Ideas for scented garden planting

Posted on 28th Jul, 2017

How to make the best of scented flowering plants in the garden.

Visiting a client this week, to discuss garden design ideas for a new area, she thanked me for bringing the garden into the house, even as far as the upstairs rooms.  Seeing I looked slightly puzzled,  she explained that the scent of evergreen jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) trained on the walls beneath wafts in through open windows on these long hot summer nights, so she is enjoying the plants even when she cannot see them.

People often include fragrant plants in their planting wishlist, and one of the best ways to enjoy them is to plant close to the house, particularly by doors and gates.  That way, even if the weather isn’t warm enough to entice you into the garden, entering the front door past a fragrant Rose or Honeysuckle means you can enjoy the scent throughout the flowering period.

This spring was an amazing season for the popular climbing plant, Wisteria sinensis.   Although it comes with a health warning to keep straggling new shoots under control, the heady scent is worth the effort of tying in the fresh growth and pruning twice a year.

Preparation is the key to success when growing climbing plants, particularly when they are trained up the walls of a house or brick built structure.  Whether you choose simple wire stretched between sets of vine eyes screwed into the wall, or bespoke tensioned stainless steel wire trellis kits, it is always advisable to have these in place when you plant the climber.  That way, training the new growth starts from the beginning and it is easier to keep under control.

If planting against walls is not an option, three top shrubs for the border are Sarcococca (winter flowering Christmas Box), Philadelphus (Mock Orange) and Viburnum burkwoodii.  Shade loving Sarcoccoca is one of the earliest flowering scented plants of the year.  It’s tiny, insignificant flowers fill the January air with exotic scent, always a treat in the depths of winter.   To enjoy maximum impact, if possible Sarcoccoca should be planted near to the house and doorways.  I keep one in a pot which I move back and forward so that I can enjoy the scent in winter and protect it from too much sun later in the year. 

Philadelphus is a much larger shrub, so it is best placed in large borders close to a terrace or seating area in the garden.  Flowering in late spring, early summer, the flowers are small, but the fragrance is hard to beat, particularly strong in the evening.

The scent of Viburnum burkwoodii delicate, and should be bottled!  The flowers on this shrub also look great.  Tiny clusters of pink tinged white flowers form large snowballs covering the plant from May onwards.

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