Landscaping for a Fragrant Garden

08/20/2011 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Flowers

While a beautiful garden is a treasure within itself, a garden that exudes great wafts of fragrance is a real gem. In addition, fragrant plants are sources of soothing aromatherapy and magnets to birds and other winged pollinators. Luckily, cost and labor are minimal if you’d like to add a new scented dimension to your summer garden.

When planting fragrance around a garden there are a few important factors to consider. One of the biggest misconceptions is that fragrant flowers should be placed in the garden where it is windy because winds will carry scents through the area. Actually, winds blow away fragrances. With this in mind, fragrant plants should be planted in the most wind resistant spot in the garden. You might try planting behind a row of shrubs or along the side of the house. If you live on a windy hill, consider placing fragrant plants only on the one side of the house where there is the most shelter from the wind.

Ideally, fragrant plants are best placed near a garden’s patio or deck. Any place you often sit in your garden for extended periods of time is a good spot. If your backyard isn’t large enough for deck or patio, then a window box with fragrant plants near a frequently opened door or window is effective. Trellises, pergolas, or arbors provide visual appeal to a garden, but grow fragrant plants on, in, and over these structures and they become airy fragrance containers.

Fragrant plants don’t always bloom during the day; there are a few types such as moonflowers and evening primroses that bloom in the evening. Night blooming simply means the flowers of the plant open as twilight approaches and release their fragrance to the night air. They really bring a special touch to an evening’s outdoor ambiance!
Scented flowers don’t seen to have the same intense fragrances in our arid climate as they do in high humidity areas. However, our summer fragrant flowers seem to have more fragrance than their spring cousins because of the monsoon rains and humidity. While plants like butterfly bush, catmint, honeysuckle, and lavender are recognized for their fragrances, not all scents appeal to all noses. Scent is so personal a preference that I suggest smelling a plant’s foliage and blossoms before buying it.

Harboring fond memories of fragrance at grandma’s house and the border of lilacs she had out the back door? Then by all means you should plant several lilacs in your landscape. Believe me, your grandmother never had access to the red, blue, white, and purple lilacs with so much fragrance as the choices offered today!

Lilacs are fragrant flowers familiar to ‘most everyone, even non-gardeners, but only a few of us have experienced the robust aroma of a viburnum. From snowball bush to the spicier Korean varieties all viburnums have a fragrance that out-scents other shrubs in the garden. These are tough plants that withstand our summer heat and winds better than most.

We often hear the exhortation, “Stop and smell the roses.” Roses usually are the first to come to mind when mention is made of “fragrant flowers.” However, the floral world offers many other examples and none need take a backseat to roses when it comes to aroma.

If there’s one fragrant flower associated with the heady months of summer, it’s the blooms of a butterfly bush. Wafting on a gentle evening breeze, the scent, mixed with the evergreen fragrance of mountain pine and cypress is the very essence of summer. Incidentally, this trio makes a nice bouquet, allowing us to bring this combination of fragrances indoors. This is another family of plants available in dwarf varieties, with blooms in varying yellows, red, white, pink, and many shades of blue and purple. Have fun with butterfly bushes; mix-and-match the fragrances and hues.

Aromatic plants come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Some favorites include sweet magnolia, bay laurel, mock orange, silver berry, crape myrtle, Indian hawthorn, and, of course, butterfly bush.

If your garden needs a climbing bush consider honeysuckle, clematis, climbing roses and my favorite, the five- leaf akebia. Fragrant perennials include lily of the valley, hosta, carnation, peony, and yarrow. Fall flowers that deliver signature scents include sweet alyssum, stock, pansy; even mums have an aroma uniquely their own.

Keep in mind that herbs work well as aroma therapeutics. All herbs are enjoyed for their varying flavors and scents, but my favorite four are catmint, lavender, sage, and mint. All can be planted successfully in autumn.

TIP: I created the ultimate local fragrant plant guide entitled, “The Fragrant Garden”. It’s free for the asking the next time you visit the garden center.

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The Tangerine Beauty Cross Vine, featured plant of the week, just erupted into local bloom! It’s impossible to miss its masses of exotic funnel-shaped flowers that draw hummingbirds and humans alike. The blossoms are fragrant and the foliage is attractive. It grows fast in just about any conditions making it an ideal vine to grow up trees, trellises, and telephone poles. Strong tendrils allow this exotic vine to climb block walls, boulders, and rock faces. It also is serviceable to minimize monsoon erosion. This one is over-the-top and in summer bloom now.

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Free summer gardening classes are held every Saturday starting at 9:30 a.m. here at the garden center. Today’s class is “Landscape Designs That Work”; then on August 27th we’ll have “Growing Super Hardy, Super Show Shrubs”. All information focuses on the best local techniques. Classes are held in the back greenhouses come rain or shine.
Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center.

Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at See Ken’s personal gardens via Facebook at