Garden Scents to Remember
I've collected some of my experiences with the scented
side of gardening.... So many times I wish I could just share the
wonderful odors coming from the leaves and flowers I smell, because
they are just so amazing and delightful. Since that's not easily
done, maybe you can grow you own and find out what I mean. Note:
If you see some of the caveats, you may realize that sometimes a company
sells a plant/seed that simply isn't the "real thing." If one
place sells dud seeds, you might try a different brand next time.
Leaves | Flowers | Roses | Simple Projects
- Lavender. (More on lavender in the Flower section, but the leaves
are plenty fragrant on their own.)
- Scented geraniums (Pelargonium): Some varieties to try are
some of the rose-scenteds (some are better than others), the
peppermint, the lemon, and lime. Very rich, very fragrant. The
"peppermint" is not quite the same as real peppermint, but is every
bit its equal for energizing lift -- and even better, doesn't smell
quite like toothpaste. Scented geranium leaves are used in cooking,
and you can add leaves to tea - just beware the cooked leaves look
really depressingly limp and dead.
- Peppermint and spearmint. Unfortunately these bring to mind
toothpaste these days, but the scent is still brisk and refreshing.
And of course you can eat them, put them in drinks... even make
toothpaste oil from them.....
- Other herbs: oregano, sage, basil, and other mint-family herbs;
there's also fragrant leaves such as dill and cilantro. Even tomato
leaves have a distinctive, sharp smell (though I wouldn't eat them!).
- Shiso/Beefsteak plant/perilla. Word of advice: get your seed or
leaves directly from a Japanese source or store if you can. I've
gotten so-called purple shiso that didn't have the nice, spicy perilla
smell. The Japanese use these distinctly sweet-sour herbal-smelling
leaves for pickling and flavoring condiments, but I read that you
shouldn't really eat too many of them plain.
- Onion family. If you're a sicko like me, you might even enjoy
garlic, chives, and onion leaves and flowers. Of course these are
- Houtteynia. Hmm, I'm not THAT fond of the leaves, but the sharp
citrus-y/orange odor when you break one is pretty nifty. Some
Houtteynia has orange/red streaks on their leaves, for a nice colorful
effect. The flowers are small, plain, but very tidy-looking.
Houtteynia is inedible, as far as I know, just so that's clear....
- Pine. Well ... there IS nothing like the scent of certain types
of pine, including some types of hedges. (I wouldn't eat these either.)
Fragrant Foliage Grown for Flowers
- Calamint -
Calamintha nepatoides/nepeta (?), possibly var. "White Cloud." The
foliage is fragrant - spicy spearmint smell, very pleasant when
crushed - but I really love this plant for its white masses of
mint-family flowers (flower spikes). It blooms for months on end,
right into autumn, without deadheading or indeed much attention
whatsoever. Bees love the flowers, of course.
must put in a plug for its companion in my garden, which blooms
in front of it: Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (leadwort). Ceratostigma,
though not fragrant as far as I've noticed, has beautiful blue flowers
and lovely red-tinged foliage (and can be invasive in some
conditions). The two together are the visual highlight of my
neglected garden because they just keep flowering (white calamint over
the blue flowers and red-tinged leaves is so striking), don't need
trimming or deadheading, and keep looking fresh and interesting all
throughout late summer and into fall. My echinacea is dead; the roses
are a mass of black spots; everything is spent and done - except for
the calamint and ceratostigma (and the too-airy tenacious sea
lavender/hardy statice). I am amazed; I am in awe; I think I want to
plant more of them both.
- Lavender. What can beat the rich, brisk, deep scent of
lavender for gentle refreshment of the mind and senses? The flowers
are extremely "collectible," but I like leaving most of them for the
bees. Lavender scent combines very well with both real roses and rose
- Roses. More on roses
below. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, can beat the lovely smell
of a good rose. Though some things are equally potent and unforgettable,
the rose still seems to retain the classiest combination of sweetness,
richness, delicacy, and complexity.
- Lilies (Oriental). The two most fragrant of the ones I've
tried so far have been Stargazer and the species lily, both of which
produce big, proud deep pink flowers. The scent is sweet, rich, deep,
and addictive! The East Coast of the US now has a lily beetle problem
(pretty orange beetles whose poop-covered larvae decimate lilies).
The Stargazer seems to get ruined by the beetle, but the very tall
species lily seems to fare very well even with lily beetles around.
I'd like to try the new "orienpet" lilies....
- Jasmine (vine). I had a nice jasmine vine for a couple years.
The scent was quite nice, but eventually the stress of getting
hit by frost was too much for the poor thing. It died and shed
leaves all over the floor :(
- Jasmine-scented night flowering tobacco. Caveat: I've had a
bad experience with one batch of "jasmine scented tobacco" seed that
produced "duds" in terms of fragrance - it was different (and from a
different company) than the first amazing batch I got. The first
batch, which produced white trumpet-shaped evening blooms for years as
it reseeded itself, was intoxicatingly fragrant (I bought it as part
of a "night flowering garden seed" collection). The odor was between
that of jasmine and oriental lily. It perfumed the entire yard at
night! Unfortunately, ornamental tobacco in general has no scent
whatsoever, and it's always disappointing to stop by flowering tobacco
at the nursery and smell ... nothing.
- Scented begonias. Woo! As of 12/2003 I have found scented
or fragrant begonias again! White Flower Farm carries
scented begonias (Scentiment) now. (I think Jackson and Perkins (?)
used to carry them a long time ago.) 3/2005 update: I don't see them
at White Flower now, but I do see them here
at Jackson and Perkins! They were tuberous begonias, with big,
rose-like double blooms. I had the Apricot and Lemon scented begonia
varieties -- appropriately colored pink and yellow, respectively. The
big flowers were very delicate and could not tolerate cutting, but had
that same heady aura of perfume as a rose. Unfortunately they died,
and now I can't find replacements :( (Even after ton and tons of
internet searches! It's like they never existed!)
- Hyacinths. Rich, room-filling perfume. In terms of visual
appeal, older hyancinths simply don't come up as big and lush as they
did the first year, but that gives an excuse to cut the smaller flower
heads and bring them indoors. Even a pathetic little clump of sparse
flowers can smell up a room.
- Jonquils and Narcissus: Suzy is perhaps the most fragrant
of the ones I've had, and that includes many other supposedly fragrant
varieties of narcissus (so much so I'm starting to think "why bother
with anything else for jonquil fragrance" - I mean, big showy
daffodils are nice, but they can't beat little Suzy's fragrance). It
produces small, yellow and orange flowers in a cluster. Suzy's smell
is reminiscent of lilies in its potency. Another web page recommends
"Pipit" along with Suzy.
- Honeysuckle. Yes, it smells pleasantly sweet. Recently I heard the
vine can be invasive, so don't plant in an ecologically sensitive area.
- Iris: Immortality. Beautiful white fragrant flowers that
rebloom in fall, unlike most iris. White Flower Farms sells
these. If you like bearded iris, these are nice. There are apparently
other fragrant irises available as well.
- Hostas. Yes, among the shade-loving hostas are a handful (or more than
a handful) that are fragrant. I bought one from (now-reorganized)
Gurney's. "Fragrant Honeybells" has spikes of purplish white flowers
that are both tall AND fragrant with a honey-sweet, almost lilac-y
smell that seems to attract ants. Makes nice cut flowers if you can
get rid of the ants - though they don't last long (the unopened buds
wither). Its leaves are a pale yellowy green. There's another
variety (I think White Flower Farms had it once) that is generally
known to be fragrant. Wayside Gardens now has a "Hosta Fragrant Blue,"
"Hosta Stained Glass," "Hosta Tokudama Aureonebulosa" and the fascinating "Hosta Fujibotan"... all of which I'd like to try sometime.
- Bletilla (outdoor orchid). These pretty little purple spring
flowers will bloom indoors if you bring them in in pots. They have a
faint sweet scent that is wonderful in the middle of a long winter.
- Amaryllis (Hippeastrum). OK, they are not usually highly
fragrant, but some of them do have a mild, sweet scent, and that is
like the icing on the cake for something bred to be visually huge,
showy, and stunning. The double white amaryllis with scent
("Jewel") actually outpowers some hyacinths when I put it in a
vase, and Apple Blossom has a faint sweet smell too. Alas, the
gorgeous mystery red amaryllis I have is nearly scentless. Relevant
(Hippeastrum hybrids) - Today's Superbulb", Veronica Read
Hippaestrum mentions that Miyake Nursery created "Jewel," The
Secret of the Knights Star, and here is Trends
in Modern Hippeastrum Hybridizing has a wealth of information.
The below list is purely my own experience:
Roses to try smelling in the future:
- Fragrant Cloud: Gamble Award. Deep orange. Smells like the
most perfect, ripest nectarine ever, plus a good deep dose of good old
"rose." It basically smells like a mouthwatering fruit of some kind
-- the smell is so strong you can almost taste it. It is far more
potent than "French Perfume" (I'm not impressed by "French Perfume")
or even "Double Delight." The petals retain a delicate rose scent
- Double Delight: Red, pink, cream (reddens with sunlight, so you
get outer red, inner cream). Gamble Award. Deep rose "perfume"
smell. Not as potent at Fragrant Cloud, but its scent is far more
floral and much less fruity, which is very nice. In some ways I like
this scent more than the fruity ones, because it makes me less likely
to want to run out and find a ripe nectarine. Unfortunately, dried
Double Delight petals are not very fragrant.
- Mister Lincoln: Deep red. I can't always smell Mr. Lincoln
in outdoor garden conditions, but when its perfume comes through, it's
a deep rich rose smell plus nice fruit notes. Some say it is more
fragrant than Double Delight. Cut a flower and bring it indoors for
best smelling. I think the petals retain some scent when dried also.
- Angel Face: Gamble Award in 2002! Mauve or lavender.
Smelled it once. Was very richly rose-y.
- Gertrude Jekyll. English rose. Pink. Though not a hybrid tea,
it's also very nice. I went through a whole section of English roses
at the local nursery, and this was the solitary stand-out in terms of
- Sheila's Perfume (Shelia's Perfume) Floribunda. Yellow and orangey, I
think. I went to Regan's Nursery, the humungous rose place in
California, and this was one of the first roses I smelled, sort of by
accident (I had printed this page out as reference, and didn't have
time to smell random roses). Well, I was impressed. I see now I had
a misspelled version of this rose on this page - but glad I found the
- Hot Tamale. Miniature rose. A beautiful mixture of pink,
orange, yellow, and red. Most catalogs say it has little scent, but
to me it smells strongly and pleasantly of tart apples.
Gamble Fragrance Medal list (Wow, the ARS (American Rose Society)
no longer has this page...! I need a new semi-official URL :( )
- "Crimson Glory" - Yes, was a very nice one.
- "Tiffany" - Also was nice.
- "Chrysler Imperial" - Also nice, if I recall aright.
- "Sutter's Gold"
- "Fragrant Cloud" (listed above)
- "Papa Meilland"
- "Sunsprite" - The one I smelled was faintly lemony, but not as nice as some others - but we probably all know how much circumstance can play havoc with rose scents.
- "Double Delight" (listed above)
- "Fragrant Hour"
- "Angel Face" (listed above)
Culled from this forum's posts:
- this page
list other fragrance awards such as the Edland, Belfast Fragrance, Hague,
- A friend strongly recommends a rose called "Sterling Silver" (lavender
- "Mister Lincoln" (listed above and much raved over)
- "New Zealand" (much raved over)
- "Sheila's Perfume" (floribunda)
- "Evelyn" (Austin)
- "Rose de Rescht" (Old Garden Rose)
- "Yolande d'Aragon" (Old Garden Rose)
- "Baronne Prevost" (Old Garden Rose)
- Dried Scents
Things that I've found dry well (oh, I wish lilies would, oh
- Scented geranium (pelargonium) leaves
- Rose petals (only some roses retain their scent)
- Mints (peppermint, spearmint, etc.)
- Herbs (oregano, sage, dill, etc.)
- Citrus rind (orange, tangerine, lemon, etc. -- keep it
thoroughly dry or else it gets moldy)
- Bath Scent. You can throw dried tangerine or orange rinds
into a hot bath for some nice, inexpensive citrus "aromatherapy"!
This may be a traditional Japanese "thing." I'm not sure.
- Edible scents. There are many recipes on the Internet for
edible foods based on roses and scented geraniums. And as far as
edible scents go, you really can't beat ripe fruit, can you?
- Herbs and Spices.... Obviously, there are also many more
recipes around for dried herbs. But what a great way to experience
the smells of a garden: in food.
- Scent Sachet
You can make a nice little "crush and sniff" bag, by getting
either very fine mesh, or other perforated cloth-like material,
and storing in it dried petals, flowers, and leaves.
Nice combinations include:
- Dried scented geranium leaves with dried lavender
- Dried rose petals with dried lavender
- Dried scented geranium leaves with dried peppermint
- Dried flowers with dried rind of tangerine
- Other Projects.... Other projects I've seen include adding
rose scent to personal care products like facial cremes and soap --
look for rose books that have this information. If you have enough
scented material you could probably make one of those aromatherapy
pillows, perhaps mixed with hard dried beans of some kind (bean pillow
is a traditional Japanese thing for sure!).
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