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Choosing fragrant plants for your garden

Val Bourne ( 19 March 2020 )

Saga Magazine's gardening expert Val Bourne shares her tips for choosing fragrant flowers for your garden.

Fragrant white and yellow jasmine flowers
Raise fragrant flowers up to nose-height by growing roses, jasmine and honeysuckle on an arch or pergola

Lovely lilies

Some lilies are highly fragrant and they can be planted in containers placed close to sheltered garden seats or doorways and give weeks of pleasure and perfume. ‘Casablanca’ (3ft, 90cm) has open white flowers with a cool hint of green. ‘Black Beauty’ is a little taller with green-throated, claret flowers. Or, for a shorter lily 18in (45cm) use ‘Mona Lisa’, a rose pink. Place pots carefully because the pollen stains clothing permanently. Look out for bright-red lily beetles and kill them on sight.

Nose-height blooms

Raise fragrant flowers up to nose-height by growing roses, jasmine and honeysuckle on an arch or pergola. Varieties of our native woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum) include ‘Serotina’ (a rhubarb pink and yellow) and ‘Graham Thomas’, a later-flowering soft-yellow, smell divine. The earlier Lonicera caprifolium is also excellent. The easiest summer-flowering jasmine outside is the blush-white Jasminum officinale. Trim back all after flowering.

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Roses grow on you

Good fragrant climbing roses include the pale-pink ‘New Dawn’, the pink ‘Aloha’ and the citrus scented lemon ‘Clarence House’. There are also two groups of graceful shrub roses specifically bred for fragrance, the hybrid musks and David Austin’s English roses. There is a fragrant Austin collection that includes ‘The Generous Gardener’ (a peach-cream), ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ (a striking pink) and ‘Jude the Obscure’. The two best hybrid musks for perfume are ‘Penelope’ (a cream apricot) and ‘Buff Beauty’ (a deeper apricot).

Powerful pinks

Some members of the pink family are also highly fragrant in early summer. This includes wallflowers, carnations, pinks, silenes and stocks. They are all lovers of well-drained, open positions and they are known as gilly flowers, a term derived from the French ‘giroflier’ meaning clove. Petals of spicily scented pinks were used to flavour wine as a cheaper alternative to cloves and one variety is actually called ‘Sops in Wine’.

The highly fragrant, rather ragged, green-centred white, ‘Mrs Sinkins’, is an enduring performer for a path edge. But there are many others including the lacy white and maroon ‘Paisley Gem’ and the similar pink and white ‘Gran’s Favourite’. Some of the single-flowered, diminutive pinks of long a go pack a powerful punch, but they do tend to go over quickly.

The more modern long-flowering ‘Doris’, a salmon-pink, is one of a series bred by Montagu Allwood . Many have lady’s names and many of these perpetual-flowering carnations are fragrant, though not clove-scented.

Later in the year pale herbaceous phloxes also scent the air and ‘David’ is a lovely fragrant white. ‘Blue Paradise’ and ‘Franz Schubert’ (a lilac) are also very fragrant. But all phloxes need good, moisture-retentive soil to perform well and anything fragrant you plant needs a warm position so that the fragrance wafts.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.