With the promise of a sweet Southern spring around the corner, we thought it was time to dust off our Southern Stems column! So far we’ve covered south of the Mason-Dixon Line favorites camellias, wisterias, and Texas blue bonnets, and today, it’s the gardenia’s turn.
Though I have many loves, gardenias are without a doubt my favorite Southern flower. Aside from their gorgeous looks, their smell is absolutely divine. (Strong, but divine.) I also love how something so precious is at the same time so common, at least in the South. Almost every house in my neighborhood has a bush, and I snapped this perfect bloom — one of many we passed! — on a walk one evening last June.
Elizabeth Messina via Mindy Weiss, Martha Stewart Weddings, Beaux Arts Photographie
The most common variety of gardenias, gardenia jasminoides, is native to Southern China and Japan, but has found a happy home in the American South. No surprise, since they are a majorly heat-loving plant! Gardenias are also known as Cape Jasmine.
Elizabeth Scott Photography via Southern Weddings, Eric Kelley via Wedding Chicks
Another reason gardenias are perfect for the South? They represent grace and hospitality — perfect for planting beside your front porch! Gardenias are actually a species of evergreen, so they keep their gorgeous glossy dark green leaves all winter. The leaves are beautiful to include in wedding arrangements, too!
Kallie Brynn via Southern Weddings, Kate Harrison via Style Me Pretty, Simple Color via Elizabeth Anne Designs, Brookelyn Photography via The Bride’s Cafe
Gardenias were particularly popular in weddings in the ’60s and ’70s, and are still a favorite with classic brides today. A few tips if you’re planning on using them in your own celebration: Make sure you like the smell! As noted above, gardenias have a strong scent, so even one bloom in a bouquet can make an impact.
Ashley McCormick via Southern Weddings, Eclectic Images, Elizabeth Messina via Style Me Pretty, Laura Gordon via Southern Weddings
Also, while gardenias’ petals are delightfully creamy, they’re also exceptionally fragile, and too much handling can cause the petals to turn brown quickly. If you’re planning to pin a bloom in your hair, reserve two blossoms with your florist — that way, you can change it out post-ceremony to keep things fresh for the reception. Or, opt for a faux version — DK Designs makes a clay beauty we love!
A Bryan Photo via Martha Stewart Weddings and unknown
Do you love gardenias as much as I do? Anyone out there who can’t stand the smell? Will y’all incorporate them into your wedding? I’d love to hear!
Nancy Ray is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!