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GARDEN SURROUNDINGS: Gardenias; My "First Love"

By Francesca Filanc.

Francesca Filanc Facebook

First Love® Gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides 'Aimee'.

A strong memory from my childhood is of being beautifully dressed in a blue wool coat with a black velvet collar, black patent leather dress shoes with white bobby socks that all matched with my younger sister. We were in San Francisco with our beautifully dressed mother, Pat Welsh, in a turban hat that matched her chic blue ensemble and our handsome father in his elegant suit. We were in front of a large flower stand kitty-corner from the St. Francis Hotel. Daddy walked up to a lady and bought us each a beautiful gardenia to pin on our coats. I was in heaven! Gardenias were my father’s favorite flower. And in that moment, they became mine too!

I have enjoyed growing gardenias for many years and recently I designed and put in a new garden on my property that included several gardenias. My favorite is a new variety "First Love®". The blossoms are extremely large and fragrant. They start blooming in June and bloom all through July and into August.

As the crow flies, I live about seven miles from the coast. In my climate zone, and with climate change, First Love® Gardenias are over seven feet tall and produce dozens of beautiful blooms each season; this year without fertilizer. I do use worm castings to help with insect pests. For people who live in Sunset zone 24, the coastal zone, plant gardenias away from your house. If gardenias are in too much sun the blossoms sunburn so I pick them frequently to float in water and wear in my hair. As I write this, I am going to a party tonight and I picked one this morning to wear. When I pick them, I turn them upside down and put them in a bowl of water. This process takes out any tiny bugs. Then I turn them upright and float in the bowl. All through the pandemic last summer I had small dinner parties in my garden with those in my covid bubble sitting at a long table with space between us. I would decorate the table with gardenias and then give to the guests to take home. It is also a lovely gift to take to a hostess when going out to dinner. Growing First Love® Gardenias gives me such joy. And reminds me of my childhood and my wonderful Father.

To learn more about the First Love® Gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides 'Aimee', visit

Francesca Filanc
Francesca Filanc Fine Art, "Sophistication", 24 x 18 Acrylic on Canvas. Everything about this painting, including the name, evokes Francesca's happy childhood memory and subsequent love of gardenias.

Happy Gardenia-ing!

- Francesca


Artist, author, photographer, fly-fisher woman, Francesca Filanc grew up in old Del Mar and these days lives, paints and gardens in historic Olivenhain with two French poodles.

Find her art and writings here:

She can be found on social media here:

Have gardening questions or want to learn more about Francie’s art? Contact:


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