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Choice of plants is heaven scent


By Features Reporter


Lavandula 'Pretty Polly'. Picture: Adam Pasco Media
Lavandula 'Pretty Polly'. Picture: Adam Pasco Media

Step outside and smell the roses, plus a host of other scented flowers too. Choosing plants shouldn’t just be about their size, shape and colour but embrace their full sensory appeal, including the most evocative of all… fragrance.

Plants evolved fragrant flowers to attract pollinating insects, rewarding them with nectar and pollen they’ll discover within, but we enjoy their wonderful scents too. They have adapted to bloom at different times of year and varying times of day to suit their insect companions, such as moths attracted to evening primrose, pinks or honeysuckle.

Gardeners can take advantage of this by picking fragrant plants to enjoy at the times of year they’re outdoors most.

Research on floral scents has highlighted their benefit to both mental and physical health by relieving stress and depression.

Scent can also improve memory, focus and wellbeing, particularly in combination with other sensory engagement with plants and gardening activities.

By growing fragrant plants we can enjoy these benefits too, whether you’re looking for something rosy and relaxing, oriental and intoxicating, or fresh and invigorating. Consider which scented plants to choose for creating the desired effect, such as the welcome fragrance of honeysuckle and roses around an entrance, the uplifting scent of lilies or lilac catching the breeze, or aromatic oils from Mediterranean herbs filling the air on a balmy summer’s evening.

For relaxation, the scent of lavender has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate to promote sleep, while aromatic rosemary keeps you alert, improving focus and memory. Sometimes a scent can even unlock a childhood memory, transporting you back to a time or place to help remember people and events in the past.

So forget the scented candles and grow your own aromatherapy plants instead, enjoying the simple pleasure of filling your garden with fragrance!

Plants use their scent to attract insects such as butterflies.
Plants use their scent to attract insects such as butterflies.

Did you know?

The Fragrance Wheel was developed by the perfume industry to categorise different scents, giving them a descriptive language they can use. Fragrance directly changes our mood, too. Fruity and spicy perfumes are uplifting and reinvigorating, while floral and rosy perfumes reduce stress and anxiety, promoting mental balance. Fresh, green, herbal and citrus perfumes keep us mentally active and creative, while earthy scents can be comforting and nurturing.

Plants of the moment: scented plants

There are scented plants to enjoy during every season, including pot plants and cut flowers like sweet peas to bring indoors. Summer scents are particularly valuable, enjoyed while sitting outside and relaxing in your own garden.

Include shrubs with highly fragrant flowers, such as mock orange (philadelphus) and lilac (syringa) in borders, and grow scented climbers like roses, jasmine and honeysuckle over arches and pergolas or around doors and windows.

Also position plants with fragrant foliage, such as lavender and herbs, close to paths, doorways and seating areas so you can run your hand over them to release their aroma as you pass.

Use fragrant plants around pathways and entrances to provide a welcoming smell.
Use fragrant plants around pathways and entrances to provide a welcoming smell.

Plant suggestions

Develop displays of plants with scented flowers or foliage, for example:

  • Lavender and butterfly lavender
  • Fragrant roses
  • Mock orange – philadelphus vars eg ‘Belle Etoile’ agm
  • Daphne x transatlantica eternal fragrance agm
  • Escallonia ‘Iveyi’ agm
  • Abelia x grandiflora
  • Lilac – later flowering syringa varieties
  • Aromatic herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon verbena, oregano, etc
  • Perennials like salvia ‘Carradonna’, phlox divaricate ‘Clouds of Perfume’ and varieties of verbasum
  • Scented paeonies, shrubs, climbers, bulbs, verbena rigida, etc


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