Fall is definitely time for planting, and it’s also the perfect time for enjoying time in the garden. It is a delightful season to appreciate the intoxicating fragrance of Tea Olives blooming all over the Midlands. But why allow October to be the only month to savor fragrance in the garden. Why not plant a garden with an emphasis on fragrance? There are many wonderful and easy ways to grow plants that will blanket the garden with the most enchanting fragrances. There are so many wonderful fragrant blossoms to cut and arrange in small vases to fill your house with natural perfume. Put away the potpourri and fill your house with nature’s parfum! Let’s plan fragrance in the garden by choosing at least one, two or even three plants for each month whose blooms and foliage will imbue the garden and your home with fragrance.
Surprisingly, there are quite a few very fragrant plants to include in the fragrance garden for January.
Daphne Odora – Daphne can be temperamental and difficult to establish, but it is worth the effort to enjoy their wonderfully fragrant white and rosy flowers. Daphne must be planted in a spot with morning sun and good drainage. I have found the evergreen form to be hardier than the variegated.
Flowering Apricot – This is one of my most favorite trees, it’s hard to find, old-fashioned and wonderful to cut branches and force inside.
Winter Honeysuckle – Winter honeysuckle is the perfect shrub with its winter flowers. It brings spring to the garden several months early while, at the other end of the year, its foliage lasts well into winter.
Narcissus – Narcissus are easy to grow. They thrive in sun but will tolerate light shade. They naturalize well and are most effective when planted in large groups. There are hundreds of forms and varieties. One of my favorites is Sir Winston Churchill. It has multiple petals, is easy to grow and force inside and is deliciously fragrant.
Forsythia (Forsythia intermedia) – Forsythia happily heralds the beginning of the growing season with its bright yellow, tubular flowers. It is best grown in full sun and allowed to attain its natural arching shape. Forsythia is sometimes pruned into unnatural, regular shapes, and most of the blooms are cut at the wrong time, which diminishes the number of blossoms. If forsythia is left to grow freely, they will be covered with blooms in late February. Fragrance is best enjoyed indoors where warmer temperatures concentrate the scent.
Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) – If we are lucky enough not to have a killing frost to kill the blooms of Star Magnolia, the small tree will be covered with creamy, white flowers that have a very faint fragrance. “Royal Star” is a very popular variety and the blooms are best enjoyed indoors where the warm interior temperatures enhance the fragrance.
Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans) – Older established specimens of Tea Olive will fill the garden with fragrance this time of year. Tea Olive has no pest problems and are easy to grow. Plant them where their divine fragrance can be enjoyed indoors and out. They are beautifully effective as a corner foundation plant or as a specimen in a formal garden.
Pansy – These delightful annuals come in a wide variety of pleasing colors and are very fragrant when picked and made into a nosegay. Put a few in your bathroom for a wonderful, fresh surprise.
Banana Shrub (Michelia figo) – These old-fashioned beauties fill the outdoors with the sent of sweet bananas. The flowers are not very showy, but when cut and placed in a vase inside they will fill the indoors with a sweet smell. Banana shrub are pest free, carefree and are lovely when included in a large, mixed shrub border or hedge.
Flowering Almond – This is a gorgeous, old-fashioned flowering tree with limbs that are covered with light pink flowers. Flowering almond are very easy to force inside. Cut a branch with a limb diameter of 3 to 4 inches. Place the branch in a sturdy vase with fresh water and place in a warm spot in the house. The blooms should open in one to two weeks and bathe your interiors with a beautiful, fresh fragrance.
Wisteria (Wisteria Floribunda or Japanese Wisteria) – Gardeners either love it or hate it. I adore seeing the gorgeous purple blooms of wild Wisteria and smelling its wonderful fragrance in the early spring. Pick some blooms and put in a vase indoors. The intoxicating fragrance may change your opinion of Wisteria. A non-invasive variety to try is Wisteria “Amethyst Falls” which is not nearly as fragrant but is also not nearly as invasive!
Roses – Roses are the stars of the April garden and certainly one of the most fragrance producing blooms. There are hundreds of very fragrant roses. A favorite of mine is “Souvenir de la Malmaison.” It is easy to grow, relatively disease-resistant and needs room to ramble. It is covered with fragrant, light pink blossoms for two to three weeks in April.
Dianthus (Dianthus caryophyllus) – “Pinks” are one of the most fragrant perennials out there. The white, pink or rose-colored blooms grow out of short mats of narrow blue-green leaves. Dianthus act as a wonderful ground cover in a hot, sandy environment. It is difficult to mulch so do not mulch the clumps. The small blossoms more than make up for their size with their wonderful, big scent.
Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) – Alyssum is an annual in the Midlands because our summer temperatures and humidity turn it into a mushy mess. It is a wonderful early spring annual to add to the bottom of a potted boxwood or other evergreen. It is also an attractive accent in a hanging basket. One very successful way to enjoy the fragrance of alyssum is to include it in containers at the front or back door.
Buddleia (Buddleia davidii) (Butterfly Bush) – There is a reason that butterflies are so drawn to Buddleia. They smell heavenly! Buddleia are easy to grow, very fragrant, lovely to look at and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Definitely include a few Buddleia in your fragrance garden. They are covered with white, pink or purple flowers all summer, and are very pleasing planted as a specimen in a perennial garden or included in a shrub border. I like to alternate them with Gardenia for a beautiful and fragrant hedge.
Ligustrum (Ligustrum sinense or Chinese privet) – Ligustrum are in the same category as Wisteria for some gardeners but for a different reason. The strong fragrance of ligustrum blooms is either a smell people love or hate. I happen to love it and plant ligustrum not only for use as a hedge or specimen but for its prolific blossoms. If you don’t care for the smell, the plants can be pruned right before bloom and the smell will not be a problem. The foliage is an excellent filler for flower arrangements.
Magnolia Grandiflora – May is the month for Magnolia. One big, beautiful blossom floating in a pretty bowl of water will fill the entire house with the essence of spring in the South. The large, shiny leaves are coveted by flower arrangers. Magnolia need plenty of space and should not be pruned or limbed up. One favorite variety is “Braeken’s Brown Beauty.”
Gardenia – I am not referring to the dwarf Gardenia varieties. I am talking about the big, blowsy Gardenia jasminoides that is the old-fashioned Gardenia bush that most of our grandmothers had in their gardens. They thrive in morning sun with good draining soil. These blossoms are very fragrant, waxy white flowers that fill the garden and the indoors with the most heavenly scent. These bushes definitely deserve a place in your fragrance garden.
Mock Orange (Philadelphus) – These bushes/trees are big and need lots of room. A mature mock orange can grow to 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide. The bush is covered in fragrant, snowy white flowers for most of the month of June. The arching branches add movement and fragrance to cut flower arrangements. This shrub works beautifully in a mixed hedge.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus Officinalis) – The tiny lavender flowers that cover rosemary in the heat of July are wonderfully fragrant. The leaves are obviously fragrant and release their scent when brushed up against in the garden. Rosemary is easy to grow if given the right conditions. It actually thrives on neglect. It is happiest planted in poor, thin soil. It tolerates drought. If the stems touch the soil, it will root easily resulting in another rosemary bush.
Buddleia (Buddleia Davidii) – These wonderful bushes respond very well to a hard pruning, so prune them now for a burst of new fragrant flowers in August and September.
Daylily (Hemerocallis) and Oriental Lily – Many of the super hybridized daylilies have a wonderful fragrance. They are spectacular cut flowers and will fill the room with a sweet perfume. One of the most fragrant Oriental Lilies is Casablanca Lily. It is a favorite and is often used as the base of many commercial perfumes. This Oriental Lily definitely deserves a place of honor in the fragrance garden.
Pineapple Sage – This sturdy perennial actually smells, just as its name implies, like fresh, ripe pineapple. It’s reddish-orange blossoms and leaves exude the scent of pineapple when warmed by the sun. It is also great nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies, so it is a wonderful addition to the fragrance garden.
Marigolds (Tagetes) – Most people do not think of marigolds as being a fragrant flower. It definitely has a strong fragrance though it is not a sweet one. Marigolds are pungent and act as a great bug repellent for plants and humans alike. So, consider this “fragrant” marigold as an organic, holistic and natural bug repellant.
Rosa Rugosa – This tough, old-fashioned rose is under-used in my estimation. It is a strong bush rose with full clusters of blossoms. It blooms almost all summer and is most fragrant in August when warmed by the hot, summer sun. It is disease resistant, deer resistant and drought tolerant. It is definitely a worthwhile addition to the fragrance garden.
Tea Olive – I think of Tea Olives when I think of September. These hardy Southern plants are covered with small, white, fragrant blossoms that fill the neighborhood with sweet perfume. One small bouquet of Tea Olive will scent your whole house.
Salvia Leucantha (Salvia Leucantha or Mexican Sage Bush) – This 3- to 4-foot-tall salvia is drought tolerant, deer resistant and blooms prolifically in early September. The spiky purple and white flowers are sweetly fragrant and the leaves give off a pungent smell when brushed by in the garden. Plant salvia leucantha as a specimen in the perennial garden or plant as an architectural element in the mixed border.
Paperwhites – Begin forcing Paperwhites for fragrant blooms. Stagger the time that you begin to force them so that you have new blossoms every week until Thanksgiving. Forcing just three to five bulbs will fill your kitchen or living room with sweet fragrance. After they have bloomed, plant the bulbs (with the green stalks intact) near your back door for January to February bloom next year. You will be greeted by a sweet smelling surprise as you haul your groceries into the kitchen during these cold months in Columbia.
Chrysanthemums – Nurseries and garden centers are filled with large pots of these bright blooming plants in October. They are certainly not as fragrant as Tea Olive or a beautiful Gardenia but will add a fresh scent to the garden or your interiors. They can be planted in the garden after blooming. Simply cut them back and plant in a sunny spot with good draining for a surprise of bright blooms next October.
November is a difficult month for fragrance in the garden so let’s turn our attention to indoor gardening for just a bit. Our garden centers are full of blooming citrus trees such as Meyer lemon and orange. Buy one this month and enjoy the delicious fragrance until it warms up enough to find the perfect place in your garden.
Many tropical jasmines are also available this time of year. Add a few of these to your shopping list to add sweet perfume to all of the rooms of your house.
Narcissus (Daffodil – Paperwhite Narcissus) – These bulbs can be planted in the garden or forced to bloom inside to produce the most heavenly scent for Christmas. Make sure to buy big, strong, firm bulbs for the most successful blooms and fragrance. When planting bulbs, err on the side of too many. Plant them in large swaths for a burst of color and fragrance. If you think you need 12, buy 36! “Zivia” is advertised as being one of the most fragrant.
Not all flowers are boldly fragrant. Some have to be enjoyed up close. Most blossoms release their scent when they are bathed in sunlight. So get close to the blooms and enjoy their lovely fragrance. Incorporate as many varieties as you can in your fragrance garden to enjoy the scents inside and out. If you happen to travel to New York City, take an afternoon to visit the fragrance garden at the New York Botanical Garden. You will get so many wonderful ideas. It is worth the trip!
Chores for the Gardener
October is a busy time for the gardener! The days are beginning to cool and it is the perfect time to work in the garden and also the perfect time to enjoy the garden.
• Fill your house with arrangements. Use colorful leaves and foliage along with ripe berries to bring the autumn indoors.
• Buy a few pumpkins from a local pumpkins patch to tuck into your perennial garden or vegetable garden. The autumnal shade of orange will add a festive ambience to all of your plantings.
• Ornamental grasses are in full bloom in October. Why not add one or two to your landscape? Plant a fall themed container with ornamental grass as the center, pansies and violas around the bottom and herbs to add interest in the middle layer.
• Divide overcrowded perennials and share with your friends. Choose a few new perennials to add interest and surprise to the garden. One I plan to try this year is Echinacea “Milkshake.” It is a gorgeous white coneflower that promises to add beauty to the perennial border.
• Sow wildflower seeds such as poppies and coreopsis.
• Plan your bulb garden. Include hyacinth, narcissus and try something new such as scilla.
• Cool tulips for later planting in the early winter.
• October is the perfect month to plant balled and burlapped shrubs and trees. I prefer to remove the burlap but am told it is not necessary.
• Prune out any dead limbs in hydrangea and azaleas.
• Plant pansies and violas for winter and early spring color.
• Over seed turf grass with winter rye if it wasn’t done in September. Water the seed in well after sowing. Keep the rye grass cut as you would any other turf grass.
• Plan your fragrance garden. Visit our local garden centers to see which fragrance plants they have in stock. Now is the perfect time to plant your fragrance garden for sweet smelling gardening all year long.