One of the loveliest, but remarkably underused, natives of the late spring/early summer is our native Mock Orange, Philadelphus lewisii.

The state flower of Idaho, it gets its common name from the delicious orangey scent that makes it attractive to bees and humans alike.

Flowering for several weeks starting in late May or early June, the tall, arching branches are covered with a multitude of snow-white blossoms of usually four petals, pale yellow in the center. After the petals fall, the sepals remain in a way that looks like a second, different type of flower, providing some longer seasonal interest.

The oval leaves start out in the spring as a soft green and turn yellow in the fall. Note: during May and June the gloriousness of Philadelphus lewisii can be seen (and smelled) in Portland at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, SE 7th & Sellwood Blvd.

Mock Orange

Philadelphus lewisii: Mock Orange

Philadelphus lewisii is tolerant of a wide variety of conditions, from full sun to partial shade, from moist to dry. It can survive well on available rainfall here in the valley and is known to be quite drought tolerant, though sometimes a little additional water can help it to thrive and flower more vigorously.

Mock OrangePhiladelphus lewisii makes a good garden candidate for both its startling beauty and fragrance but because of its attractiveness to bees, it isn’t the best candidate for placement near a door. Its height and arching branches make a good backdrop for other plants, adding a sense of structure and stature to the garden.

Regular light pruning will help keep your Philadelphus filled out and denser; plant a few together to provide your garden with a sweet –smelling summer privacy hedge. In any case, it is beneficial to occasionally do a rejuvenating pruning (see side bar) to keep it at its best.