Growing for scent

Gardens don’t just look fabulous they smell amazing too. Jean Vernon explores how to add scent and perfume to your garden.

lavender and honeysuckle lining pathway

Smells are evocative and can transport you back into your memory banks instantly. They are also very personal. Not everyone loves the same scents and lots of strong fragrances together can be overpowering. When it comes to perfumed plants it’s not just the flowers that might be scented, many of them have aromatic foliage too that can be particularly entrancing if you brush past them when walking through the garden, or walking on them along a path. Here are just a few perfumed power plants for your garden.

Honey scented honeysuckle

This plant is a real scented beauty. Its long flowers are pollinated by night flying moths that are attracted to its flowers by its rich evening scent. These plants are rich in nectar and have become virtual magnets for our precious pollinators. Clothe an archway or a gazebo near a seating area, or train these vigorous climbers over trellis beside your patio so that you evening events are perfumed and magical. Choose a variety with strong scent like ‘Heaven Scent’ or  ‘Scentsation’; they are as described on their nametag.

Clove scented pinks

I find it quite remarkable how plants can create the scent of other spices, fruits and flavours in the flowers and leaves. There’s a group of plants in the Dianthus family that smell strongly of cloves. Just take a wander around a nursery or garden centre selling these plants and breathe in the scent. You can spot the clove-scented varieties easily and choose one or two for your patio pots. I like to have a terracotta pot of scented pinks as a centrepiece on my garden table. They look fantastic, flower for ages and smell divine. If you are visiting someone with poor eyesight or who is housebound, a little posy of scented pinks makes a lovely gift.

clove scented pinks
Clove scented pinks.

Magical Mint

One of the easiest plants to grow in your garden is mint, but it doesn’t always smell of mint at all. There are so many incredible varieties each with a different scent that I am entranced by the diversity of this amazing plant. Did you know there is a basil mint that smells of basil with barely a trace of mint? But even more exciting is the lavender mint that just like its name smells of lavender? It makes a fantastic tea, lavender flavour from a mint leaf with hardly a trace of mint, it’s just wow. And once you start to explore the mints and realise that these plants flower as well and are great plants for short-tongued pollinators. Visit a specialist herb nursery like Jekka’s Herb Farm to see the herbs growing and explore the different scents.

Different varieties of min
There are many different varieties of mint.

Rose perfume

The floral scents of a fragrant rose are simply divine and yet some roses have no scent and there are a wide variety of floral notes in those that are. Rose oil is revered by the perfume industry. The classic rose for perfume is Rosa x damascena, a rich, bright pink damask rose with a clean floral scent. But others such as Rosa centifolia, with its softer pink flowers, have a fresher, cleaner fragrance. If you are planting a new rose in the garden, choose one that is fragrant to add an extra dimension. On a warm sunny day the soft fragrance of roses can transform even the most modest space and especially on patios and balconies. Rose expert Michael Marriott shares some of his favourite roses, many of which like Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ are richly scented.

Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll' David Austin Roses
Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’.

Rose ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ (English Rose) has beautiful rich rose-pink flowers and the most delicious fragrance imaginable. It can be grown as a shrub or a climber.

Lovely Lavender

Not everyone loves the scent of lavender and yet it can instill a sense of calm and tranquility into your life. The flowers and foliage are scented. The smell is calming and healing. The flowers hold the scent even when in bud and in fact this is a good time to pick them. Add the dried flowers to bath salts or pot pourri or even into your linen drawers to deter the activity of clothes moths and keep your fabrics smelling fresh. Lavender is also a great plant for many pollinators and can be cut fresh and dried for indoor displays. If you still need convincing here are Five reasons to grow lavender in your garden.

Dried lavender flowers
Dried lavender flowers have many uses.

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