Design your garden for smells that encourage one to linger in the space, and not just for colour and visual appeal
Some plants spread their scents far and wide, others are fragrant at certain times of the day or evening, recalling memories. The scents we love are not only to pleasure us, but to attract pollinators.
“Scents bring memories and memories bring nostalgic pleasure,” wrote gardening expert Thalassa Cruso.
Helen Keller described the sense of smell as that of “a fallen angel” for scent is intangible and subtle.
It is difficult to describe scent, as each person perceives and reacts differently, and while it can have a calming, stimulating or refreshing effect on one person, it may cause a different reaction in others.
Some scents can dominate those with more delicate perfume. Too many scents in one place can be overpowering, so plants are best spread around the garden. Use non-fragrant plants to intermingle with scented varieties.
Place scented flowers and foliage at the entrance to the garden, near windows and doors and along pathways. Position containers of scented plants near entrances to welcome visitors and beneath windows to let the perfume drift indoors.
Pots of scented flowers on patios and near seating areas add to the enjoyment of sitting outside.
Favourite summer scents
Roses: Bourbon rose “Mme Isaac Pereire” has richly scented magenta-pink flowers, fragrant “Mme Alfred Carriere” has clusters of white-flushed, soft-pink blooms.
Hybrid musk roses are known for their fragrance. “Felicia” has clusters of silvery-pink flowers and “Penelope” has trusses of scented white flowers.
Englishman David Austin bred roses that combined the charm and rich fragrance of old roses with the colour range and repeat-flowering of modern roses. “Sharifa Asma” is citrus scented, “Clare Austin” myrrh, “The Lady Gardener” tea and vanilla, and “Munstead Wood” has a rich old rose scent.
Some rose names will tell you which are richly scented – “Addictive Allure”, “Perfume Passion”, “Dermalogica Passion”, “Scentsational”, “Sheila’s Perfume” and “Fragrant Cloud”.
One of the most popular roses, “Double Delight”, is creamy white with strawberry-red petals and a fruity fragrance.
Gardenia: The buds of gardenias open into satiny white flowers with an exotic scent. Gardenia augusta from China and Japan has dark green shiny leaves and waxy white flowers, and cultivar “Florida” has double white flowers. Compact growing G “Radicans” is ideal for pot culture. Gardenias need moist, acid soil, good air circulation and morning sun.
The forest or wild gardenia (Gardenia thunbergia) is an indigenous forest species that does best in warm climates. It grows to 3m and has sweetly-scented white flowers.
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) from China is not a jasmine species, but is named so because of its starry white flowers and scent. Grow as a climber, ground cover or clipped hedge.
Honey scents: The false olive (Buddleja saligna) is indigenous with tiny creamy-white flowers and a honey scent from spring to summer. Grow as a pioneer plant, windbreak or clipped hedge. The honeybell bush (Freylinia lanceolata) has honey-scented flowers that attract butterflies.
Alyssum has a delicate honey scent and is among the most useful of annuals for a quick “carpet” effect. Use it in pots, to edge paths, and in between the treads of steps and paving.
The evening garden
Fragrance plays an important role in an evening garden, where scents drift onto patios and through open windows. Lilies are a favourite for their elegant flowers and for their strong perfume.
White flowers often attract night-time pollinators, not only because they are visible in the dark, but also if their blooms are scented. Indigenous orchid, Mystacidium capense, is an epiphytic (tree) orchid with dainty arching sprays of scented white flowers.
For semi-shade and for twilight gardens grow the tall tobacco plant (Nicotiana alata) with tubular white flowers and the metre-high woodland tobacco (N sylvestris) with long white tubular white flowers, both with an evening scent. More evening scents include the dainty lilac stock (Matthiola bicornis), tuberose and hosta.
For year-round scent and attractive silver-grey foliage, there is nothing better than lavender species and cultivars and lavender-scented santolina with finely cut leaves of silvery grey to edge a path or border.
Scented geraniums (pelargoniums) are grown for their attractive leaf shapes and scents, such as lemon, orange, rose, peppermint, nutmeg and balsam that release their scent when touched or crushed.
The foliage of many of the fynbos buchus is scented; confetti bush (Coleonema album) has aromatic needle-like leaves and a lemon scent; the needle-shaped leaves of indigenous wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus) are aromatic.