Plant of the Week: Philadelphus “Sybille”

I am not sure why the great tribe of mock orange shrubs is named after brotherly love: the charms of this one suggest another sort of love altogether, and very much the feminine form of it. This is a property shared by many of the hybrids raised by Victor Lemoine (1823-1912). Their amorous fragrance blesses the air of our suburbs throughout June and early July. They were bred to fit into small gardens, and they now account for the majority of mock-oranges in Britain.

It is hard to choose a favourite: “Belle Étoile” has to come near the top, with a beautiful purple blotch on her abundant flowers, but “Sybille” is a little smaller and has a sprawling beauty all her own, as well as an equal perfume.

These shrubs flower on the previous year’s growth, so to keep them abundant, you need to remove all the branches which have flowered in the current year. If you do this in September, you can simply stick the old branches in the ground and most of them will break into leaf the next spring. Mock-oranges are very easy to propagate. They are perfect material for the harmless garden thief, or kepokleptos. But of the gentle art of kepoklepsy, I shall have more to say another time.