Don’t just fill your borders with colour when fragrance will give you more lasting memories, says Adrienne Wild
Scent connects with people in so many different ways.
It switches on lights from your past, drawing forward precious memories. It’s a good idea therefore, to build a garden around familiar fragrances and pack in perfumed plants to act as natural air fresheners.
There are scented plants for every season and at this time of year there are plenty to choose from to create scented breezes that waft through the garden and into the house through open doors and windows.
Bearing one of the season’s best scents is sweet autumn clematis, Clematis terniflora, which clothes itself with fragrant white star-shaped blossoms from late August to October followed by a silvery mass of fluffy seed heads.
This vine is useful for covering a pergola to create a scented corridor. Without support, it will sprawl along the ground, choking most weeds as it goes.
Clematis rehderiana is a late flowerer and has elegant bell-shaped blooms in pale yellow and washed green with the spring scent of cowslips. It has the vigour to cover a house wall or disguise a garden shed.
The twining climber Chinese star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, has sweet-scented flowers that are star-shaped, pure white and beautifully set off against the glossy pointed leaves.
Its powerful jasmine-like cinnamon-vanilla scent is a noted aphrodisiac so exploit its romantic potential by using it as fragrant curtains to hide a seat in a sunny corner of the garden.
Fragrant honeysuckles are magnets for wildlife and their dense canopy is a popular nesting place for garden birds, so use them to cover walls, sheds and scramble over tree stumps in wild areas of the garden.
The variety ‘Graham Thomas’, which has grey-green leaves and creamy-white flowers that age to pumpkin orange is the perfect choice for covering arbours and pergolas with a fragrant cloak.
Buddleja can also be relied on to bring in hoards of butterflies and the variety ‘Pink Delight’ is silver-leaved with bright pink blooms that wafts a warm honey fragrance over a wide area.
It is a large shrub, reaching about 2m in height and spread, making it a useful plant to draw attention to far-reaching corners of the garden. For small gardens there is ‘Nanho Blue’ and ‘Nanho Purple’ that grow to no more than 1.2m and produce slender blue flower spikes.
A cold corner is not normally warm enough to encourage strong scent, so site fragrant flower beds in sheltered, warm locations and place plants close to paths. Positioning borders close to walls and hedges will also trap scent in the garden.
You will enjoy the most spectacular sensory experience while in the garden by lining paths with low-growing fragrant plants like dainty pinks, which are best known for their silver-grey foliage, frilly double blooms and deliciously sweet clove fragrance.
Filling the gaps between pavers with thyme and chamomile will also release mood-enhancing aromas when they’re stepped on.
Within arms reach of paths, add lemon verbena, Aloysia triphylla, which has leaves that release a zingy citrus scent, and pine-scented rosemary and smoky-scented lavender, which have leaves that release their intoxicating perfume when brushed past. Artemisia abrotanum releases a sweet aroma on the slightest touch.
For an exuberant display of fragrant flowers and foliage that will perfume the garden through until the end of September, plant catmint or Nepeta x faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’.
To fragrance flower beds through until late September, plant Russian sage or perovskia atriplicifolia. It provides fragrant lavender-purple blooms, on 60-120cm tall stems that are clothed with equally fragrant grey leaves.
As it’s a see-through plant, use it to create a ribbon of colour through an existing herbaceous border or combine with late-flowering heleniums, crocosmia and echinacea – it contrasts well with the warm autumnal shades of these late summer blooms.
Phlox paniculata can also be relied on to pack a punch at this time of year.
The variety ‘Franz Schubert’ has a sweet perfume and its pearlised lilac blooms look stunning alongside the violet-blue flower spikes of Salvia nemorosa, which are produced in abundance from summer to autumn.
These salvia flowers are highly attractive to bees and as with most sage plants the grey-green foliage is strongly aromatic when rubbed.
A perfume that lingers on through early autumn is provided by Actaea simplex, a bugbane that has slender spires of scented white flowers. The variety ‘James Compton’ is the most fragrant of the dark-leaved types and adds drama.
Finally, to make the patio a more uplifting place to relax on a hot sunny day, surround seats with pots of scented-leaved pelargoniums.
When fondled, the leaves release various mood-enhancing scents, which come in a range of smells from the lemon ‘Radula’, to the rose ‘Attar of Roses’. Add a purple heliotrope for extra cherry fragrance – and then inhale!
Tip: Line paths with low-growing plants to create a spectacular sensory experience. Your garden scent will be simply beautiful.