Thomas Jefferson's garden book entry on April 19, 1807, notes: "planted 9 Philadelphus coronarium, Mock orange in the 4 circular beds of shrubs at the 4 corners of the house."1
This strong growing, medium-sized shrub has long been in cultivation, since at least the 16th century, and is the most commonly known species. Its origins are obscure but it is believed to be native to Northern Italy, Austria, and Central Romania.
At first, this plant was classified under syringa. Lady Skipwith called this plant a "Syringa or mock orange," while William Bartram called it the former.2 "Mock Orange" comes from the fact that the fragrant flowers are reminiscent of orange blossoms. The scientific name, Philadelphus, first used in the 1600s, is said to commemorate the Egyptian king, Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.), who was supposedly a garden lover.3
Mock orange is a deciduous, early summer-flowering shrub with arching branches that bear racemes of richly scented, cup-shaped, pure white flowers in profusion with finely toothed, bright green foliage.