When I visit my mom she puts me to work 'dead-heading' her lavender. As I trim away the dead blossoms the smell of lavender surrounds me and attracts quite a few bees. It reminds me how important scent is in a garden and what an integral experience it is to losing yourself in the outdoors. In a small space like a balcony or small deck, using plants that give off a scent can make the experience that much richer. Here are 5 of my favorite fragrant plants perfect for a small space…
1. Lavender: There are hundreds of varieties of Lavender but we normally go for whatever the nursery has available and what smells the best. It's basically drought tolerant and likes plenty of sun. It's also important to remember to cut off the dead flowers--as you cut them off, the plant will be triggered to produce more! And even the dead blossoms keep their scent, so you can collect a bundle and keep it by your bed.
2. Scented Geranium: This is what I planted (per my mom's suggestion) closest to the seating area on my deck so that anyone sitting close by would be enveloped with the subtle odor that comes from this plant's leaves. Geraniums, in general, are easy to grow and scented ones are no different. They're propogated easily (like succulents, they'll often take just by cutting off a stalk and sticking it in some dirt). Plus there's a huge selection: chocolate, citrus, mint, etc. are all strains you can find in a lot of nurseries.
3. Honeysuckle: Like Jasmine, Honeysuckle is a flowering vine that can give off a powerful odor. Some people find it too strong (for me Jasmine is too strong in the summer and makes me feel kind of light headed) but it's super sweet fragrance and pretty flowers make for a great fence cover or trellis plant near an open window.
4. Gardenias: These I have literally never had any luck with. I buy them, they're flowering, and then they never flower again. Eventually they die. but I know others who have had tremendous success and nothing beats the smell that comes from theose magical white blooms.
5. Mint: Mint is pretty much a magical plant for me. You can eat the leaves, drink the tea made from the leaves and you can't really kill it (plant it in a separate container or away from other plants in the garden). As you brush against it in the garden it releases its scent, as you cut off leaves it releases scent and if you plant it in a place that is on the damp side it will grow like a weed. I like having some by the front door.
Of course there are roses and freesias and jasmine and basil and rosemary, the list goes on and on with plants that have amazing scents. Do you have a favorite?
(Originally published on June 8, 2009)