The sense of smell is one of the strongest human senses and having a fragrant garden can add a new dimension to any garden.
With a little planning, you can design your yard to have a pleasant fragrance almost any month of the year. There are plants that are fragrant in winter, spring, summer and fall. You just need to do a little planning and you can have something fragrant almost all year.
It has been a joy to smell the fragrance of Edgeworthia that has been perfuming the garden now for some time. It is a deciduous shrub, growing to about five feet with lovely yellow flowers that fill the shrub in late winter and early spring. Daphne odora begins to bloom in late February and is heavenly. It is a small shrub that is not a long-lived plant in our heavy clay soil. However, knowing this, I treat it like a short lived perennial.
Breath of spring (Lonicera fragrantissima) is an extremely fragrant plant with a lemony scent and creamy white flowers that appear in early spring before the leaves emerge. It blooms for a month or more.
There are several varieties of sweet box (Sarcococca spp.) that are delightful. The flowers of this plant are hidden under the leaves but they still have a powerful fragrance.
Many varieties of daffodils (Narcissus) have a wonderful scent I associate with early spring. The cheerful color brightens my day and the fragrance lets me know spring is here. Jonquils are some of the most fragrant daffodils.
Tea olive (Osmanthus spp.) is a must if you want to perfume your garden. There are many varieties of this shrub with a tangy scent and if you can find O. “Fudingzhu,” it is my favorite. It is a little slower growing than some of the other tea olives but the magnitude of flower clusters and powerful fragrance add to the joy of this plant.
O. fragrans is an outstanding shrub with its vanilla fragrance but a little less cold-hardy than O. forturni. O. forturni has a leaf that is similar to a holly leaf and wonderful fragrance too. These shrubs can become quite large and if you have a smaller garden, you will need to keep it pruned. Tea olives make a wonderful hedge to conceal the neighbors.
Many deciduous azaleas have a lovely spicy scent that can perfume an entire garden. “My Mary,” “Yellow Delight,” “Lisa’s Gold” and “Camille’s Blush” are just a few of the many that are available for sale.
Some varieties of viburnum produce intoxicatingly fragrant flowers. Korean spice (V. carlesii), V. Juddi and V. burkwoodii all offers rich, sweet scents in April and May. Some say that the scent is carried all across the garden. They all have lovely white flowers with a pinkish tint and the bushes vary in size and shape.
An old-timey fragrance is the lovely scent of the gardenia. This is a sign of the south with its heavenly perfume that fills the air. It is a favorite. The older varieties bloom in May, and “August Beauty” blooms in September. Plus, there are other varieties of gardenias that are smaller growing with small, fragrant flowers.
Abelia and banana shrub (Magnolia figo) are two more bushes that add wonderful scents to the garden. Abelia “Bridal Bouquet” with its lilac-scented pink buds and banana shrub are nice plants to line a garden path.
If you are looking for a vine, confederate jasmine “Maidson” (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and clematis “Armandii” are two of the best! Wisteria has a wonderful fragrance, but it can take over if you are not careful with the variety you plant.
W. “Amethyst Falls,” an American variety claims not to be invasive like the Asian varieties, which I do not recommend.
For smaller plants, hyacinths, jonquils, some dianthus, lily of the valley and some peonies are plants that you will smell before you actually see them and they will fit into any size garden. These can be stars in your yard.
Recently, I had someone ask if I perfumed the water in my fountain when she visited last spring. I assured her I had never thought of this and I am sure it was the native azaleas that she had encountered. There are many wonderful fragrant plants and these I have mentioned are spring-time bloomers. Summer, fall and winter have their share of fragrant plants too.
“Scents can have positive effects on mood, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, self-confidence, and physical and cognitive performance,” according to Theresa Molnar, executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute. Just think, if scents did not make a difference, why would people spend money on different perfumes and colognes. The sense of smell is a very powerful human sense.
Betty Montgomery, certified Master Gardener and author, can be reached at BMontgomery40@gmail.com. She is a columnist for The Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald Journal.