By Mary Glazer
As a teenager growing up in Ohio, what I remember most about my family’s backyard is my Dad’s rose garden. He loved his roses, and no two bushes were the same color—from milky white, to pale yellow, mauve, and the vibrant ruby-red climber entangling the weathered white arbor. The scented varieties had the most amazing fragrances.
Dad granted permission—and watched with stoic eyes—as I plucked all 97 (a record-breaking year) heavenly pink blossoms off his fragrant and beloved ‘Queen Elizabeth’. My goal for a chemistry class was to extract the essential oils to produce perfume.
I never gave much thought to the scents in a garden, except for Dad’s roses and the ubiquitous gardenias I found when I moved to Florida as a teen. But today I’ve grown to realize the value of a garden that appeals to all the senses. Beyond the visual attraction of colorful flowers, I appreciate the sounds of birds or wind chimes; the touch of different leaf textures; and the taste of freshly grown fruit, vegetables, or herbs. But especially I enjoy the scents in my garden.
Of the fragrant floral plants, one of my all-time favorites is sweet almond (Aloysia virgate), with its light and fresh fragrance. When an occasional breeze picks up the scent, it’s a reprieve during the hot, sticky nights of summer. Plus I have never grown a plant that attracted so many different types of bees, as well as butterflies.
Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a vine with profuse heavily scented flowers. This is not a plant for small spaces—it easily can take over an entire fence line in a short time. The leaves are almost identical to Asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum), a nonflowering groundcover. I found this out one year when I bought the wrong kind, and wasted a lot of perfectly good fertilizer trying to get it to bloom. My other favorite flowers for scent include butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) and four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa).
Other scents in my garden include plants that release essential oils from their leaves such as rosemary or hyssop. I planted my rosemary bush near a garden path, and brushing against the leaves as I walk by releases its wonderful essence. The scents of potted herbs, including basil, oregano, and spearmint, spring forth when you tear the leaf in half.
Of course one person’s delectable fragrance can be another person’s—OK, I’ll say it—stinky. Fragrance, after all, is subjective. Maybe garden magazines could follow the perfume companies’ lead and incorporate scented scratch-offs? Until then I insist my garden visitors take a sniff of all my fragrant plants and flowers. From citrus blossoms in early spring to the smell of fresh-cut grass in summer, the scented garden is part of my home.
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