I grew up in Los Angeles, where warm temperatures, blue skies, and ever-blooming flora and fauna blend the seasons together. Though it’s been more than 20 years since I left, nothing takes me back to the sunny, carefree days of my childhood faster than the scents and smells that abound in so many parks and gardens in the Golden State.
Jasmine and gardenias can fill a neighborhood with sweetness, and citrus blossoms in winter are special. But as far as I’m concerned, the defining smell of Southern California is Eucalyptus.
My earliest memory of the fresh, spicy scent was on a Kindergarten field trip to the LA Zoo, where towering eucs line the pathways (and feed koalas, too).
Eucalyptus trees grow along freeways, anchor steep embankments, and seem to crown every distant hillside.
Bark ranges from near white to near black, as seen in this picture taken near Griffith Park (in a driving rain, alas). I think the contrast is really striking, though it was obviously more vivid in person.
On breezy days, the fresh scent of their leaves can even fill a car that has its windows up.
During a recent visit to San Diego, I couldn’t help but wonder if the men who imported Eucalyptus in hopes of a new lumber source had any idea they would contribute so meaningfully to the beauty of the state.
When I moved to Atlanta and began landscaping my yard, it never occurred to me that one of my favorite trees from the arid Southwest would also thrive in the humid Southeast. But, a passing comment from a friend inspired a quick Google search, and . . . that’s how I found Southern Eucs! I purchased Neglecta and Ripper varieties, and both are beautiful. They’ve shown promising growth, especially in the trunk, and their ease of care has been a welcome contrast to the nurture most other shrubs and trees require.
For all these reasons, I love Eucalyptus trees. My hope is that mine will create the same sort of happy “scent memories” for my children that I cherish from my youth.