Selecting Scented Plants
Before purchasing scented plants, determine when they are likely to bloom in your area, for how long and at what intensity. This will help you determine what you need to maintain a fragrant garden throughout the growing season. Determine each plant’s ideal habitat and required maintenance for its optimal health and persistence. Some fragrant plants, such as marigolds, sweet pea and heliotrope, benefit from deadheading (the removal of spent flowers) to preclude seed formation and to prompt repeated blooming. To avoid disappointment, study the plant labels to ensure the cultivar or hybrid you are buying is the scented one. If possible, buy plants when they are in full bloom so that you can confirm their fragrance. Also, knowing when to prune fragrant shrubs is vital to avoid removing flower buds. Generally, shrubs that bloom in the spring flower on the previous year’s wood and are best pruned after they flower. Later summer and fall-blooming shrubs that flower on the current year’s wood are best pruned in early spring.
Depending on your selections, some plants are better planted alone rather than in combination with others, as mixed scents can be unsettling. Also, plants such as woodland phlox are so delicately scented to my nose that I have to rely on large clump plantings to be able to detect the fragrance. Others just have an unpleasant smell. The seed pods of the female maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba), for example, have a rather fetid odor when stepped on. The simple solution is to buy the male seedless clones. Others that evoke turned-up noses from some are the sweet scents of hyacinths and paperwhites, and the somewhat pungent foliage of stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus), skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), ornamental onions (Alliums spp.) and boxwoods. Keep in mind that some of the highly scented plants are poisonous, so being educated about them and careful siting is of utmost importance.
Scented plants offer many benefits to both gardeners and pollinators. They can also add a new and exciting dimension to your garden. Try adding a few and enjoy the fragrance all season long.
The fragrant plants of Heliotrope and Yellow Pansy.