Fragrant Gardens

Spring flowers have been very welcome this year after the hard winter.

"Many of those also add great scents to my outdoor gardens," says Rhonda Ferree, University of Illinois Extension educator in horticulture. "Adding fragrance to a garden excites our senses and adds another dimension to the gardening experience." Here are several examples to try in your garden.

Lilacs come in many types, including common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), dwarf lilacs (S. meyeri and patula) and even tree lilacs (S. reticulata). With careful selection you can find plants with good mildew resistance in the exact color, size, and degree of fragrance you desire. Flowers are typically lavender or white in color.

Honeysuckle shrubs have very fragrant flowers in the spring. There are many types of honeysuckle available and careful selection is important, as many can become quite weedy. The most fragrant is probably the winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima). It has powerful fragrance that perfumes an entire garden in March and April.

One of the most fragrant shrubs is the Koreanspice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii). It has a spicy-sweet fragrance that is different from the flowery smells of honeysuckle and lilac. Rhonda says, "I have this plant next to my patio so I can enjoy the smells while resting there." This shrub grows 4 to 8 feet high and wide, although a compact version is available, too. Flowers are 2- to 3-inch diameter pinkish-white balls.

Other shrubs with strongly fragrant flowers include other viburnums, roses, some rhododendrons, and fothergilla. Fothergilla is listed as having a honey scent. Privet (Ligustrum sp.) is sometimes described as "sickeningly sweet."

In addition to woody plants there are many flowers and groundcovers with fragrant flowers or foliage. Many examples include dianthus, hosta, iris, lavender, mint, peony, and violet, to name a few.

"One of my favorite flowers is Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)." It is a groundcover with fragrant flowers that grow best in a shady site. Flowers are white (or pink) and appear like small bells growing up a stem. Just a few of these in an arrangement will fill a room with a fragrant smell. Once established, they can become aggressive, so plant them where you want them.

Finally, no fragrant garden is complete without peony (Paeonia hybrids). These shrub-shaped perennial plants have 3 to 6 inch flowers of various colors. According to one source, the peony fragrance can by very sweet and overwhelmingly strong.

Excite more of your senses this year by adding fragrance to your garden. Your nose will thank you!