One of the first things we do when approaching a flowering plant is to get close and smell it, yet fragrance in the garden is often overlooked. You can introduce an extra dimension into your garden with plants that have sensational scents. The fragrance of scented plants is appreciated most where you can sit to enjoy them. Be sure to locate them near a path, or on a patio or deck. If you enjoy your garden by moonlight, scent the night air with evening primrose, nicotiana, moonflower, angel’s trumpet night-scented stock and four-o’clocks.
Some fragrant plants, especially herbs, release their scents when touched or crushed. Herbs such as chamomile or creeping thyme make excellent groundcovers for pathways, releasing their fragrance as you walk across them. Scented geraniums and other aromatic herbs planted along pathways release their fragrance when touched or brushed as garden visitors pass by.
The distinctive scent of herbs conjures up tasty thoughts. Why not create an herb container garden near an open door or in a window box so that the fragrance can waft into the house?
When choosing plants for their fragrance it’s wise to seek out the old-fashioned types. Though hybridizing produces some wonderful flower forms and colours, fragrance is often sacrificed in the process.
Favourite Scent Sensations
Here are some excellent scent sensations:
- Dianthus or Pinks as they are commonly known are famous for their sweet clove-scented flowers. The flowers range in colour from white to pinks to almost red. Use these plants in the front of the border where passersby can enjoy them. All Dianthus grow best in full sun.
- Evening primroses (Oenothera) are often dismissed as “ordinary,” but their scent is anything but. These pale yellow unassuming plants give off their perfume just as the day turns to dusk.
- Four O’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) are easy to grow. The metre-high bushy plants are sprinkled with pink, rose, white and yellow blossoms. Their perfume is most noticeable at dusk when the air is still.
- Heliotropes (Heliotropium arborescens) have large deep purple-blue flowers in clusters on top of 45 cm (18-inch) stems. Their rich fragrance is “sugary” and a little like vanilla. Bees and butterflies love them. If you want to have a delightful scent drifting around your deck or patio, heliotrope is a good candidate for container planting, too.
- Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a vine that looks very much like a morning glory, but its 7.5-cm (six-inch) white blooms open at dusk. It may be too dark to see them, but your nose will detect them. Unfortunately, they wilt by noon the next day.
- Nicotiana or flowering tobacco is another fragrant star of the twilight garden. For the best scent try the large creamy white flowered “Grandiflora.” Other varieties have been hybridized to produce flowers that remain open all day, and in a variety of colours, but these newer varieties, cannot match the scent of the originals.
- Stock (Matthiola) is an old-fashioned, sweet-smelling plant. Stocks are members of the mustard family and will thrive in cool weather. They also like full sun and rich soil.
- Sweet Alyssum is one of the easiest fragrant flowers to start from seed. Sown directly into the garden they bloom in about six to eight weeks. This is one of the most versatile of plants because it can be used everywhere, in planters, borders, and as a ground. Alyssum usually reseeds itself, and you will find seedlings springing up here and there next spring.