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Fragrant Flowers and Plants

Garden Scents

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English roses are some of the most fragrant.

The David Austin rose 'Jude the Obscure' is one of the most fragrant flowers in my garden.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti
Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Vally is so fragrant, you'll find it in many perfumes.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti
Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme)

Thymus praecox 'Elfin' (Creeping Thyme) makes a fragrant ground cover that can be walked on.

Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES ®

Scented flowers add another layer of enjoyment to the garden and more often than not, the scents are full of memories. Some flowers are lightly scented and need to be close by to be appreciated. Other plants engulf the entire yard in their perfume; think of lilacs in spring or a hillside of lily of the valley.

Many modern plants are no longer fragrant. They have been bred to be full and bushy, or disease resistant, or perpetually blooming - at the sacrifice of scent. Heirloom flowers are often your best bet for having a scented garden and you may need to start them from seed. If you'd like to include some fragrance in your garden, here are some tips for getting the most from your scented flowers.

  1. Plant them where you will be able to enjoy their fragrance most frequently. Along a path. By a patio. Near an open window.

  2. Plant in large clumps, for the strongest impact . The scent from flowers will dissipated when planted in a wide open, windy area.

  3. Spread fragrant plants throughout the yard so that different scents don't compete with each other.

  4. Plant your favorite fragrances along paved drives and walkways. The warmth provided by paved areas intensifies fragrance.

  5. Don't forget about plants with fragrant leaves, like these fragrant herbs and scented geraniums.

  6. Some plants are most fragrant in the evening. Plant them near your dining or entertaining areas.

  7. Plant containers of scented flowers, so you can move them where ever you want to enjoy their fragrance.

  8. Look for fragrant ground covers and lawn alternatives that can be walked on. Plants with fragrant leaves are even more potent when the leaves are crushed.

  9. The fragrance of flowers will change subtly throughout the day and with variations in the weather and growing conditions. You'll need to experiment with fragrant plants to see which grow well for you and which combinations appeal to you. We don't all appreciate the same scents.

  10. Many insects are also attracted to scented plants. The butterflies will be welcome, but keep scented flowers away from people who are extremely sensitive to bee stings and children's play areas.

If you're ready to add some fragrance to your garden, here are some great plants to get you started. I have them broken down by general season, but they may bloom earlier or later in your area. They will still smell heavenly.

Scented Flowers and Plants for Every Season

SPRING

Daphne (Daphne cneorum)
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
Freesia spp.
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)
Jonquils (Narcissus jonquilla)
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
Magnolia spp.
Mock Orange (Philadelphus spp.)
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Sweet Pea (Lathyrus spp.)

SUMMER

Angel's trumpet (Brugmansia spp.)
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
Hosta plantaginea (and many of its hybrids like ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘Guacamole’)
Hyssop (Agastache spp.)
Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
Lavender (Lavendula spp.)
Lilies (Lilium spp.)
Peony (Peonia spp.)
Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Pinks (Dianthus Caryophyllus)
Rose (old roses, English roses and some hybrids)
Star Jasmine (Jasminum multiflorum)
Summersweet (Clethra spp.)
Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)

Late SUMMER / FALL

Butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium)
Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)
Naked Lady (Lycoris squamiger)
Night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum).
Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis dioscoreifolia)

EVENING

Columbine, Fragrant Columbine (Aquilegia fragrans)
Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana)
Four-o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa and M. longiflora)
Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)
Night Gladiolus (Gladiolus tristus)
Night-blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)
Pinks (Dianthus plumarius)
Stock (Matthiola incana)

GROUND COVERS

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)
Lily of the Valley (Convalaria majalis)
Pennyroyal (Mentha ecumbens)
Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata)
Thyme (Thymus serpyllum, T. herbabarona, T. caespititius)

There are even more suggestions from readers, who wrote in about their own favorite fragrant flowers.

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