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GARDEN SCENTS

  • A butterfly and a wasp share the blossom of a Ruby Spice Summersweet Clethra. Ruby Spice has luscious smelling flowers and a carefree nature. AP

  • Anise hyssop brightens many home gardens with its long-lasting purple spikes. The leaves and flowers taste like licorice and can be snipped into salad as easily as they can be turned into sweet tea. AP

  • Water droplets gather on lamb's ear plants at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, May 1, 2013. April showers and warming weather has brought spring flowers into bloom at Duke Gardens, a 55-acre horticultural showplace nestled in the heart of the Duke University campus. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Gerry Broome—AP



For the Monitor
Monday, June 11, 2018

My favorite springtime scents are lilac and apple blossoms, but they have finished their performance for the year. It is time to turn to some of the lesser-known fragrant flowers of summer and see what they have to offer.

There is a fragrant plant for just about any location in the landscape and most provide nectar for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, along with luscious scents for us to enjoy. If you are looking for something new and different, give one of these plants a try.

There is a fancy lamb’s ear (Stachys albotomentosa) called Hidalgo that has salmon-pink flowers, and its fuzzy leaves smell like 7-Up! It is native to Mexico, so it is not hardy here and we have to grow it as an annual, but it sounds like fun. Along the same soda-pop theme, the foliage of anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) smells like root beer when rubbed. Bees love them both and the anise hyssop is a winter-hardy perennial.

Next time you get hungry while working in the garden, rub the blue-green leaves of Melianthus major and inhale the scent of peanut butter. Hardy only to Zone 8, it makes a fine container plant and is a big hit with kids. Maybe I should plant one next to my chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) for the full Reese’s effect. My plant is only a few years old and has made great growth up across the top of our pergola but has yet to flower. I can’t wait to see just how chocolatey it is! If you’re like me and can’t get enough chocolate, try growing the perennial chocolate daisy (Berlandiera lyrata), hardy to Zone 4. It blooms at night, leaving its lingering scent of hot cocoa for you to drink up in the morning.

Several Cary Award-winning plants are known for their fragrance. This year’s winner, native Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), has sweetly scented white flower spikes, is hardy to Zone 4 and grows in the shade. It is a good-sized shrub reaching 6 to 8 feet tall and deer don’t seem to bother with it.

Last year’s winner was Korean Abelia (Abelia mosanesis). It is a small shrub that grows 4 to 6 feet tall and is hardy to Zone 4. It has no pests or disease problems and deer shun its glossy leaves. Once established it tolerates dry conditions and its extremely fragrant pale pink flower clusters attract butterflies.

Native shrub Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a previous Cary winner that grows in part shade, likes a wet location, and has luscious smelling flowers. Look for white or pink Ruby Spice. They bloom July and August, grow 4 to 8 feet tall and wide and are hardy to Zone 4. We have both and can vouch for their carefree nature and wonderful scent.

If you love the look of wisteria but were afraid to try it, look for 2014 Cary winning American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescans). Unlike the aggressive-growing Asian varieties bent on world domination, this one only grows 10 to 12 feet a year and can be kept in check with annual pruning once it has finished flowering. Native to Texas, it has purple or white racemes of sweetly scented flowers that hang down in clusters from the vines.

You can’t go wrong with a Cary Award winner. They have been fully vetted and chosen for their excellent performance in New England gardens. To see all the past winners, go to caryaward.towerhillbg.org.

Talking about vines don’t overlook honeysuckle, annual sweet peas, sweet autumn clematis or the hyacinth-scented corkscrew vine (Vigna caracalla).

If you can find the bulbs, you have to try Acidanthera. Also called Abyssinian glad or peacock orchid, it is in the gladiola family and is easily grown from bulbs each year. Other than its sword-like foliage, it doesn’t look like a glad at all, but more like an exotic white orchid with a maroon throat. Tuck the bulbs into flower beds between other plants and when they blossom in late summer or early fall you will be surprised by how pretty and fragrant they are. Each bulb bears several flowers that are good for cutting.

Become inspired to add plants for your other senses by reading Tovah Martin’s new book The Garden in Every Sense and Season in which she encourages us to fully enjoy our gardens using all our senses – smell, taste, touch, sight and sound.