When it comes to selecting flowers to plant in my garden, I am always looking for scented varieties that bring the fragrance of the garden into my home. So many beautiful cultivars have had their sweet aroma bred right out of them. I am always disappointed upon discovering that a beautiful new flower lacks the perfume I crave for my bouquets. If you too are wedded to fragrant and showy arrangements, here are a few annuals and perennials that you might want to consider including in your ornamental garden this year.
Sweet pea (lathyrus odoratus) annual: Grow these fragrant vines on a trellis for maximum effect. Sweet peas prefer cooler temperatures and should be sown as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Like roses, some varieties aren't fragrant at all. So if you want a scented selection, make sure you read the description on the plant tag or seed catalog.
Dianthus: There are numerous types of dianthus, so there's one for almost any garden situation. Many types have flowers with a fragrant, spicy scent and notched petals. Common dianthus include Sweet William, pinks, and carnations. Dianthus includes both annual and perennial types with the perennial types suited to Zones 3-9.
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis): This tough little perennial (hardy to zone 2) packs a powerful fragrance ideal for tussy mussies and other tiny "Victorian" bouquets. Its white nodding bell shaped flowers are surrounded by deep green oval leaves. Convallaria spreads nicely as a ground cover for a shaded area or woodland setting.
Iris (Iris germanica): Many older varieties of bearded irises are very fragrant. Hardy to zone 3, these flowers bloom in early summer, require minimal care and are available in a wide variety of flower colors, including pink, blue, red, yellow and purple. Irises also have a range of fragrances, from anise to floral to fruity.
Tall garden phlox (phlox paniculata): These perennials bloom for six weeks or more starting in mid-summer. Bearing big clusters of cotton candy-like blooms on four-foot stems, phlox is a summer favorite across Minnesota.
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens): This is one of my favorite scented annuals. Look for tall varieties for bouquets or shorter bedding varieties for borders. These tropical, heat loving plants have clusters of small, fragrant deep blue-violet flowers on well-branched plants.
Nicotiana: Also known as flowering tobacco, these fragrant annuals come in a variety of sizes and colors. The deep red varieties are particularly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. These flowers have the unique distinction of being most fragrant in the evening.
Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora), also known as Virgin's Bower, is a large hardy vine (hardy to zone 4A) that is covered with masses of starry white flowers. It attracts butterflies, and is so fragrant; you can smell it across the yard on warm autumn days.
Scented geranium (Pelargonium) are plants primarily grown for their fragrant, fuzzy leaves. (Their flowers are inconsequential.) Native to South Africa, they cool themselves by releasing aromatic oil from glands on the backs of their leaves. Pelargoniums must be propagated by cuttings, so search for the plants at your favorite nursery or through your preferred garden catalog.
Enjoy your search for fragrant additions to your garden.
Until next time, happy gardening!