Need Fragrant 'Wall of China'

hobbyfarmJuly 29, 2008

I am in zone 7b, on the Eastern shore of Virginia. Across the street from my home are 8 giant 200 foot chickensheds, each containing thousands of broiler chickens.

I looking to plant a living fragrance factory beside the road in order to mitigate this smell and provide attractive blooms. The species and cultivars need to be such that there is continuous blooming from early spring to late fall( cold temps should dampen the smell enough during winter). About the best I could put together are gardenias, osmanthus fragrans, and josee lilacs(you deadhead and they come back supposedly) with some "Virginian" stock planted each year around their bases until they take off. A few butterfly bushes may be included just to attract their namesake.

Another problem is they cannot be poisonous to grazing animals... this eliminates sweet peas, many bulbs, and many of the great smelling datura and nightshade species.

Thanks for any input you may have!


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I suggest you plant lots of 'michelia albas' and 'ylang-ylangs' (cananga odorata). They are small and large trees respectively with small flowers but with legendary wafting power. They will not only mitigate the smell but will surprise the chickens and your neighbors across the street as well. They're just not cold hardy though. :)


    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 11:57PM
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snasxs(7-8 VA)

tropical, do you know what is zone 7? Michelia albas and ylang ylang cannot survive!

Hobby farm, how about a great wall of Franklinias?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 1:12AM
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Those seem like they would be ok, hardiness wise, but I dunno if they would have a powerful enough fragrance. You are the first person from whom I have heard of Franklinias. If they proved to have enough power, I would still need early spring to mid summer shrubs to complement them.
Another thing is that I used to live in Raleigh and Winston-Salem(10+ years in Winston, 3 in raleigh)... and I can't see those climes as being that much different than ESVA. Maybe the USDA messed up?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 1:28PM
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After looking at various perennials and shrubs, I give up. It is just too hard to coordinate the different species to give solid, overpowering fragrance from march to november in my zone 7b.
I can't take a chance that a 500'x4' stretch of road planted perennials won't do the job.
So I am just going to plant stock (Matthiola incana), multiple times a year. The key now is to find the cheapest, bulk seed in this possible. The best price I have found so far is stokes seeds... but still a lot for what seems like a mustard.
I'll also need to devise a way to spread about a 1/4 oz amount of this over 2000 square feet. That seems like the planting density most sites suggest.
Any suggestions?... and sorry if you were getting revved to post about a bunch of shrubs/ perennials. I just can't make that kind of permanent investment right now on the scale I would need. Also, this plant seems healthy for livestock to eat.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 4:40PM
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Hobbyfarm, do you know a source of matthiola incana plants? I am not good with seeds and don't need a "wall of China". lol

Any help will be appreciated.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 11:26PM
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I won't be buying plants, but I will be purchasing bulk seed from either Stokes or Johnny's. One of them may have plants for sale... as I am gonna be starting plants from seed, maybe I can tell you about my experience.

Sorry I took so long to respond... I considered this thread to be kinda closed and gave up on it.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 8:48PM
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Hobbyfarm, do you have a fence along the intended stretch of land? Because you could plant honeysuckle all along it--hardy scented plants. Plus, because they're shrubs, you wouldn't have to keep replanting them each year.

Also, I was wondering if planting any tall hedge might help ameliorate the stench--and also hide the eyesore. Maybe a hedge of one of the conifers--something that grows in your local area--with aromatic leaves to help absorb the odour. Maybe with honeysuckle growing through them?

As an alternative, you could limit your planting to the side of your house or immediate garden (rather than the whole property) that is downwind of the chicken sheds. This will save considerably on cost (and plant maintenance) and allow you to plant a variety of plants so that you will always have at least one species in flower during the required period.

I suspect that the kind of effect you're after--something that flowers continuously from spring to autumn with a perfume-factory strength--might not be possible and that the best you could do is simply reduce the smell.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 8:03PM
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I do not have a fence yet. Someone pitched the conifer idea, but I dunno. It seems like temporary and good looking cutting flowers, that could be reconverted to pasture with little cost, might be better for me on this very unfamiliar piece of land. I may end up planting fruit trees so that the light falling near the road gets used.

So much needs to be done to the house, but my wife at least wants me to try to grown a strip of something good looking next spring.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 9:01PM
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I'm with Cestrum on this one -- I don't think you can build a "wall of fragrance across the road that will drown out the smell of thousands of chickens, but a tight hedge might filter out some of the smelly breezes blowing your way and would block the view.

An alternative would be a fence, chain-link or trellised, with fast growing vines planted at the bottom. Japanese honeysuckle would be perfect here -- it's wonderfully fragrant, fast-growing, and tough -- but alas, it's also very invasive and would take over the neighborhood like a bad 70s monster movie.

I would build your fragrance wall a lot closer to your house, and therefore you noses, rather than across the road. That way you can try some of the more potent hardy shrubs like roses, osmanthus fragrans, privet or sweetbay magnolia; tropicals like cestrum nocturnum, true jasmines,or carolina jessamine, and annuals in pots.

By the way, you should know matthiola is only fragrant at night, and it isn't powerful to all noses; consider a visit to a local garden center or public garden (D.C's got the Natl Arboretum and the U.S. Botanical Garden) so you can sniff things in person, the last thing you need is to plant a whole bunch of something that, when it blooms, doesn't smell as nice as you hoped!

Finally, if the farm is really stinky, it's possible they're not complying with all the rules and regs, check with your neighbors; together, you might be able to get them to change their operations so as to be less odiferous.

Hope this helps!


    Bookmark   October 14, 2008 at 9:12PM
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If you want something good-looking next spring, then your best bet is to keep it small and build your fragrant garden right up against the house, on the side that's downwind of the smell. Set a few trellises against the house and dig a few borders in front of them, and plant, plant, plant with a range of scented climbers (on the trellises)--especially around your windows and doors--and a selection of plants in the borders, from scented bulbs to scented perennials and shrubs. This will give you something pretty and sweet-smelling in all three seasons, and help kill the odour where it counts most--in your house. The planting along the road is of a much larger scale and so will take more time to implement, and I think it's something you need to give a little more thought to.

But you can get working on the 'house garden' asap. I'm sure your wife would be delighted!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2008 at 7:24PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yikes! I'm not sure that there is anything in the whole wide world that will disguise the smell of a chicken factory. If you haven't experienced it, no amount of description can define it. Much worse, in my opinion, than a beef or pig factory.

hobbyfarm, please let us know what you decide to use and whether or not you are pleased with the results.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 12:34PM
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alright, I have another question... can I go ahead and sow sweet peas now to get a jumpstart on spring here in 7b?(I know, it violates my condition of being non toxic, but I am desperate). At this time, it is in the mid 60's, and projected to continue like this for a week at the beginning of November.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 7:53PM
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I haven't grown sweetpeas myself, my balcony gets too hot in summer, but my understanding is you can only sow them in fall if you have very mild winters, otherwise, they'll kick the bucket. I would start seed indoors 8 weeks before the regular last frost date in little peat pots of soil, then plant them outside when it's safe, and you'll have a wall of blooms soon!


    Bookmark   November 7, 2008 at 9:36PM
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