Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Scented Garden


It is hard to beat a day of relaxation in a garden full of scented flowers on a warm sunny day. My past experience in horticulture has taught me to keep an eye on the weather forecasts and plan your work accordingly. So I have no problem getting on with the hard work on cold and wet days or pruning fruit trees or roses after a snowfall, but I like to have all my work up to date so that when the weather is warm and sunny I can stop work and relax on the patio amongst the garden flowers. It is the patio area where scented flowering plants are most appreciated.
Memories of summer always include a range of exotic scented blooms of Brugmansias, the Angels Trumpets, lilies, sweet peas, carnations and roses.
One of my earliest memories was a potting shed experience at Camperdown greenhouse as a young Parks Dept. apprentice in the sixties learning to make decorative sprays for a civic function with a combination of red roses, clove scented carnations and sweet peas. Perfume was fantastic.

Scented plants are available all year round as shrubs, perennials, annuals, bulbs, climbers and even trees.

Start with a good garden plan

My initial thoughts on establishing a new garden is to create a mature framework within which I can grow a range of plants each having their own requirements.
Garden trees get first consideration as they will require the most space, then I usually try and grow climbers up walls and fences. The essential patio must be sheltered, private, sunny and adjacent to the house, a glasshouse also needs a sunny aspect and then other plants integrated into the plan.
When selecting plants having a scent is very important especially in those areas that receive the most attention. Top priorities will be the patio area, front door entrance and even the rotary drying area. There is always plenty of scented plants to fit all these features covering every month of the year.


Selection of trees will depend on size of garden though even the smallest can get away with at least one tree. The upright Japanese cherry, Prunus Amanogawa forms a narrow column of pale pink scented blossom in spring and takes up very little space, however if more room can be afforded Prunus Shirotae, (Mount Fuji) is a beautiful site.
Most small gardens can also fit in at least one lilac, my favourite was always the double white Mme Lemoine though the rosy lilac Michel Buchner and deep purple Charles Joly are well worth a bit of space.
For the garden with plenty of space plant a balsam poplar, Populus balsamifera. In early spring the unfolding leaves emerge from large sticky buds which give off a delicious balsam scent.


Some plants can be self supporting and others need help with strong wire support, or trellis and some plants may need a warm south facing wall whereas others are fine on north facing walls.
Climbing roses can accommodate all aspects with the vigorous soft white Mme Alfred Carriere quite happy on a north wall. I have a heavily scented shrub rose Gertrude Jekyll trained as a climber on a west wall on my patio. It is fantastic.
Honeysuckle is available in many varieties and will clamber happily over many fences.
The pineapple scented yellow flowers of Cytisus battandieri appear in mid summer and it will need a south wall and a bit of support as will the heavily scented white Jasminum polyanthum.
Sweet peas can be trained on any fence as long as it is given support and good soil. They can also be trained as cordons up a tall cane for cut flowers.


Garden size again dictates what size of shrub you have room for, but Daphne is quite small
whereas the mock orange, Philadelphus needs a fair bit of space. Both are available in a range of different varieties.
In late winter or early spring the Chinese witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis, Viburnum fragrans, and carlesii and Mahonia will provide a wee bit of garden scent
On a lower scale many herbs provide beautiful scents through their foliage from Rosemary, and lavender to mint and ground hugging thyme, and all can be used in cooking recipes.


Every one has their favourite roses as there are so many available, but in these times where chemicals are frowned upon and no longer available to amateur gardeners many old favourites just don't have the vigour to fight off blackspot, rust and mildew diseases.
My favourite red, E. H. Morse is still good but Wendy Cussons and Margaret Merrill go down in mid season every year. The new English shrub roses are mostly scented, fairly vigorous and come in every size and colour.

Carnations and pinks

Border carnations are very easy to grow and make excellent cut flowers, and garden pinks are perfect for trailing over walls. Select those types with the strong clove scents and make sure the soil drainage is good. There are many varieties available at garden centres as well as specialist nurseries found in garden magazines or on the internet.

Beds, tubs and hanging baskets

Spring flower beds placed near front entrance doors benefit from wallflowers with their bright colours as well as strong scent. Stocks are less popular but if you want perfume they must be included.
My summer hanging baskets are placed beside main entrances and I always include the deep blue petunia both for its strong colour as well as its scent, though seed producers never seem to give this trait much recognition.
If you have a large tub or border a specimen dot plant using a Brugmansia, the Angels Trumpets will fill the garden on any warm evening with a strong exotic perfume, but remember all parts of the plant are poisonous with a hallucinogenic chemical.


In spring it is the narcissus and hyacinths that reign supreme followed by flag iris, then in summer nothing can compare with the scent of exotic lilies.
There are many other scented bulbs to try if space can be found in the greenhouse. Try the Polianthus tuberosa, or the spider lily, Ismene festalis or even the sub tropical Hedychium coronarium. They all require careful looking after but the rewards make it well worth while.


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