Designing a Garden for Fragrance

Of all the senses, smell most strongly evokes memory. The strong perfume of sweet peas, or the spicy smell of nasturtiums can bring back an acute longing for a favorite garden from the past.

The flower fragrances you prefer are as personal as the perfume or aftershave lotion you choose to wear. Plant generously so that you have plenty of flowers and leaves to pick for bouquets and bowls of potpourri. Even a few sprays of the unassuming common mignonette (Reseda odorata) can scent a room or front porch. As a rule, choose the more old-fashioned varieties of flowers, which usually tend to be more fragrant than modern hybrids; you may need to order seed packets to find the older, most strongly scented varieties.

Remember to add a few fragrant blooms to every pot, window box, or hanging basket. Concentrate sweet-smelling flowers near walkways, entries, patios, and decks so that you and your guests can enjoy them often. Some plants don't waste their scent on the daylight hours; they reserve their allure for night-flying moths and their pollinating ways. For instance, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana) and the moonflower vine release their sweet scent on the evening air and, thus, are an ideal addition to planting beds or pots near bedroom windows or on patios that you use in the evening.

Here are some favorite easy-care annuals that add fragrance to the garden:

  • Heliotrope. Dark, crinkly leaves show off vanilla-scented purple or dusky-white flowers.

  • Mignonette. This little plant is easy to grow from seed and has an amazingly strong, sweet fragrance.

  • Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco. The white flowers have a nearly tropical scent that is particularly strong in the evening.

  • Night-scented stock. This old-fashioned, early blooming favorite has the scent of cloves.

  • Scented-leafed geraniums. Fuzzy, splotched, and streaked leaves come in a wide variety of scents, from chocolate, to cinnamon, lemon, and mint.

  • Sweet alyssum. Masses of tiny scented flowers make this a favorite edging plant.

  • Sweet peas. A childhood favorite for many people, the older varieties of sweet peas retain the sweetest of scents all day long.

  • Sweet William. Gardeners have grown this plant since Elizabethan times for its spicy, sweet fragrance.

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