It’s not too early to begin thinking about plantings for next year. One quality often overlooked is flower fragrance. It is sensed daily in the indoor/outdoor atmosphere. A landscape, large or small, should have a plant with outstanding fragrance. For some, it could be a potted gardenia, an indoor/outdoor plant with superb fragrance.
My most prized fragrance is that of a lilac flower. The worst most unfavorable fragrance (odor) is that of a skunk. If you are ever sprayed by a skunk, the experience will be with you for a lifetime. There are a few plants with very unpleasant fragrances.
Barb and I were introduced to lilac fragrance in May 1960 when we visited our presenthome as prospective buyers. The lilacs were in full bloom and the lilac scent completely smothered the entrance. It seemed like it happened this year. That was our pleasant introduction to plant fragrance. I called the fragrance “heavenly.”
For the purchase of a fragrant tree or shrub, I suggest the first year be devoted to visits to garden centers/nurseries while plants are in bloom. After the growing season, decide which plants were most impressive. There is no substitute for on-site visits when evaluating plant fragrances.
There are many descriptions of fragrance. Terms may include slight, moderate, medium, strong, heavy, intense, old-fashioned, overpowering and more. Some fragrances are more specific and include fruity, herbal, citrus, sweet, clove, vanilla, honey-scented and many others.
• Lilac — My first choice. The old-fashioned lilac tends to have the best fragrance. Visit them in early to mid-May for bloom time. One recommendation is named Albert F. Holden, from the breeding of the late Father Fiala of Medina. It grows to a height of 8 feet with purple flowers and plenty of lilac fragrance.
• Rose — For a fragrant rose it’s hard to beat Chrysler Imperial, a hybrid tea. It overflows with rose fragrance from the dark red flowers. There are many more non-fragrant roses than those with fragrance. The one downside of the newer shrub roses is a lack of fragrance. It will likely only be a matter of time until the fragrance barrier will be developed.
• Annuals — Many annuals have some fragrance, but it is nothing outstanding. My most memorial fragrance was when I grew some carnations several years ago. Plants were started in the light garden and the flowers had sensational carnation fragrance. Heliotrope with the dark purple flowers has flowers with a vanilla fragrance, unusual very pleasant. Marigolds have a fragrance, but not to the liking of most people.
Some petunias offer a rather sweet fragrance.
• Herbs — The herb group has a good variety of fragrances. Some of the mints have citrus fragrance. I planted one with lemon fragrance many years ago and it has spread everywhere. I smell it every time the mower gets near it. Rosemary has a unique fragrance and is often used in cooking for the added flavor. Herb leaves release many different fragrances for cooking purposes.
• True lilies — For bulbs, the true lily not only has large colorful flowers, but offers a sweet fragrance that can be detected many feet away from the plant. The lily show at Kingwood Center in July is most pleasant because the meeting hall is filled with lily fragrance from dozens of lilies in full bloom.
• Others — Spring bulbs like daffodils and hyacinths offer fragrance. The late flowering Cheerfulness daffodil has a strong fragrance. Hyacinths are noted for their strong fragrance in the April garden.
Besides a lilac, other shrubs with fragrant flowers include mock orange, spice viburnum, honeysuckle and honey scented summer sweet hummingbird. Always check mature size and avoid those that have a tendency toward invasive growth.
Richard Poffenbaugh is a retired biology teacher and active home gardener since 1960. He is a member of the Mansfield Men’s Garden Club and was editor of the club newsletter (The Greenhorn) for 21 years. He resides in Ontario with his wife, Barbara. Reach him at 419-529-2966.