Many Bluegrass gardens have beautiful, well-cared for gardens, but are they fragrant gardens? Historically gardens were fragrant because people wanted to be surrounded with pleasant aromas to off-set unpleasant scents in the environment. Fragrant gardens have become popular again and now gardeners are searching for aromatic plants for their gardens.
Designing a garden with fragrance is a personal thing. You will need to group plants that have the same growing needs and you will need to remember all of the other things that make any garden look nice - a good blend of colors, varied texture and forms. A fragrant garden should have sweet smelling plants that span most of the season.
Smell is a sense with many memory ties. When we smell something, it often brings memories and feelings associated with the scent. The smell of pine may remind you of Christmas or of a family camping trip. Scent can bring both pleasant and unpleasant memories, and each person interprets a fragrance in a different way.
If you loved going to your grandmother’s house, you may remember the scent of lilacs or peonies. Or the smell of lavender may remind you of lazy, summer evening. Smelling roses many remind you of your wedding bouquet and nicotiana many remind you of sipping lemonade on the back porch. So what you want in your fragrant garden will be plants that evoke pleasant memories and that please your senses.
Plant nurseries have recognized the increased interest in fragrant plants and are labeling just about every plant in their inventory as fragrant. What constitutes a fragrant plant is open to interpretation in many ways. Some plants have scents that waft to you on the air and others must be handled or crushed to release their scent. Your garden can incorporate some of each. Often those plants that need to be “bruised” to release their scent are not very showy and benefit from being planted with their flowery scented cousins.
Choose plants for your garden with scents that appeal to you and invoke pleasant memories. Use plants that are hardy in the Bluegrass or treat fragrant plants as annuals - here are many fragrant annual plants on the market. If you choose a fragrant plant that you do not like or whose scent overwhelms you, don’t be afraid to discard it. The best fragrance gardens will have a succession of fragrant plants in bloom so the color and scent last all season long.
Fragrance gardens should be close to where people sit or close to the house where the delightful smells can waft through open windows. Porches and patios, under windows and near doors are great places to plant a scented garden. Scented gardens are excellent where there are children or elderly adults. Children are very interested in all their senses and smells will attract them to the garden. Elderly people enjoy the memories that certain scents invoke.
If you locate your fragrance garden in a sunny area, you will have more plant choices. Healthy amended soil and access to water are also a must for the fragrance garden. Often a scented garden on the west of a sitting area will bring more of the scent to you as prevailing winds are from the west in most of the country. If the garden will be used mainly in the evenings you will want plants that are light colored and release their scent in the evening.
The following are just a few of the best scented flowers. You will need to check for hardiness, size and growing needs. The fragrance code is: strong fragrance = sf, light fragrance = lf, and fragrant foliage = ff.
Fragrant plants for sunny areas:
Tulips lf, narcissus sf, witch hazel lf, hyacinths sf, lilacs sf, dames rocket sf, sweet peas sf, roses lf to sf, mock orange sf, wisteria sf, linden sf, sweet alyssum lf, stocks sf, catalpa sf, phlox sf, lavender sf,ff, thyme ff, lemon balm ff, bee balm ff, mints ff, nicotiana sf , lilies sf, rosemary ff, basil ff, petunias lf , sweet autumn clematis lf, Sweet Annie ff, Russian sage ff, anise hyssop ff.
Fragrant plants for shade or part shade:
Sweet woodruff lf, violets lf, violas lf, Forget- Me-Nots lf, woodland phlox sf, Lilies of the Valley lf, Ladies Tresses lf, clethra sf, daphne sf, hosta sf, woodland Nicotiana sf, some magnolias, lf, some azaleas lf.