, she got me to pick some blooms from the 15 foot tall shrub. I asked her where the cemetery was that it came from. She told me the name of the town and then revealed that she had actually been at a funeral when she spied the gardenia.
That fact sort of tickled my funny bone. I could just picture Margaret standing there while the minister read the 23rd Psalm, one eye on the family sitting under the tent and the other on the gardenia bush on the other side of the cemetery.
Margaret has many different types of gardenias, including 'First Love' and 'August Beauty'. But she cherishes the Cemetery Gardenia because it has very dark green foliage, is covered with blooms in early June and produces flowers sporadically through September. It also roots easily in water. She says the evergreen shrub has never suffered from numerous cold spells in the decades it's been in her garden. Plus, she says the flowers are more intensely fragrant than her other varieties.
Margaret firmly believes that if you live in a climate where gardenias grow, you should have one at least every 25 feet around your yard to take advantage of the sweet scent.
I asked Margaret if she had ever felt any guilt for picking that flower at a funeral.
"Oh, I think God has forgiven me," Margaret said, laughing. "I know that because He's let me root hundreds to give away."
I now have a stem of the purloined gardenia and will be watching every day for the roots to appear.