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North Hills Monthly

Fill Your Garden with Fragrance

Mar 31, 2016 10:25AM ● By Denise Schreiber
Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower.
— Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Fragrance is important to our senses; not just because it smells good, but because it relaxes and refreshes. You should consider planting a garden for fragrance; it can include trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and bulbs, and depending on what plants you choose, you can have a fragrant garden from spring through fall.

The fragrance given off by flowers attracts pollinators; it signals to bees, for example, to come visit the blooms, which are often smelled before they are seen. Flowers release scent when they are ready to be pollinated, and flowering spring trees and shrubs welcome the season with showy flowers; many of which have a heady fragrance. A yellow flowering magnolia, Magnolia ‘Elizabeth,’ has a wonderful citrus fragrance and creamy, yellow flowers; it can withstand a light frost and still throw out more blooms. I can’t wait until mine is blooming each year just so I can go and sniff it!

Viburnums, too, are quite fragrant. A few cut branches of either Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) or the Judd hybrid viburnum (Viburnum x juddii) can fill a room with a wonderful smell early in the spring. It is quite attractive with pink and white waxy flowers that last for several days.

The old-fashioned lilac is a classic fragrant shrub, and there are many varieties from which to choose; remember that white lilacs are just as fragrant as traditional purple ones. When caring for a lilac, cut one-third of the oldest stems down as far as possible to keep the shrub in check, and do it immediately after it blooms. Never shear it like a hedge because you will be cutting off next year’s flowers.

Spring is also a good time to plant fragrant sweet pea in the garden, as it likes cool weather. The plant’s growth may slow down when hot weather arrives, but it should come back when the temperatures cool down.

When summer finally makes an appearance, there is a plethora of fragrance to be found. Roses come into full bloom in June, enticing you with scents that range from fruity to citrus to complex aromas that rival a fine wine. Damask and gallica roses are among the most fragrant, but many modern roses have wonderful scents, too. Let your nose make the decision as to which ones you choose.

True lilies are the queen of the garden, and you can choose ones that bloom in early summer, mid-summer or late summer. Trumpet and Aurelian lilies are almost all fragrant, but the Oriental and Orienpet lilies have the heady perfume that will knock your socks off. One of the most fragrant is ‘Casa Blanca’, an Oriental lily with enormous white flowers that fill the garden with marvelous fragrance. It blooms in August and is perfect for warm summer evenings, and it’s my all-time favorite lily! Lilies like to be planted deep in full sun, in a rich, fertile soil to keep their roots cool, so adding some compost to the hole is perfect. You will be rewarded year after year with more blooms on the stalk. If you want to grow lilies for cutting, plant extra since they aren’t fond of being cut. Remember to remove the pistils (the orange pollen) so that it doesn’t stain your clothing or furniture.

Bee balm is another summer plant that gives off a strong clove scent and is a great pollinator plant. And I can’t miss mentioning lavender, the base scent for so many great perfumes. ‘Phenomenal’ and ‘Provence’ have very strong scents and do quite well in our climate. Lavender loves full sun, a well-drained but moist soil, and is pretty much deer-proof. You can cut it for bouquets or to make potpourri; just remember to cut off the spent blooms. Don’t cut back into the woody part of the plant, though, because that allows for fungal disease to take over during a wet winter.

Fall brings us the autumn clematis, a prolific bloomer covered in tiny white blossoms that has a sweet scent. In late winter, you can force paperwhite bulbs indoors to remind you that winter will be over soon. Witch hazel is a late winter/early spring blooming shrub that announces the coming of spring, and as the days get a bit longer, hyacinths will push out of the ground and fill the garden with its perfume.