Apart from showy plants, a garden needs to satisfy the strongest and most mysterious of our sensual pleasures – our sense of smell, which is linked directly by the brain to our emotions. There are plenty of seductive plants that are hard to resist and because of their timeless appeal, most are filled with a flood of memories. Familiar plants might make your heart beat more quickly or help you unwind like the relaxing smoky, sweet smell of lavender, which could be the one to bring back fond memories of granny’s garden.
A longtime favourite, lilac bush is typically grown for its intense fragrance and beautiful blooms, which open in May
When planning flowerbeds you’ll no doubt choose irresistible plants that will stand out because of their eye-catching foliage, boldly colourful flowers, and their presence and charisma to build the structure of your borders. Make sure that some of these are ‘mood-enhancing’ fragrant shrubs like philadelphus, lilac and buddleja, which will liven up the summer garden. Fragrant plants like these will also add another dimension to the garden filling the air with the sound of buzzing bees and beautiful butterflies which become tipsy on their sweet nectar.
Philadelphus is a wonderful addition to a garden as the flowers, which appear in June and July, is said to resemble that of orange blossom. It makes a great cut flower and wedding bouquet
Use summer-flowering perennials such as clove-scented pinks, peppery lupins and lemon verbena plus bedding plants like cherry pie-scented heliotrope to fill gaps and make living perfume. Bulbs and lilies especially, can be squeezed into any tight corner bringing a touch of elegance to the area. Lilies encompass an incredible range of exotic shapes and colours but the white forms are the most highly scented and will glow luminously in the evening light.
The peppery scent of Lupins seems to lure bumble bees into the garden
Grow a large drift of Madonna lily, Lilium candidum in a sunny border where you will be dazzled by its white trumpet blooms held gracefully on stems up to 1.8m tall. Make sure you have a handy seat nearby so you can revel in their honey scent at close quarters. Plant the jasmine-scented Lilium longiflorum in pots to decorate the patio and for a strongest and sweetest scent pack pots close to sitting areas with brightly coloured varieties like Star Gazer, African Queen, Pink Perfection and Golden Splendour.
Plant scented Star Gazer lilies and you’ll begin a love affair with these gorgeous flowers
Make meandering through the garden more pleasurable by using fragrant flowers and plants with scented foliage to line the edge of pathways. Lavender, catmint or Nepeta x faassenii Six Hills Giant, clary sage and lemon balm are a good choice as they release scent when brushed against.
Enjoy the benefits of mood-enhancing lavender to the full. Rub lavender oil onto muscles or temples for relief, or dot it on a cloth and slip it inside your pillow case for a soothing night’s sleep. Another benefit of lavender oil is to relieve itching and swelling of insect bites
Plant small patches of low-traffic areas on the lawn with scented chamomile or thyme, which will release sensational perfumes when walked on. Alternatively lift paving slabs on the patio and well-trod paths and replace with a carpet of non-flowering apple-scented chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile Treneague to release its fragrance at the touch of a foot. For best results camomile should be planted closely – a maximum of 15cm apart and watered well until established then cut back regularly to encourage compact growth. Creeping carpets of woolly thyme and chamomile are irresistible places to sit and sprawl so allow for this in your design.
Pergolas and arbours can be used to cover a sitting area or to straddle paths to create scented corridors. Doing this will give you the opportunity to plant rampant varieties like the charming soft pink Bush Rambler or Albertine, which have long whippy growths that are easy to train along the beams and onwards through the garden on ropes and chains.
Roses can be split into four basic groups for fragrance – floral, tea, myrrh, and fruity to fit your every mood
Some varieties have a blend of fragrances. For example the David Austin English Rose The Pilgrim has a wonderful blend of myrrh-type fragrance with a classic Tea rose fragrance, Eveyln has a floral scent with a sumptuous fruity note reminiscent of fresh peach and apricot.
For a succession of fragrance and flower plant the covered walkway with the April-flowering evergreen Clematis armandii followed by wisteria, Jasminum officinale and rambler rose. The heady cinnamon-vanilla scent of jasmine is noted as an aphrodisiac, so you can also exploit its romantic potential by using it as fragrant curtains around a seat in a hidden corner. Choose a sunny spot to enable the plant to grow luxuriantly and release its fragrance.
Sitting in the garden is a richer experience if it involves all of the senses and adding mood enhancing fragrances especially will cheer you up no end if you return from work cross and tired. For invigorating aromas plant citrus-scented plants like lemon balm, which stimulate and exhilarate the senses within arms reach of seats.
Other ‘crush and smell’ plants that induce a feeling of ‘well-being’ are golden lemon thyme, golden marjoram, scented pelargoniums, such as Prince Rupert, pineapple sage, apple mint and chamomile. The nutmeg-eucalyptus aroma of rosemary is also supposed to help strengthen memory and refresh the mind so plant a few in containers and scatter them around sitting areas so friends can fondle the plants as they chat!
Embroider the air around entertaining areas with other stimulating ‘happy’ plants. These include the tobacco plant, exotic angel’s trumpets – datura and brugmansia (unfortunately thse two are poisonous so plant with care), which share a familiar perfume that is dizzying, night scented stocks or Matthiola bicornis and the four o’clock plant, Mirabilis jalapa. Pot the plants individually and mix and match for your favourite effects.
A favourite ‘happy plant’ is heliotrope which smells of cherry pie and vanilla that will take you right back to your childhood and baking with your mum. Other ‘happy plants’ are stocks, nemesia, tagetes and trailing snapdragons.
Create a relaxing corner for solitary moments too with a cosy collection of lavender and sweet peas and for unforgettable magic moments add a surprise with Cosmos atrosanguineus, which smells of chocolate! You will have to get onto your knees and put your nose into the dark maroon velvety flower to appreciate it but it is worth the effort. It’s grown from a tuber, in the same way potatoes and dahlias. It must also be grown in a warm, sheltered spot and be protected from winter wet.
Summer flowering bedding plants will also provide wonderful fragrance as well as colour so pack pots, baskets and window boxes with Surfinia petunia Blue Vein. Make sure you plant them where you can enjoy the scent easily, such as by a door, on the patio or next to an open window
Seasonal plants like the tobacco or Nicotiana alata, sweet rocket or Hesperis matronalis and evening primrose are most fragrant when the sun goes down, so remember that when deciding where to plant them for maximum effect. The inconspicuous little flower of night-scented stock, Matthiola bicornis is a real treasure and also opens in the evening to release a powerful, heavy fragrance into the night air, which can be detected some distance away. To add daytime interest and colour to this dull plant, mix the seed before you sow with that of Virginian stocks, Matthiola maritima, or grow it with honey-scented sweet alyssum, Lobularia maritima.
Scented plants need protection from the prevailing wind for you to enjoy their fragrance to the full. Choose the most sheltered part of the garden for creating fragrant flowerbeds, corridors and sitting areas. Walls and trellis fences as well as trees, hedges and evergreen shrubs all make good scent savers, filtering wind and holding warm air in the garden later in the evening.
Grow potpourri plants such as lavender, rosemary, old-fashioned pinks, lemon-scented Pelargonium crispum and roses – pink and red roses are best as they retain their colour when dried, for bringing everlasting garden fragrances indoors
Pick the plant material on a dry day, spread it out on newspaper and leave in a warm, airy place for a week or so, until it is papery to the touch. Combine the ingredients with 2 teaspoons of orrisroot, 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice, 1 teaspoon of cloves and a few drops of rose essential oil.
Herb gardens are excellent starting points for full-scale fragrance collections. Create a bed in a sunny corner of the garden and enliven a bed of culinary varieties with decorative plants like golden oregano, tricolor sage and add a few sumptuous roses and a tangy boxwood hedge.
If you run out of soil to plant, grow herbs in pots of well-draining compost