Focusing on Flower Fragrance
March 8, 2010
Allan in Fragrant Plants, Gardening Tips & Advice, Musings on Gardening, aroma in the garden, fragrance in the garden, fragrant perennials

Rugosa Rose Blanc Double de CoubertPicture this: A few college students, all strong athletes, are working in my garden, doing grueling, debilitating work. It is hot; yet not one of them is complaining. They are happy to have found a summer job. Exhortations, to stop and drink and to get into the shade, go unheeded. They inform me that they will take my advice when their bodies tell them that it is time.

All of a sudden, one of them drops his trowel, crawls over to one corner of the garden, and exclaims that a fragrance has moved him to ecstasy. He had discovered Rugosa Rose Blanc Double de Coubert.  Although this is a macho-type person, he is proud to say that, when he was young, an aunt imbued him with her passion for gardening and taught him to appreciate the beauty and aroma of flowers. Every day, regardless of the chore, I can find him with his nose to the ground, literally, as he kneels down to identify, by smell, everything that grows in the garden.

This tri-athlete had incorporated the aunt’s teachings into an identity of self. At college, he chose to study environmental science, so that one day he might help repair the earth. A summer job in the garden was an extension of his education. When he exclaimed that the fragrance of the rose was the most intoxicating he had ever experienced, I explained that I chose to plant it precisely for that reason.

Fragrance in the garden has a physiological and spiritual effect on most people. Some gardeners deliberately plant aromatic plants to create this effect while others discover fragrances accidentally. Those that specialize in the installation of healing gardens also pay attention to aroma for the powerful effect that it has on the human psyche.

While some healing gardens will also include aromatic herbs and fragrant flowering trees, this article deliberately focuses on flowering perennials, some bulbs, and ornamental shrubs. Here is a list of those that are most fragrant and widely used in Zones 5. Surely, those who garden in Zones 6 and warmer will have many others to add to this list.

Convalleria, also known as Lily-of-the-Valley, has a powerful, indescribable scent that is considered “old fashioned”. Growing conditions play a role in influencing the intensity of its aroma. Sadly, this plant is invasive. To benefit from its aroma, without suffering from its spread, place a bottomless plastic bucket into the earth first, and then plant it with this perennial. The sidewalls of the bucket will stop the Lily-of-the-Valley from spreading.

Syringia. The lilac is a shrub with an aroma likened to “French perfume”. Some tall varieties are more fragrant than others are.  Dwarf Chinese or Korean lilacs emit a scent that is sweeter and more intense than other varieties. Also, the aroma of these miniature shrubs will travel greater distances than does the fragrance of traditional Lilacs.

The aroma of Iris germanica may be compared to that of grape-flavored Kool Aid. Its visual appeal only adds to the attractiveness of this perennial.

Philadelphus, is a shrub whose flowers emit a delicate, sweet, aroma resembles that of orange blossoms. Some gardeners use its flowering branches to create interior floral arrangements.

Lillium hybrids have a pungent aroma that is rich and heavy. Those gardeners susceptible to allergic reactions to aromas should avoid close contact with this plant, especially when its stamens are ripe. Furthermore, ripe stamens stain clothing. This family of plants is not for everyone, since it is highly susceptible to garden pests in some locations.

Dianthus is a flowering perennial with an intoxicatingly strong, yet delightful, aroma of cloves. It is easy to grow and makes an effective groundcover as well.

Lavandula. What can one add to the description of lavender, except to state that it is sublime? In summer, its violet blue flowers are very effective when planted in waves.

Tall and graceful Perovskia has a strong and playful aroma of sage, cranked up a notch to create a fragrance with a distinct intensity. Because the aroma emanates from the foliage, this summer perennial continues to intoxicate well beyond autumn.

Peony flowers have an intense and pungent scent with a powerful calming effect. However, those allergic to aromas should not bring its cut flowers indoors, unless windows are kept open.

Rose Blanc Double de Coubert is an old-fashioned shrub rose with a traditional intoxicating scent. Many other rose bushes offer equally romantic perfumes. Most high maintenance Hybrid Tea roses are famous for their aroma.

Some spring flowering bulbs also emit fragrances.  The spring 2010 issue of Gardenmaking Magazine lists no less than eleven tulips that are fragrant including Couleur Cardinal and Prinses Irene. Hyacinths are also fragrant as are some varieties of narcissus and daffodils.

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/).
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