Garden Scents

02 Feb 2021

Botanical fragrances to help you relax and unwind

Text and photos by Christine Hall

Spring is all about returning to the garden. When the earth restarts its growth of bulbs, blooms, and shoots, its botanical fragrances help me to relax and unwind. Scents of honeysuckle and wisteria waft through our streets and neighborhoods as buds awaken. Gardenia and jasmine burst into parades of perfume that beg wanderers to pause. Each of these florals tend to transport my senses to a pleasant place and time.

While many gardeners plant for visual delight or practical purpose, there is a potent case for incorporating pleasing aromas into your natural surroundings as well. It can boost your mood, trigger fond memories, or simply evoke relaxation. The scents one favors outdoors are as subjective as the perfumes one chooses to wear. Do you like sweet florals or herbal musk? Fruity or earthy aromas? No two noses are alike!

When planting flowers or shrubs for their scent, it is helpful to keep in mind that some plants are lightly scented and, therefore, are most appreciated up close. Other plants produce aromas that permeate entire yards. Choose the wrong ones and you could face offending your olfactory. But never fear – with a little forethought, you can be well on your way to creating your own pleasantly-perfumed garden.

Here are several options to consider:

Jasmine: There are many varieties of jasmines, but one that thrives in our region is Star Jasmine, commonly referred to as Confederate Jasmine. Star Jasmine is in a different family than the true jasmines, but is worth noting for its enchanting white blooms, deer resistance, and delightful smell. As an evergreen, Star Jasmine produces strong, twining vines that easily cling to trees, fences, and arches. As icing on top, it displays its fragrant, pinwheel blossoms from Spring into Summer.

Edgeworthia: Commonly referred to as Oriental Paper Bush, or Paperbush plant, this deciduous shrub morphs from one spectacle to the next throughout the seasons. Beginning bare branched in Winter, clustered pale-yellow florets start to emerge in December. Flower clusters soon burst atop the bare bark from late February to early April before the plant’s new leaves emerge. This provides visual interest and a bold, tropical scent to the air when much of nature is dormant. In the Summer, the shrub resembles a rhododendron in form, and similarly, needs shade to thrive.

Gardenia: The quintessential “Flower of the South,” intoxicating scent is hands-down my favorite garden fragrance. The evergreen shrub does not come into full bloom until the early days of Summer – but it is worth the wait. Gardenias boasts silver gray-bark and smooth, glossy green leaves, which provide an elegant backdrop for its small magnolia-like blooms. Plant them in a well-protected area with partial-to-full shade and indirect light for best success.

Passionflower: Noted for its gardenia-like smell, the family of plants known as Passiflora offers more than 500 species that bear exotic-looking white and purple flowers, and, in ideal conditions, fruit on the vine. Our backyard somehow sprouted a species this past year on its own. Was it the volunteer services of the wind or animals? Who knows? But we marveled for months at the tropical experiment our backyard was hosting.

Even with a handful of thoughtfully selected plants, your garden can blossom into a wonderful fragrant retreat.

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