After a rainy and unseasonably cold spring, May has arrived and promises a wealth of gorgeous and wonderfully scented flowers that will beautify gardens and walkways. With New Orleans’ rich, tropical and subtropical climate—particularly in the hot, humid summer—it is only natural that flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors should come to bloom here. There are too many to name, but there are a few that stand out.
The gardenia is one of the most well-known and most popular flowers you’ll find. Before you see it, you’ll likely smell its unique fragrance wafting by you, particularly in the streets of the French Quarter and other stretches of homes with ornate gardens. It is a spring and summer-flowering plant, and its predominant month is May. It is also referred to as cape jasmine if you ask around town.
The magnolia is perhaps the most prominent flower representing the city as it is the official state flower of Louisiana. You can find many magnolia trees with blossoms opening up throughout the season, but also others as it is actually an evergreen. It has a lovely, unique smell and a large and distinct shape that you won’t miss if you pass it. The Magnolia has inspired names of buildings, gathering sites and even a Mardi Gras Indian tribe.
Chinese wisteria blooms in April and May. You’ll also see this vines growing wild in the wooded areas. It is the most beautiful shade of purple. The Court of Two Sisters down on Royal Street has a vine that covers the entire courtyard and is over a 100 years old. I don’t recommend the food but do stop in for dessert and coffee and admire the wisteria.
Oleander is another evergreen shrub or small tree you’ll find throughout the city, particularly on many neutral grounds. The plant is easily maintained, hence its prevalence both in gardens and neutral grounds. While it is beautiful, it is also highly and deceptively toxic so don’t touch the flowers or you’ll get the oil on your hands and potentially spread the poison.
On my walk from the car to Jazz Fest, I was taken aback by the plethora of big and beautiful hibiscus flowers in gardens throughout Mid-City. This is also another common garden plant in the city, as it is both shapely and adorns with lovely colors.
These are just a few of the many flowers you’ll see and smell on walks around the streets of NOLA this spring and summer.