Located in the stunning Dorset countryside, and showcasing more than 1,500 varieties of fragrant plants, is Keyneston Mill botanic garden. This 50-acre site is a delight for the senses, with the formal gardens dedicated to celebrating plants from different perfume categories, many to trial for use in fragrances.


Here, the gardeners at Keyneston Mill share their tips for how you can fill your own garden with fragrance.

You can also visit Keyneston Mill, with your 2-for-1 card – find out more.

Best plants to grow for scent:

Keyneston Mill, wander through the scent-filled gardens
Position scented plants close to pathways, so you can enjoy their perfume more easily

How would you describe the planting style of the gardens?

The planting scheme at Keyneston Mill is all about fragrance and, therefore, we focus on using a wide selection of plants from the various perfume categories, such as floral, fern, citrus and spice. Within this framework, we aim to create three types of look: naturalistic drifts, lush foliage, and contemporary bedding.

We use ornamental grasses (such as Stipa gigantea, Panicum virgatum and Pennisetum villosum) among the scented plants, to bring in structure. Architectural plants that offer interesting foliage and grander scale, like tree ferns (dicksonia), angelica, Salvia sclarea, are core to the Keyneston Mill look. Our beds are often geometric in shape, with block planting.

We also grow lots of roses, from old shrub ones to hybrid tea types.

Keyneston Mill, fougère garden
Incorporate architectural tree ferns for added height and structure

What are your top tips for achieving this style in a small, domestic garden?

Consider planting 'ribbons' that jump paths and connect beds. For instance we have swathes of blue and white hyssop flowing through our scented floral garden.

Determine the microclimate of your space. Is it shady and cool? Or one that enjoys sunnier, warm conditions? Once you've worked this out, you can choose plants that suit. Violets, mints and angelica will grow well in the former, whereas cistus, thyme, scented geraniums (pelargoniums) and pot marigold (Calendula) thrive in a warmer, sunnier garden.

Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses”
The foliage of Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses' will release a wonderful rose scent; grow in full sun

What considerations should be made when planting for scent?

It's important to take into consideration that many fragrant plants are borderline hardy, requiring some shelter. This means they lend themselves well to small gardens with lots of walls and sun traps. This has the added benefit that the more enclosed a space, the more it'll trap the scents of the plants.

For gardeners with large, country gardens and more exposed areas – build sheltered spots into the design: shelter belts, hedges and walls. Our fern garden is a 'sunken' space and this helps to provide extra protection to the plants growing there.

Some of our star plants for scent include: Narcissus cultivars, Cistus ladanifer, Viola odorata, types of lavender, Thymus citriodorus, and scented geraniums (particularly Pelargonium graveolens).

Grow French lavender in pots for fragrance in small outdoor spaces
Grow fragrant French lavender in pots, so you can move it to a sheltered spot over winter

Visit Keyneston Mill

Keyneston Mill is taking part in our 2-for-1 Garden Entry scheme 2021. Find out more about how to use your discount to visit the garden.

In addition to enjoying the four formal gardens, visitors can take a wander through the tranquil River Meadow to the gorgeous Lost Orchards, where the beehives can be found.


For more information about the garden, visit the Keyneston Mill website.