Tuesday, 25 August 2015
The Perfumer’s Garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show got us thinking about how flower scents are often by-product of a garden design client’s wish list. But what if you wish to make them a main focus? How can you utilise plants with a strong scent to create a garden (or part of garden) that transports you and your memories back to favourite places and times?
The first thing to consider is where to locate your scent garden. The best locations are where warm air gently circulates, so smaller enclosed spaces where the scent can collect and intensify are ideal. Also consider any breezes you get as scent will of course be strongest downwind of the plants. Don’t just dot scented plants about your garden, plant little groups to intensify the smell. Here are our tips for specific areas:
Scent can be a real boost to the interest in your garden in the bleaker months (winter that is, not just the poor summer months of late!) Buddleja auricular will happily flower in a sheltered spot from November up to Christmas with flowers that smell of lemon. The flowers of Winter Sweet that appear on bare branches also have a lovely citrus smell in midwinter. Christmas Box is suitable for smaller gardens as it only grows 1 metre high but has highly scented small white flowers and is described as the honeysuckle of winter. Not only do Thujas smell citrusy they are very fast growing so are ideal for creating some privacy in which to enjoy all your garden scents. Rhododendron fragantissimum smells like lilies and flowers in late winter to spring.
Make sure to plan for sequential flowering so something is blooming throughout the season and not too many different things at once. In addition to the risk that mixed scents will not marry well together, your nose will just tune out if there are too many competing scents in the same area. Once the winter scents mentioned above have passed, it is on to the scented ornamental spring shrubs such as viburnums and daphnes and lily of the valley. Summer is when roses and honeysuckles come into their own and of course herbs such as lavender, thyme, rosemary and any of the subtly different strains of mint. Dianthus and phlox can also provide wonderful scents at this time of year. Bear in mind that it’s not just flowers that provide fragrance, lots of plants such as lavender, lemon verbena and scented geraniums have scented foliage that last after the flowers have gone.
Certain scents have the ability to alter our mood and evoke favourite memories in an instant. Scent has even been shown to help Alzheimer patients recognise family members. When planning your “mood altering” garden it’s a good idea to make a list of smells you like and how they make you feel so that you can try to incorporate plants with your favourite scents in your garden.
Here are some general ideas for plant combinations with mood altering capabilities:
Not all plants produce their scents during the day, night scents provide interest not only for us as we sit out on warm summer nights, but also for visiting wildlife. Moths love night scents and are attracted to a lot of the same plants that butterflies and bees love during the day. All of the following are nectar rich to provide food for hungry night insects.
An evening flowering honeysuckle such as Lonicera ‘Graham Thomas’ is an ideal choice as it is an attractive climber with a long flowering season of white flowers that turn buff yellow with age. The luminous white flowers of the tobacco plant are a star attraction for moths in the summer as are the very fragrant white flowers of Jasmine officinale. Evening primrose reserves its show for after dark (the clue is in its name) when its yellow flowers open to release their delicate scent.
There are some fabulous scent gardens that you can visit to get inspiration for your own scent garden:
Please get in touch if you’d like some help and advice on how best to establish scented plants in your garden.
All at Vialii