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A "Scent"sational Garden

Savor the sweet smells of fragrant plants in your garden.
by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York Co., Virginia

If you’ve ever ridden past a patch of white-flowering privet on the highway and caught a whiff of its fragrance, you know just how powerful a plant’s perfume can be.

At home, you can enjoy the sweet smells of fragrant plants in your yard with just a few strategically placed species.

Year-round fragrance in the garden can begin with winter, an important time to have flowering plants for bees that emerge on warm winter days. The sights and smells of winter blooms is also a great mood lifter for people stuck indoors on cold, gray days.

But, plan and plant now to achieve those sweet-smelling results. For instance, fall- and winter-flowering camellias, along with paper plant (Edgeworthia), chase away any winter blues. Some claim that winter daphne is better smelling than paper plant, but daphne needs almost perfect drainage while paper plant tolerates tough growing conditions. Even though a large pine branch fell on my paper plant, it continues to thrive in a wooded natural area with very dry soil, and it has looked good and flowered well each January-February for several years.

For spring scents, plant bulbs in October – daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, snowdrops, oriental lilies and lily-of-the-valley.

For late spring and early summer sweetness, choose perennial flowers that smell good, including pinks, lemon daylily, peony, phlox, sweet woodruff and butterfly weed. Fragrant foliage is found on yarrow, bee balm, Russian sage, wild geranium, santolina and lavender.

There are many shrubs fragrant, too, including glossy abelia, sweetshrub, slender deutzia, gardenias, bush honeysuckle, native azaleas (mine are overpowering in April), roses, snowball, chaste tree and lilac. In November, the tiny white flowers on osmanthus, or false holly, can be smelled a mile away; it’s often used as an evergreen hedge.

For trees with bee-eautiful, fragrant flowers, look for native white fringe tree, Carolina silverbell, American holly, crape myrtle, sweetbay magnolia and southern magnolia.

This is only a partial list of plants with fragrant flowers and foliage. Some like shade, some like sun – but all help you add fragrance to the mix of beauty in your little corner of the world.

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