The Lure of Scent in a Garden

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As a passionate gardener if you ask me my favorite plant I’ll never be able to give you a definite answer but it will certainly be one that is fragrant. Scent is an added bonus for most when we choose plants for color and flower, form and texture, but to me scent is everything, it’s what takes a garden from simply being beautiful to becoming magical and memorable. Going back, my passion for them began as a child, one of my favorite memories is of when my mom and I would buy hyacinth bulbs around Easter filling our home with their perfume. Some of my most memorable plant memories have to do with fragrant plants and that is partly due to the fact that scent is closely linked to memory, possibly even the strongest link among all our senses according to studies. I can still imagine exactly in my mind the smell and image of the Thuja occidentalis hedges at my aunt’s house and the warm cedar like scent they emitted brushing against them on a hot sunny day.
Most of us have heard of lilies, lilacs, roses and jasmine, all known for their legendary fragrances, but there are many other plants that have fragrances just as stunning and memorable. Before I moved to London I was unfamiliar with Daphne, Skimmia, and many other plants that I had never seen before in my native Pennsylvania. Each different place and climate we visit has fragrant plants that will thrive and perform well in. Living in England has made me fall in love with so many new plants that it begins to feel like a fragrant dream working at a garden centre. As I walk along the streets of London on a summer evening I am surrounded by a concoction of jasmine, climbing roses and honeysuckle spilling over the stone and brick walls, giving me a taste of what must be euphoria in the gardens containing them.
The key to incorporating fragrant plants in a garden is knowing where to plant them. Along walkways, near windows, or against a windbreak wall that will help keep the plant sheltered; allowing its fragrance to seemingly float in the air. Having a variety of plants that will bloom at different times will allow your garden to be scented all year round, even in the middle of winter, looking at Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’; a fragrant deciduous shrub blooming from late autumn to early spring as an example.
It’s difficult to explain the feeling you get when you come across a plant you love, but when it’s fragrant I immediately feel happy and forget about everything for a moment. This is exactly why we use fragrant plants in sensory gardens to heal people. Scent seems to have the ability to take us someplace else, allowing us to experience beauty in our gardens in a way that we can’t see with our eyes but only with our nose and heart.

– Brandon George

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