Autumn olive. When traveling north on 519 above our farm, it is easy to overlook the waves of autumn olives dancing from side to side throughout the hay fields. If you know what you are looking at out in the fields, it becomes apparent there are hundreds, if not thousands of these incredibly fragrant bushes scattered along wood lines and unsown marshy fields of Kingwood. On a run along the Delaware River today, I was in constant contact with the unmistakable aroma eminating from the tiny white flowers of the autumn olives nestled beneath the sycamores, viburnum, oaks, maples and dying ash trees.
We have a number of autumn olive bushes throughout our acre or so of woods. For the first few years we didn’t realize what we were experiencing. Honeysuckle? Not yet. Lilacs? Not in the woods. Wysteria? Not enough of them to notice. Even this year we took the kids through the trails in our woods and Tiffany remarked, “oh that’s what it is. The autumn olive.” We always forget about its humble beauty.
Up until a couple of years ago there was a lonely autumn olive located on the southwestern corner of our property. Standing next to a wide swath of irrepressible mugwort, the lone lime leafed bush needed to go. We didn’t know at the time what we were going to plant in its place, but the olive just didn’t fit in. And its roots seemed to agree. After clipping the base of the bush with the tractor a few times, one day I came out to walk the property line and the autumn olive was on its side, roots barely attached to the soil. With a short tug, the bush came out and I deposited it into the woods.
Today, at the base of the property where the olive once stood, the lower portion of the our peony garden begins. With over one hundred and fifty peonies planted from north to the south in three rows, I don’t miss the autumn olive that much. A few of our garden friends don’t like autumn olive that much. I can’t blame them. It’s invasive and becomes a bit gnarly in appearance. However, this being a time of year when spring fragrances are starting to wane, catching a deep whiff of the flowers of the autumn olive might allow one to forgive its shortcomings.