One of the pleasures of gardening is breathing in the scents that abound in spring. The smell of roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, wisteria, lilies, and mint delightfully tweak gardeners’ noses. As one ponders replacing cold-damaged plants and plans for new beds, why not consider increasing the number and variety of sweet smells by adding more scented plants to enjoy in each season?
A new source of information for selecting fragrant plants is the Royal Horticultural Society Companion To Scented Plants (Frances Lincoln Limited, 2014). Described as “the only major reference work on scent and scented plants,” this volume recommends 1000 plants that emit unique odors. Trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, vines, roses, and ground covers all have suggested scented species from which to choose. The plants are listed alphabetically by Latin name with accompanying photographs.
In addition to plant recommendations, Stephen Lacey, the author, provides three introductory chapters on various aspects of scented plants and on planning a fragrant garden. From his experience as a columnist and feature writer for London’s Daily Telegraph, and as author of five additional books, his comments in these sections are interesting, informative and easily read.
Reading this book I came to understand several gardening facts that will make fragrance gardening simpler. If during my plant nursery wandering, I decide that I must have a new plant with which no information is provided on its scent, I should select a type whose blossoms are colored white, pink, mauve, or pale yellow. These light-colored blossoms will most need odor as an enticement to attract pollen distributors.
Concerning plant placement, I learned to locate plants that have scented leaves where they may be easily touched, a requirement to release a leaf’s odor into the air. Though pleasant to our noses, the smell of a leaf is meant to repel damaging predators.
If you wish to bring the beauty and scents of the garden inside, Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden Journal (Frances Lincoln Limited, 2014) offers advice on flower gardening and how to make arrangements with the resulting blossoms. Journal pages are available for the reader to record monthly the details of life in the garden. This book, which includes monthly garden chores and projects, would be an especially appropriate gift for a beginning gardener.
Fragrance and beauty in gardens have charmed humanity for centuries. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a legendary wonder, were praised for their many scents. Friezes in the ruins of Pompeii depict gardens filled with fragrant plants.
If you wish to visit a local scented garden, the Martha Franck Fragrance Garden located at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind across from Pullen Park in Raleigh is open to the public. Begun in 1960, this small garden is a cooperative project of the school itself and the Garden Club of North Carolina. Visit there to experience seasonal subtle fragrances, one of the many joys of gardening.
Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.