We purchase ornamental plants for their pleasing characteristics with the most common being color, size, growth pattern, and how they will enhance the quality of our home landscapes.
One attribute that is sometimes overlooked is the attribute of fragrance. Many plants have blossoms, leaves, or both that have an attractive scent. While fragrance may not be the primary focus of the landscape design, it does have a place. Well-planned home landscapes provide color or interest in every season, and the selection of a few plants with outstanding fragrance can add yet another dimension to the garden.
Though many shrubs have white blossoms and dark green foliage, if you have a few gardenia in your landscape, their fragrance will fill the air. If their cut flowers are brought indoors, the pleasant smell will enhance the indoor environment. Gardenias have many pleasing features but can suffer from whitefly infestations. The insects can be treated with insecticidal soap, which is considered organic and not highly toxic. Another drawback is a lack of cold hardiness. However, some newer varieties such as Frost Proof can withstand the hard freezes that our winters have.
Roses are famous for the pleasant scents of their blossoms. Thousands of types are available, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. All are fragrant, but some, such as the hybrid tea roses are more so than others, such as “Knock Out” roses. One variety of hybrid teas is “Twice Spice,” which has showy red flowers that are four to five inches in diameter, has an excellent fragrance that fills the garden.
Many other roses have excellent scents. Planting several of these will guarantee that visitors to your landscape will enjoy not only the blossoms but the sweet fragrance of roses in the breeze as well.
Herbs are known for their fragrance in addition to their ability to flavor food and their medicinal uses. Rosemary is a perennial evergreen that can function as a small shrub. It thrives in hot, dry conditions but does not like wet soil and can suffer from extreme cold.
Basil is an annual that has an excellent aroma and adds great flavor to dishes, especially ones with tomatoes. Many different types of mints exist, such as sweet mint, peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint. They can tolerate some shade and moist soils but have invasive tendencies. Fennel has feathery leaves and small, umbel shaped flowers with a pleasing fragrance. It has good taste and is excellent in salads. Some varieties are brown or maroon.
Many other plants create pleasing smells in the garden. Narcissus, iris, and many other flowering plants can provide fragrance. There are also shrubs like fragrant snowballs, which are species of viburnums, and Virginia sweetspire. Vines such as Confederate and Asian jasmine or Carolina jessamine can fill the air with a pleasant scent.
The best use of fragrant plants is in areas that trap the scent in the garden and are excellent in spaces between the home and a tall fence. Maybe you have a nook in the garden surrounded by trees and taller shrubs that might confine the smell from fragrant plants. Avoid planting fragrant plants in windy or exposed areas that rapidly deplete the beautiful aromas.
Planting near the house or walkways may ensure that you and your visitors get the maximum enjoyment of fragrant plants in your landscape.
As you develop your landscape, consider adding some fragrant plants, and put them in different locations in the landscape. You will find that they add a whole new dimension to your enjoyment of the garden.