Plants for perfume

by Adam Pasco

Christmas is fast approaching, and perfume houses will soon be tempting us to buy fragrances for our nearest and dearest.

Pink rose flowerChristmas is fast approaching, and perfume houses will soon be tempting us to buy fragrances for our nearest and dearest. No doubt they'll do a roaring trade, but to my mind natural perfume can't be beaten. Fragrant plants and flowers add another dimension to a garden; it's one thing looking out onto the garden from a window, but quite another walking through it and exposing all your senses to the plants around you.

When I blogged about fragrant plants in May, I asked readers about their favourite plants for scent. Mary Elizabeth chose lilac: "absolutely gorgeous. If a plant doesn't have scent then it doesn't come into my garden. Without scent the garden is sterile."

"The smell that takes my breath away is lovely wisteria … truly divine" said Sarah, while ScotiaLass chose Skimmia 'Rubella', honeysuckle, philadelphus and the old cottage garden pink 'Mrs Sinkins'.

Lili went for spring-flowering viburnum ("the smell is exquisite"), while Diane recommended jasmine. Others favoured lilies, geum, nicotiana, lily of the valley, and pansies.

Roses are a big favourite with many, often because of their fragrance. In the Gardeners' World 2010 Awards you voted for your favourite roses for scent, with 'Gertrude Jekyll' taking the top spot, with nearly a quarter of all votes cast. In second place came 'Zephirine Drouhin', closely followed by 'Fragrant Cloud'.

This is the perfect time of year for planting bare-rooted roses, which make excellent gifts. With only 40 shopping days left until Christmas, I'd get your skates on if I were you, but do consider choosing something with 'living' fragrance, rather than the bottled sort.

A bowl of fragrant hyacinths anyone?

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Talkback: Plants for perfume
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Gardeners' World Web User 15/11/2010 at 21:33

Daphne - the perfume is just perfect and it flowers so early and encourages me back into the garden after my hibernation - yes I am a fair weather gardener.

Gardeners' World Web User 17/11/2010 at 09:43

Oh to be reminded of the smell of spring and summer flowers as things get grey and cold outside thanks Adam. To me tho the smell of a freshly cut lawn is one of the great gardening delights.

Gardeners' World Web User 17/11/2010 at 16:16

I've just treated myself to a Sarcococcus hookeriana var. humilis- the fragrant box - and planted it in a big container with some winter pansies. It will sit outside the kitchen door and waft the lovely fragrance throughout the dark days of winter.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/11/2010 at 15:05

Please can anyone help.I am wanting to to grow some hyacinths for christmas.I planted the in containers about six weeks ago and put them in a dark warmplace the have now started to sprout.Do i now bring them out of the dark the sprouts are white or do i leave them longer and do they need hot or cold coditions

Gardeners' World Web User 21/11/2010 at 22:23

danehill, if your Hyacinths are sprouting they definitely need ligh or they'll be pale and leggy. Keep them cool - they're really outdoor plants and don't like it too warm. Too much heat will make them leggy and floppy and they'll be martyrs to aphids. An unheated room would be ideal. You can bring them into your living room when they start flowering. As soo as the flowers go over, cut them off and return the pots to a cool plsce. Feed them for next year until the leaves start to die. Then you can plant them in the garden or keep them dry in their pots somewhere cool, like a shed. Don't forget to label them or you might accidentally throw them away. By the way, it would have been better to put them in a cool dark place rather than warm, but if they're sprouting they should be ok. Good luck for scent at christmas.

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