Most gardeners concentrate on the important things, and forget about those little wonderful things.... 
We choose plants by the show they put on, planting zones, colors, heights, long-bloomtimes and eas of care. If we're designing a theme garden, there are those variables.
But we overlook that very important feature of their garden that is sometimes an afterthought. The garden's fragrance.
A fragrance garden is tailored to be a delight not only to the eyes, but also the nose of the beholder. 
Which is most often you, dear gardener. Your nose knows the difference.

Of course, some folks might not want a fragrant garden. Or avoid fragrance in their homes from their cut flowers, due to the allergies of others. That would be impossible for me to fathom, as a compulsive flower gardener. The flowers and foliage I choose, for the purposes i expect them to fulfill, such as in the habitat gardens, are naturally of the highly fragrant types of flowers and herbs. If you have allergies to fragrances of flowers, this garden design is definitely not for your indoor environment as cut flowers.

I consider this as a must-have..... A garden seat or stool or bench, (I have several) placed in nooks or seating areas that will surround you with fragrance. Especially during mornings and evenings. That's when my garden smells it's perfumey best. If you live in an area where you get to experience dew.... that's the time i like best. Lots of flowers smell their best early morning and at night. Some smell their best during droughts, when their leaves and stems have a concentrated amount of perfume in them. Don't croak them off by letting them die of thirst, but don't panic if a few less fragrant evenings go by. 

I have a few seating areas, and coincidentally, since i grow pollinator gardens, there's a lot of fragrance naturally going on to attract them. I always think of fragrance when i plant new flowers. Not just fragrant flowers, but fragrant foliage, as well. I started studying floral and herbal fragrance when i realized that some flowers have a scent so potently awful, i can't stand being anywhere near them. For instance, i will not get within a yard of marigolds. I figure that since they repel bugs, i'm probably not going to enjoy their aroma. I prefer the sweet or spicy fragrances. Alone or together. These preferences are clear in the perfumes i wear, the candles and incense i burn, and the fragrant soaps I use. I include herbals here because some of the flowers smell wonderful, and the oils in the herb foliage and stems themselves are a treat. So.... i use other means of repelling bugs, because the smell repels me, too.

Download this free garden design plan in .pdf format. Just click the pic.

This fragrant garden includes a variety of plants blooming 
from spring until fall. Garden size: 22 by 6 feet

What fragrance would you like to enjoy while relaxing in the garden in the evenings, or dining al fresco in a garden nook? What fragrance would soothe you at the end of a stressful day? What fragrance would be the second favorite aroma that you want to sniff when you take your first cup of offee out on the patio in the morning? Also important is what fragrance would be amazing in different rooms in your home in vases. What herbs would you like around you while you work in the kitchen? 

If you have a serenity or zen garden, you'll want to enjoy the fragrance of those beautiful peonies, lilies and irises. If you have a butterfly/pollinator garden, you know that what attracts those beauties to your garden isn't how pretty the flowers are. It's the heady fragrances that they can't resist. Not only from the flowers, but the scents of leaves as well. One of the favorites of butterflies is Bee Balm (Monarda). I love the scent of the leaves and stems more than the floral scent. I can't describe it, except to say it has a very pleasant earthy type of herbal smell. The scent is familiar, and is always on the tip of my tongue, but i haven't yet figured out how to describe it. When i divide the plant, I purposely don't wear gloves. it's not at all a chore for me. It's aromatherapy.

My kitchen herb garden is on the path from my kitchen to the patio, and it gets my appetite and culinary skills going. But i also love to just sit on the patio and smell the lemon sages, lemongrass, lemon verbenas and lemon thymes. i'm obviously drawn to a lemon scent. I use a lot of it in my cooking, and i like to infuse it in oil when i have a lot of harvest. It's perennial, so it will always be there waiting for me to pass by during the summer. If you grow the groundcover thymes in walkways and between stones, your walk will be fragrant. Thyme likes being walked on, and when those oils are released, the aroma is wonderful.

Besides growing the fragrant plants in-ground, your fragrance garden can be portable and compact, as well, if you use pretty containers and grow vines and shrubs in pots. Snuggle fragrant herbs around the edges of your pots, near your seating areas, decks, terraces or patios. Let them tumble from windowboxes. Trellises and fragrant vines are made for each other, and the possibilities for growing a lot of them in small spaces is a gift from the garden gods. Trust Me. Let them laze around on the fence behind where you sit, on arbors or just happily trailing along open spaces, there's a fragrance to be enjoyed in any part of your gardens.

Fragrant plants (flowers and foliage) that I grow in my garden:


Check the USDA hardiness zone map for those fragrant flowers and trees that will thrive in your area. I have successfully grown many of these in zones 5, 6

Peonies (shown in the photo at the top of this page). An amazing and addictive, sweet scent. They bloom for a couple of weeks, but there's no mistaking their bloom time. I love them in my zen and Asian gardens. Before they bloom, they have large, round flower buds that look pretty among the foliage and flowers.

Lilies of all types and sizes, but the most fragrant and strongest grower in my garden is the Stargazer Lily. It's called that for a reason. The flower sometimes seems to tilt its head up slightly, like it's gazing at the stars. It now comes in various types and sizes. The taller ones can reach 4-6 feet, and will need to be staked. I have a lot of them. I perform that little chore on a cool early evening, with my white picket fence as a backdrop, tall green steel garden stakes behind the stems, and green string around the stems, or i'll use white butcher's twine around the pickets in the front yard, and pull the plant up that way.

Butterfly Weed (milkweed). Pretty flowers and a sweet, warm fragrance. This becomes tall and spreads. Best to grow it in containers if you're not planting a large plot. Bees and butterflies can't resist it. Actually, all manner of pollinators visit it all day.


Lots of roses -  "Peace", "Knockout", Julia Child, "Ebb Tide"

Standard and climbing. I choose the fragrance first, color second. 
Some rose varieties do not have much of an aroma.

Irises - i have tall and medium re-blooming irises.

White, purple and ruby lilacs shrubs that i train into little trees.

several varieties of bee balm, hosta, sweetspire, summersweet, hydrangea, creeping phlox

Hyacinths bloom early, and their clustered flower scents the the whole front yard. It smells a little like sugared berries and vanilla.

Potted wisteria trees

sweet pea, alyssum 

Herbs - lemon thyme, lemon sage, lemon verbena, rosemary, basil

Some plants are more fragrant in the evening than they are during the day. Those are the ones planted closest to where I sit at those times.

I have planted several varities of honeysuckle this season, that are learning to climb on trellises in pots, and along my fences and porch posts. So many varieties and some dwarf types. There's a honeysuckle for everyone, for almost anywhere. I will not allow a honeysuckle to grow in open ground, as some will definitely become quite invasive if not kept in check. If i had a rambling acreage, i would plant them all over. For now, they have work to do to cover trellises and unsightly walls, an arbor, and porch posts beautifully. Mine are varied in bloom time and size. But they're all under my control. Before i grew my own, I could smell a large abandoned honeysuckle shrub in our neighborhood from several blocks away. You can smell it from a long distance on the breeze, and can't really tell where it's coming from. Very beautiful sweet fragrance. Some honeysuckles bloom several times a year. After flowering, they erupt into clusters of some really pretty berries for the birds.

My butterfly bushes have a similar vanilla honey or licorice fragrance. And butterfly bushes bloom for months. It has a bad reputation for being potentially invasive. I have not seen this trait in more than two decades of growing all types. Standard height and the newer dwarfs. I seem to leave the flowers on the spike until there are no more petals, because they are a butterfly magnet.

I cut the seedheads off mine when i find the time, and i'm passing through.
As an intentionally lazy gardener, and one who does not want to turn away a single butterfly from the dinner table, that's usually in late September in Zone 5, when all flowering slows and stops.

However, i respect differing opinions. 
I read an article about the potential invasiveness of the butterfly bush, and although i dispute it, at least in my intensively-grown small garden, the advice might be helpful in areas outside of my gadening zones 5-8. I take good care of the shrubs and i'm training them into single trunk mini trees. I cut all of the little shoots that might come from the base of the plants. They can behave very well, and i have never found an errant seedling. They laugh at a hard pruning, and they bloom prolifically and reliably.They die down in winter, and take their times growing back in the late spring. I consider it an essential in any pollinator garden

When planting, be aware that a butterfly bush has very long, arching branches (the adult branches on standards can grow to 6 ft. long). I like the new dwarfs. Their branches grow less than 3 ft. when adult. And that one branch will give you only one very beautiful long flower on the end of it. The branch may send out side branches when it's fully grown, and those will have a flower on the ends of them. Which makes the shrub look full of flowers. I prune it way back in fall, and again lightly to shape it when it leafs out. Before the buds begin to develop. You can cut these back to about a foot tall late fall. It will grow fast in the spring. Sit back and wait for those butterflies to congregate. I guarantee a big show.

I guess you should use your own good judgment before growing them. If a neighbor has one, ask how it behaves. Purchase the right type and size for your area and needs, try the new dwarfs (i have both types) and cut off the seedheads and any stray shoots from the base as soon as they develop. My birds take care of a lot of the seeding issue. Here's the article i refer to. It's interesting, and I'm sure helpful for those with limited time to deadhead, or live in an area in which they're known to create an invasive scenario. I've had more trouble with mint invasions and have seen invasive wisteria take over most of the south. But all advice should be considered. Maybe i'm just a lucky gardener.

Autumn clematis. Small, pretty clusters of little white blooms all over it- its fragrance reminds me of baby powder
Chinese fringe trees have pretty white blooms that are softly sweet-smelling
elderberry shrubs have a sweet and slightly spicy fragrance. The stems and leaves have a pleasant, earthy aroma.

Look for a place thatís warm and still, to allow the fragrance to build. A fence or hedge to climb on.

Line a path with lavender. This perennial is well-suited to all the nearby reflected heat. In fact, lavender thrives in warm, sunny areas where the soil has excellent drainage.

Grow ground covers with fragrant foliage between stones. Creeping thyme will spread to form a fragrant mat that you donít have to worry about walking on, since walking on it releases the herbís aroma.

Whatever plants you choose, plant in a bloom rotation pattern, so that when one plant is done flowering, another will begin, until the end of the season. 

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