Originally Published: June 15, 2018 5:50 a.m.
Heirloom flowers are usually best for scenting a garden
Scented flowers bring another dimension of enjoyment to the garden.
Some flowers are lightly scented and one must be nearby the plant for the scent to be noticed. Other plants engulf the entire yard in their perfume—think of Spring’s lilacs or its hillsides full of lilies-of-the-valley.
But genetic manipulation of plants means that some of flowers once considered fragrant no longer are. Plants without scent have usually been bred to be full and bushy, disease resistant or perpetually blooming, and those virtues often come at the sacrifice of scent.
Heirloom flowers are usually the best bet for scenting a garden.
To include some fragrance in your garden, consider the following tips:
Plant flowers where you’ll be able to enjoy their fragrances frequently — alongside paths, patios, near windows that can be opened and in containers by doorways. And keep in mind while planning placement of flowers, they are typically most fragrant early in the morning and at dusk, but some plants are most fragrant in the evening. Plant those near your dining and entertaining areas.
The fragrance of flowers also changes throughout the day and in response to variations in the weather and growing conditions, so you’ll need to experiment with fragrant plants to see which produces best for you and which combinations appeal to you. Your gardens should be personal.
Plant fragrant flowers in large clumps for the most substantial impact. The scent of flowers will dissipate if they are planted in wide open, windy areas. Distribute fragrant plants throughout the yard, so different scents don’t compete with each other.
Plants with fragrant leaves have an even more potent scent when the leaves are crushed underfoot, so look for fragrant ground covers and lawn alternatives that can withstand foot traffic. Following are the top scented plants, listed by general seasons, but some will bloom earlier or later in different gardens.
1 Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia spp.)
Brugmansia is a large, tree-like plant with 8-inch blooms that dangle upside down and give off a citrus-floral scent that is most pronounced in the evening. Bring indoors to over-winter in mountain areas.
2 Cor (Agastache)
Both the leaves and small, spiky purple flowers of hyssop have a strong scent of anise. It is a member of the mint family, both the leaves and flowers are edible.
3 Butterfly Ginger (Hedychium)
summer- and fall-blooming perennial
These white flowers need the longest days of summer to open and release their sweet, honeysuckle fragrance. This plant is sometimes called White Ginger Lily.
4 Carnation (Dianthus)
The spicy scent of carnations is one of the most familiar flower fragrances. Make sure you purchase a variety that says it is fragrant since many have been bred for larger flowers and longer blooms but have little to no scent.
5 Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Chamomile has a delightful, grassy herbal scent, similar to the fragrance that wafts up from hot chamomile tea. It often is used in aromatherapy for its calming effect when inhaled.
6 Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)
There is a definitely minty scent from both the leaves and flowers of Corsican mint. Often used as a ground cover to emit its fragrance when crushed underfoot, this plant is also the flavoring used in Crème de Menthe liqueur.
7 Daphne (Daphne cneorum)
Daphne is a beautiful, knee-high shrub with glossy green leaves and flowers with a perfume quality that is a mix of sweet florals and earthy undertones. Easily grown in shady mountain gardens, Daphne retains its green leaves through winter.
8 Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)
Stunning red-to-orange blossoms emit a fruity and sweet fragrance. Bees and hummingbirds love the flowers, but they are Javalina-, deer- and rabbit-proof in mountain landscapes.
9 Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana)
summer blooming annual
Nicotiana is sometimes referred to as jasmine tobacco because of its intense, sweet scent. Go for the tall Nicotiana sylvestris for a fragrance that permeates the area at sunset. Many of the shorter, contemporary Nicotiana alata have only a faint scent. Nicotiana is grown as an annual at higher elevations.
10 Four O’clock (Mirabilis)
Mirabilis is Latin for “wonderful”. The flowers open in late afternoon in response to cooling temperatures. They may stay open all day when skies are overcast, but their sweet, lemony fragrance is most intense in the evening. The seed self-sows or can be grown as annuals.
11 Fragrant Columbine (Aquilegia)
Aquilegia fragrans is slightly different from the more common garden columbines, although Aquilegia fragrans are almost as easy to grow. They have creamy-white flowers that emit a honeysuckle-like scent.
Freesia is a favorite wedding flower. It’s a tropical, but can be grown as a houseplant in this region. The tubular flowers have a fresh, fruity, floral scent.
14 Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
On a warm, summer day, the floral scent of garden phlox can be heady, heat so intensifies the fragrance. Watch out for contemporary hybrids, bred only for show; they have hardly any scent.
15 Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
Gardenias are one of the most fragrant flowers; some folks even find them too strong for close encounters. Several new mountain introductions can be grown outdoors perennially, remaining evergreen through winter.
16 Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacu)
Muscari gets its common name from its enticing grape fragrance. If they are planted in a large clump, their scent can permeate the yard. These tiny flowers also make nice cut flowers, to bring their bright scent indoors.
17 Heliotrope (Heliotropium)
Heliotrope has a cherry-vanilla scent that gives it its colloquial name, “the cherry pie flower.” To get the full effect, plant a considerable collection of these plants in a clump.
Unlike many Hosta varieties that are grown for their foliage, Hosta plantaginea, and many of its hybrids — like ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘Guacamole’ — have white, fragrant flowers.
19 Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
One jasmine plant can perfume your entire yard. The beautiful, evergreen foliage and star-shaped flowers are merely bonuses to its spicy, sweet scent.
20 Jonquils (Narcissus jonquilla)
Many daffodils have a subtle scent, but for a bigger bang, try a patch of jonquils. They have a refreshing, astringent scent.
21, Lavender (Lavendula)
Lavender has one of the most beloved scents of all flowers. When used in cooking, its musky, floral fragrance even permeates the palate.
22 Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
spring blooming perennial
The sweet, floral fragrance of lilacs announces spring. A hint of the lilac scent emerges as the buds start to swell, but once the flowers open, lilacs can perfume the entire neighborhood. New, dwarf varieties bloom for months of lilac enjoyment; like the new Bloomerang lilac, which blooms multiple times each year.
23 Lilies (Lilium)
Lilies have a robust, spicy-sweet scent. Both the cut flowers and the blooms on the plant are long-lasting, and the flowers come in many colors. A bouquet of lilies can perfume the whole house.
24 Lily of the Valley (Convalariam)
With their rich, sweet fragrance, lilies of the valley are a favorite addition to commercial perfumes. The flowers grow in the shady parts of mountain landscapes.
Magnolias have a sweet, energetic scent that can evoke memories of the first time you found yourself captivated by this tree or large bush. Although all magnolia are fragrant, only some varieties are mountain hardy. Make sure to ask your garden center for help choosing the right magnolia for your landscape.
26 Mock Orange (Philadelphus)
If you are unfamiliar with the mock-orange fragrance, you might imagine yourself in a citrus grove in full bloom when your first encounter this blossom. The scent of the small, white flowers mimics that of orange blossoms.
27 Moonflower (Ipomoea)
This night bloomer has a surprising scent of cinnamon and roses and is most fragrance in late summer and only after the sun goes down, thus the name ‘Moonflower’.
28 Naked Lady (Amaryllis Belladonna)
The rather lewd common name, Naked Lady, is because the beautiful, tubular flowers of this plant bloom before the leaves emerge. The flowers’ scent is reminiscent of bubble gum.
29 Night-Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum)
The scent of night-blooming jasmine wafts through the air. Unlike Jasminum officinale, which can be very sweet, night-blooming jasmine is a sultry scent.
30 Pennyroyal (Mentha)
Pennyroyal is a members of the mint family and an attractive, creeping plant, perfect as a ground cover. When it’s crushed, it releases its fragrance.
31 Peony (Paeonia)
Peonies have beautiful flowers, and their lush blooms have a bright, clean scent, similar to roses. Peonies are long lasting as cut flowers, and the plant uses little water user and is distasteful to animals.
32 Pinks (Dianthus), a spring-through-fall-blooming perennial
Although not as strongly scented as carnations, pinks also have a spicy scent and are much more adaptable to mountain gardens.
33 Rose – a summer-blooming perennial
Although not all roses are fragrant, roses are often the first flower people think of when it comes to fragrance. There is a lot of variety in rose scents, from candy sweet to exotic and spicy. Watters Garden Center carries mountain-hardy roses with hundreds available for smelling through the growing season.
34 Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum), a spring-to-summer-blooming [WHAT?]
This evergreen, twining tangle of vines is not a pure jasmine, but it smells so much like one, it earned its common name. A well-established plant will be covered with the fragrant blooms.
35 Stock (Matthiola), a spring-and-fall-blooming annual
It’s hard to believe that stock is a member of the cabbage family. Also known as gillyflower, stock blossoms pack an intense, clove-like scent in their small flowers. Best planted very early in spring and late summer.
36 Summersweet (Clethra), a summer-blooming perennial
The spicy scent of Clethra is why some people refer to it as ‘pepper bush.” Bright-green foliage offsets the white panicles of flowers. The scent comes as a pleasant surprise in late summer.
37 Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia), a spring-through-fall-annual
This low-growing plant is so covered with flowers, it looks like a white carpet on the ground or turns containers into giant snowballs. Its fragrance is a unique blend of a honey-like quality with a floral finish.
38 Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis), a fall-blooming perennial
In autumn, this plant is covered in a cloud of white flowers. The blossoms give off a gentle, vanilla scent, best enjoyed when walking under a blossom-covered trellis, arch or pergola.
39 Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), a spring-blooming annual
Sweet peas offer an abundance of cut flowers. Unfortunately, breeders have been focusing on more blooms and less fragrance. Look for traditional varieties that have sweet peas’ beloved, spicy scent.
40 Sweet Woodruff (Asperula), a spring-blooming annual
Sweet woodruff has a grassy, vanilla scent, more enticing than this description. This flower’s scent is often compared to the smell of newly mown hay.
41 Thyme (Thymus), a summer-blooming perennial
You may think of thyme only as a seasoning, but more often it is used as an ornamental plant in containers and beside walkways. It is also valued as a pollinator to attract bees and butterflies to the landscape. Thyme is in the mint family, but its scent is more herbal and grassy than that of traditional mints.
42 Tuberose (Polianthes), a summer-blooming annual
These flowers have an unusual, sweet scent that has been likened to everything from candy to Dr. Pepper soda. The stalks support large, white flowers that can grow to 5-feet tall. In mountain gardens, the bulbs can be unearthed and stored for winter.
You can find Ken Lain at Watters Garden Center -- 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott -- helping his customers choose the most fragrant blossoms for their landscapes, or contact him through his website, WattersGardenCenter.com