Gardens are a delight at any time, but never more so than when in full bloom and enriched by embracing fragrances. All too often these are temporary highlights rather than permanent characteristics of a garden. Gardens can, however, be fragrant and colourful all year round if you plan to achieve that.
We usually think of colour and scent as coming from the flowers, but that isn't always the case. Colour and scent can also come from foliage, bark and fruits as well.
Consider conifers or gum trees which have their own characteristic aromas, irrespective of the time of year. Consider the foliage of herbs or the fruit on fruit trees.
Scents may also not always be attractive.
Some may be very pungent or offensive in some way, or simply be too strong for your tastes.
Some of the scents may also create allergy problems for some people.
By careful selection, however, of your plants you can have a continuously changing array of different colours and fragrances to delight your senses.
Fragrant Garden Designs
Fragrance can come from leaves, flowers, bark or stems of plants. Flowers normally release their perfume without being touched, but leaves and other plant parts often need to be brushed or bruised to release their scented oils. The scent from many fragrant flowers becomes strongest in the early evening, particularly on hot days when the sun's warmth will strengthen the perfumes. Consider where you are likely to be sitting in the early evening, on warm nights. A summer patio, for instance may be an appropriate place to plant evening scented plants.
Guidelines for Planning a Fragrant Garden
Don't have too many strong scented plants close to each other releasing their scent at the same time. (The fragrance can become overpowering and the different scents might not blend together well).
Don't have strong scented plants close to those with subtle scents.
(A subtle fragrance can be totally lost if near a strong scent).
Avoid planting strongly scented plants in enclosed, poorly ventilated areas. Strong scents need to be moved by the wind. If confined they can become overpowering.
Consider the prevailing winds and remember that the scent will move in the direction of the wind.
Place plants with scented foliage near to living areas such as patios, verandas etc, or near pathways and drives, where overhanging branches can be brushed as people or vehicles pass by. Trees such as eucalypts and pines also regularly drop leaves, which when walked upon will release scents.
Fragrant lawn species will also release scents when walked upon or mown. For wet lawns try pennyroyal and peppermint. For drier lawns try chamomile.
Scented plants can often be readily grown in pots and other containers. These can be moved into different positions as desired, for example move a plant close to a living area when it is strongly in scent and move it away at other times, or move a particular plant away from other fragrant plants to isolate a particular fragrance, or perhaps move containers around to create different combinations of fragrances.
Plants with Fragrant Summer Flowers
Cestrum parqui -deciduous medium shrub with tubular yellow-green flowers in clusters followed by violet-brown berries.
Cestrum aurantiacum -medium to large shrub with bright orange flowers in clusters followed by white berries.
Cestrum nocturnum -long leaved, medium shrub with creamy-white flowers followed by white berries.
Mirabilis jalapa -small semi-hardy shrub (sometimes grown as an annual) flowers open late afternoon and gradually fade over the next day. Many colours available.
Jasminum polyanthum-moderately hardy vigorous climber with masses of white flowers with pink flushes.
Nicotina alata -Sticky-hairy leaved small border shrub with long tubed, starry white flowers opening in the evening. Numerous cultivars. Will tolerate shade.
Hoya carnosa -tender, clinging evergreen woody climber with thick leathery leaves and clusters of long lasting white to pinkish starry flowers. Usually grown as an indoor plant or in containers in protected positions.
Heliotropium peruvianum -small tender shrubby perennial often grown as an annual. Small blue, purple to lavender or white flowers in large dense heads (used for perfumes). Numerous cultivars.
Phlox -nearly all are scented
Viburnum -deciduous and evergreen generally hardy shrubs with usually fragrant white to pink flowers, colourful fruits, and colourful foliage in autumn for deciduous types. For summer flowers try V. japonicum, V. erubescens gracilipes, V. odoratissimum.
Syringa -The well known lilacs are generally vigorous, upright shrubs with deep green leaves and showy white to purple flowers. Summer flowering types include: S. villosa and S. vulgaris-numerous varieties and hybrids.
Clethra -hardy shrubs to small trees with long racemes of creamy-white flowers. Most varieties and species are fragrant.
Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose) -hardy small upright biennial with spikes of short lived yellow flowers, up to 5cm across, that open all evening.
Hemerocallis multiflora (Daylilly) -very hardy clump forming plant with strap shaped glossy leaves and profuse, colourful, short lived trumpet shaped flowers.
Trachelospermum –sun loving, tender, woody climbers with evergreen glossy leaves and jasmine like flowers. Several species including T. asiaticum and T, jasminoides.
Lilliums -Hardy bulbs with generally large six-lobed often trumpet-like flowers. Thousands of varieties and colour combinations-most are fragrant.
Viola (Violet) -small, tufted, dwarf perennial plants. Ovate or heart-shaped leaves. Profuse flowers in warm months. In particular V. odorata hybrids and cultivars are very fragrant. Good for borders, rockeries and as an understorey plant.
Fragrant Annuals and Perennials
Many herbaceous perennial and annual flowering plants are both fragrant and colourful. A spectacular and fragrant display can be created as part of a general garden bed (with a backdrop of trees and shrubs) or as a bed in the centre of a lawn. Before planting, all weeds should be eradicated from the bed. Soil needs to be dug over (normally dig in compost or manure) to make it loose and of even texture. Soil is best formed into mounds to improve drainage for the young plants.
Annuals and perennials with fragrant flowers include: Asperula odorata, Centaurea moschata, Cheiranthus cheirei (Wallflower), Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Corydalis lutea, Dianthus (Pinks), Heliotropium (Heliotrope), Lathyrus (Sweet Pea), Lupinus (Lupin), Matthiola (Stocks), Monarda didyma (Bergamot), Myosotis sylvatica (Forget-me-not), Primroses, Pansies, Violas and lots more.
Annuals and perennials can be planted in any of the following arrangements:
1. In a series of tiers.
A row of low plants to 10 or 15 cm tall is grown as a border to the bed. Behind this is grown a row of aller plants and behind that another row of even taller plants.
2. Rows with dot plants
Tall plants are scattered at random rising above a carpet of lower growing plants.
Here plants are grown as clumps either amongst other clumps of perennials or annuals or to fill in between woody shrubs in a permanent garden bed or in pockets in a rockery.
4. Single Variety Scheme
The bed is planted with all plants of the same variety. These might vary in color (eg: Different coloured violets) or they might be the same colour (eg: all the same coloured violet)