Garden Design

Fragrant Garden Delights


There are so many fragrant and worthy plants that offer outstanding fragrance and which do so for longer than the proverbial minute, lasting at least several days. These are also plants that aren’t too terribly finicky and which offer some other ornamental value besides fragrance.

Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia) – Glowing apricot, pink, yellow, or white trumpet-shaped blooms so gorgeously fragrant they would please even the most discriminating angel. Intoxicating floral notes float on the late-summer night air recalling the most sumptuous soap you’ve ever inhaled. Large perennials growing to 6-7 feet tall and wide, blooming in late summer and fall. Most varieties are borderline cold hardy so plant in spring and in well-drained soil for best chances of survival. If potted, you can also over winter them in the garage where they will go dormant or in the house. These babies are hogs so fertilize and water regularly. Plant in full to part sun.


Viburnum carlesii by Tina Mast

Burkwood Viburnum (and cultivars)– Glossy, pink bud clusters open in abundance to white flowers that scent the April garden with honey and clove. This densely branched, multi-stemmed shrub grows to 8-10 feet tall and 6-7 feet wide. In fall, the leaves turn wine-red and most remain on the plant through winter. It is heat, cold, and pollution tolerant, too. A spot with morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.


Edgeworthia bud by JC Raulston Arboretum

Golden paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) – Opening in February from silvery buds, the clusters of lemon-yellow blooms, quite like lantana, release a wave of perfume redolent of honey and sweet peas. This is one you can smell from yards away. This multi-stemmed shrub also features attractive blue-green feather shaped leaves that resemble tropical plumage. Grows to about 6 feet tall and 7 feet wide. Place in morning sun or dappled shade.

Osmanthus by Christina Haney

Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans, O. fortunei) – This large evergreen shrub or small tree is often used for screening. Besides blocking a view, the tiny clusters of creamy-white flowers produce an intense, fruity, apricot perfume way out of proportion to their diminutive size. Our hands-down favorite is the ‘Fudingzhu’ cultivar because it blooms several times a year, even as a young plant. Grows 10-12 feet tall, less in width, in full to part sun.


Daphne odora by Christina Haney

Fragrant Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)– If the prospect of being enveloped in an intense fruity aroma that reminds you of Fruit Loops cereal, then you must have a fragrant winter daphne. Compact, tidy shrubs form near-perfect ovals of evergreen, often variegated, foliage. Grows to 3-4 feet tall and somewhat wider, and blooms in February when you most need it.  Daphne must have good drainage and likes morning sun with afternoon shade or bright dappled shade.

Gardenia – Gloriously fragrant of jasmine, coconut, and vanilla, the beautiful fondant-white summer flowers contrast sharply with the shiny, evergreen foliage. Useful for foundation plantings, the new dwarf varieties such as ‘Crown Jewel’ and ‘Jubilation’ add more options. ‘Frostproof’ is one of the most cold hardy of these just-in-our-zone plants. Best planted in spring, well before winter, in sun to light shade and in nice, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) – A most useful and attractive vine with dark green foliage that remains evergreen in winter. Clusters of pure-white, star-shaped blossoms curtain the plant in early summer pouring their rich jasmine scent out into the garden. Grows to 20 feet tall in sun or shade avoiding extremes of either.

prunus mume

Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’ by Christina Haney

Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) – A pretty tree with heart-shaped, blue-green leaves that flutter nicely and which forms a dense oval to rounded habit. Fall colors in shades of gold, orange, and red are a lovely treat. The best, most scrumptious part, though, is the fallen leaves, which drift delicious honey-caramel-strawberry notes through the garden in fall. Place in full sun and water well when young and during dry spells.

Flowering apricot (Prunus mume) – Beloved by those in the know because they flower in January lifting the heart of the winterbound gardener. Delicious, cupped cherry-blossom style blooms on stiff branches in candy pink, dark magenta, light pink, and white make for excellent cutting and displaying indoors where one can also enjoy the spicy clove fragrance emitted from the flowers. This small to medium tree grows 15-20 feet tall and wide in full to part sun.

Other good plants for fragrance include tall phlox, lilies, daffodils, magnolia/michelia, lemon verbena, Armand clematis, certain varieties of witchhazel, mock orange, Koreanspice viburnum, Carolina allspice, butterfly ginger, mahonia, and more.

Featured image: Brugmansia by Tina Mast

Tina Mast is communications director for Homewood Nursery and can be reached at or 919-847-0117.

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