It’s petunia-sniffing time again. I discovered Daddy Blue petunia while sniffing my way up and down the aisles in garden centres this spring. It’s the only way to find scented petunias, as there is seldom any mention of fragrance on plant labels. I wrote about the Madness Series last year; in particular Madness Plum, my best-smelling find at the time.
Daddy Blue is a large, gorgeous grandiflora petunia with wavy pale lavender petals and dark purple netting at the throat. Daddy Blue releases a deep vanilla scent in late afternoon and into the evening. You can sniff the perfume in the flower throats during daylight, but the deepest essence is released at twilight and into the dark hours. In the correct combination of air temperature and humidity, it floats right to you.
Judging from the vast array of petunia colours and sizes, petunia hybridizing is a huge field of work, but scent genes are apparently elusive and resist manipulation. I suspect much of the breeding work has focussed on developing double flowers and smaller plants (like multiflora and milliflora hybrids), as well as weather-resilient flowers. After several years of sampling petunias, it seems to me that the scented varieties are usually white or pale bluish purple. White, night-scented Petunia axillaris is probably the genetic ancestor supplying scent to modern petunias, but it’s unpredictable where those perfumed genes will turn up. That’s why you’ve got to get down and sniff your way along the nursery benches.
I’ve been looking for Storm Blue, part of another full-size multiflora petunia series, with a reputedly perfumed blue flower in its mix. Seeds are available (damseeds.ca), but it’s late to start them now. So far, I haven’t encountered the Storm Series at a nursery, but it is sold in Canada. If you should notice it, grab a box or three of Storm Blue and join the scented petunia club!