Fragrant plants

by Adam Pasco

Walking through my garden this week I was struck by its freshness following a shower. Doesn't rain transform the colour and vigour of plants in a way simply watering by hand never can?

White flowers of Choisya 'Aztec Pearl'Is your garden stimulating all your senses? Like many people, I'm sure, the main driving factors behind my choice of plants are colour, size and shape. In other words, I'm most interested in what they look like. Nothing wrong with that. I want my garden to look good, and for neighbouring plants to complement one another.

Walking through my garden this week I was struck by its freshness following a shower. Doesn't rain transform the colour and vigour of plants in a way simply watering by hand never can? Rather than just stimulating my visual sense I was breathing in the scents and smells of my garden, and discovering another world that I so often ignore.

Some of this is simply the unique smell of gardening - of mown grass, soil, weeds as they're plucked from the ground, and so on.

Then there are those plants given more than just colour, shape and attractive habit by their maker. They're supercharged with scent, taking them into another dimension. Nature doesn't do anything without a reason, so fragrance must be essential to the survival of these plants, attracting pollinating insects, for instance.

One of most fragrant garden plants is the evergreen shrub, choisya, the Mexican orange blossom. Choisya 'Aztec Pearl' is one of my favourites, with a strong, powerful, fragrance that fills the surrounding air. It's also nice having pure white flowers at this time of year to ring the changes from an abundance of yellow.

Standing by my choisya and savouring its scent I'm struck by how much I'm enjoying it, and how little thought I've been giving my sense of smell in my garden. Now I need everyones' help to choose scents for every season... I'll start keeping a list of the best fragrant plants for gardens. Suggestions welcome!

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Gardeners' World Web User 03/05/2010 at 08:33

My favourite in the winter is the Sarcococca - smells so sweetly and for a great distance. My late husband was blind for 15 years and I filled the garden with scented plants for his sake. His favourite was Sweet William and I still grow lots of it to bloom after the wallflower, although the purple wallflower, Bowles' Mauve, flowers later. The red roses are mostly very scented. I love "Matisse", "Wm. Shakespeare" and John Betjamin". Sweet peas, of course and the smell of snowdrops delights me. And what is better when you are going in for a well-earned meal than to run your hands through the curry plant?

Gardeners' World Web User 03/05/2010 at 08:55

I bought a mixed bag of daffodil bulbs last year and was delighted to see the variety that it produced. The daffodil that really took my fancy and all for the sweet scent was one of the Poetaz varietys, I think it was 'Bridal Crown'. A tight cluster of white petals and the smell, wonderful!

Gardeners' World Web User 03/05/2010 at 18:50

I noticed that too. Some suggestions. A similiarity with ponds: they too are much clearer following a spell of rain. Chemistry must be the reason for this. My dad, an engineer, had an orchid greenhouse and collected only water form the roofs during easterly blowing winds (he considered the westerly winds in Holland too salty and knowing him, he must have tested that!) Then there is the sensitivity of your own detection system: your nostrils. After rain in the area, the atmosphere in your garden will be cleared of particles, like traffic dust or pollen. Your nostrils will become more sensitive and pick up all sorts of smells, otherwise suppressed. It's biochemistry and physics in the end. And a lovely experience.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/05/2010 at 14:48

I love the smell of Choisya too, so much so that I walk the (slightly) longer way home to walk past this lovely shrub on my street. Ahh - like the Bisto kid.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/05/2010 at 21:39

It sounds like the plant in your neighbour's garden could be Daphne bholua "Jacqueline Postill".

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