Planting for Scent

by Tricia Harris

by Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled Garden

It’s the time of year when bulb and seed catalogues start dropping through the letter box at home and at work. At home I make lists at an appropriate page in my diary (sometime in September) of all the bulbs I fancy for spring. If I truly ordered all I think I want I would a) be bankrupt and b) would not have room to plant anything else.

So sense must prevail and I trim my list accordingly. Like most people I guess, I am captivated and seduced by colour: the more vibrant, the better. My world in spring is the deepest, most shimmering shades of yellow, orange and red with a bit of black and white thrown in for good measure. From winter aconites to tulips, the garden needs to zing with colour after the muted palette of winter.

However, in recent years, I have had my collar felt slightly by my boss, a professional garden designer in a previous life. Whilst no slouch in the colour stakes, she understands the value of muted tones and I am slowly learning to love paler shades of lemon, apricot and cream and the benefits they bring to the garden, creating harmony and restful spaces to contemplate.
The thing I realise I haven’t given proper thought to in designing and planting my garden (and reader, this is a confession of magnitude) is scent. No really. It’s a dreadful thing to admit. But upon investigation all is not as bad as it first appears. Embarking on some detailed research I discover that I have plenty of scented plants—I just didn’t realise (this really does get worse).

In my defence, I often have a blocked nose in summer and that, coupled with not enough time spent on my hands and knees smelling things has meant that the scent of some, less showy plants has not been fully appreciated.
Fringe cups (Tellima grandiflora), a low-growing perennial has a knockout sweet scent. Happy in full sun or partial shade, I’ve planted it with heucheras and geraniums.

A bit further back in the border is Phlox paniculata ‘Mount Fuji’. The crispest clearest white makes it stand out as evening falls and, combined with a rich heady scent will make you linger outside till dark.

Recently, we had a new patio laid and we asked them to miss out a few stones so we could plant creeping thymes is the spaces. Peonies are short lived but the time they spend in flower is reward enough. Of course, I have said nothing about roses, they could have an article all to themselves. Or Nicotiana or Nemesia or Daphne (dreamy).

I must save the final word for two of my favourites Sweet William (Dianthus barbartus) so many colours and all beautifully scented, and sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus). Try ‘Wiltshire Ripple’, gorgeous shades of claret and heavenly scent.

I could go on but I will run out of page and invoke the wrath of the editor, so I will end here and hope that just maybe, you’ll try growing at least one of these beauties in your garden next year.

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