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Using Fragrance

Think of the scent of blooming lilacs – that familiar smell might immediately take you back to a favorite park or your grandmother’s garden. Fragrance is the most powerful of all senses for triggering memories, and can be used to add another dimension to your garden.

  • Plan your garden in a sheltered location so the perfume lingers – usually the warmer the space, the more concentrated the aroma.
  • Place plants in the vicinity where you spend time at night, since many fragrances are often stronger in the evening (to attract pollinating night moths).
  • Take note of the prevailing direction of breezes, and locate your garden upwind.
  • Remember that low spots in your landscape also capture fragrance.
  • Site fragrant plants near doorways, entertainment areas, patios, open windows, screened porches, gazebos and pathways.

When selecting fragrant perennials, pick a mix of spring, summer and fall bloomers for constant interest. In general, the lighter the flower color, the stronger the scent (white flowers tend to be the most fragrant – followed by off-white, pink, mauve, yellow and lavender blooms). Be careful not to put too many fragrant perennials close together as stronger scents can overwhelm more delicate ones. Plus, when strong scents mingle, the effect can be overpowering instead of pleasant.

Also remember to include some perennials with fragrant foliage – their fragrance will last spring through fall. Some perennials with aromatic leaves (other than culinary herbs) include: Nepeta (Catmint), Lavandula (Lavender), Monarda (Bee Balm), Geranium macrorrhizum, Achillea (Yarrow) and Asperula odorata (Sweet Woodruff).

A Few Other Fragrant Varieties:

  • Hemerocallis (Daylilies): White and yellow flowering daylilies are the most fragrant.
  • Lavendula (Lavender): Of course! All lavenders do best in full sun and well drained loose alkaline soil. In clay soils, may benefit from planting in raised beds.
  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush): Colors range from white, pink, purple, yellow and blue. All are mobbed by butterflies.
  • Cimicifuga (Bugbane, Snakeroot): Chocolate-leaved Bugbanes sport luxurious foliage that is complemented by elegant wands of creamy-white. They have to be one of the most fragrant of all perennials.
  • Woods Phlox (Divaricata) & Garden Phlox (Paniculata): These varieties are sweet smelling staples of the garden.

Remember, you can always use our Plant Finder online to find the fragrant varieties that are just right for your garden.