As we relax on the patio after a hard day, or take time to stretch out at the weekend, it’s not just colour and a barbecued supper that we enjoy. Fragrance is important too. Scent in the spring, summer and autumn months, when it’s comfortable to sit out comes from permanent plants, like climbers, shrubs and perennials, as well as from temporary summer plants like summer annuals. You just have to choose the right ones.
It’s smart not to put plants that give off their scent at the same season and at the same time of day next to each other; it’s a waste. Place them on opposite sides of the patio. And remember that while some plants wait until evening to shower us with scent, some are day-scented. So plan your plantings according to when you’re most likely to be sitting out.
Garden pinks (Dianthus)
Garden pinks are neat, well-behaved, long-lived, long-flowering, sun loving plants with narrow grey-blue evergreen leaves that make just the right background for their flowers. In most varieties the long-lasting fragrant flowers are crammed with petals and come in reds, pinks, white and often in combinations of two shades. Many are prettily patterned or daintily fringed. Their scent is mainly of cloves.
Garden pinks are best on the sunny side of the patio and if you can lean over from your lounger and snip off the old flowers, they’ll flower for longer too.
Honeysuckle scent lasts all day but is at its most intoxicating in the evening. Planting it on a patio fence ensures that the scent is not blown away. Honeysuckle is also the perfect plant to soften the look of new fences and its twining stems usually mean that it will cling to the trellis without you bothering to tie it in.
The clusters of reddish or creamy flowers open for weeks in summer and autumn and thrive facing east or west, or even north (use the compass on your smartphone). If it gets out of hand cut out some of the shoots with faded flowers.
Night-scented stock (Matthiola)
The big and blowsy stocks you buy at the florist are a pain to grow but this little gem couldn’t be easier: scatter and forget. But this one is all scent. The dainty little flowers come in soft pastel shades but they close up for most of the day. It’s in the evening, when it all happens.
The usual trick is to scatter the seed behind a plant with plenty of flowers, but where the stocks won’t be smothered. Then you can enjoy the delicious wafting fragrance – and allow something else to provide a bright splash of colour.
Sweet pea (Lathyrus)
Sweet peas are often the first flowers that come to mind when fragrance is needed and don’t believe people who say that say modern sweet peas have no scent. Rubbish. Just check the packets before you buy – they often have a simple star or one-to-five scent rating. And the colours are gorgeous too.
Sweet peas cling to any support you provide – a wigwam of canes, trellis, a stylish steel cage – as they have curly grips on the ends of the leaves. Mice often eat the seeds so buy plants from garden centres in spring.
Tobacco plant (Nicotiana)
You have to be careful with tobacco plants. Not that they’re poisonous – well, actually, they are but you’re not going to eat one, are you?! No, they come in many colours but the reds and purple and pinks often have little or no scent. Look for the tall white ones.
Focus on those that are more than about 90cm high and with white flowers, you’ll be guaranteed a sumptuous scent, and again, it’s in the evenings that it’s at its most powerful. Seed is inexpensive, but it’s far easier to buy plants from the garden centre.