How to Bring Fragrance to the Garden

By Kathy Vilim, Houzz

You can go beyond a visually appealing garden by tapping into another sense: the sense of smell. Scents can bring a feeling of familiarity, rekindle old memories and create new memories. There are many fragrant plants that you can incorporate to create a garden that friends will remember and that will make you feel at home. What types of plants to use? It depends on where you live and your available space.

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Kimberley Bryan, original photo on Houzz

The extremely fragrant white flowers of confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides; USDA Zone 8) bloom spring through summer.

1. Fragrant vines. Conserve garden space by growing vertically with vines. Vines can be trained up a trellis or left to cascade over a wall on the side of your garden. A trellis can be placed in many spots, but take time to consider its placement, as you will not want to move it once you train your vine.

Consider placing your trellis close to a spot where you like to relax — maybe near where you like to have tea outside, do yoga or entertain. It’s best to keep fragrant vines away from cooking areas, as the fragrance may be too intense and overwhelm your meal.



Some beautiful choices for fragrant vines include climbing roses, honeysuckle and jasmine.

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Derviss Design, original photo on Houzz

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, zones 5 to 9), a Mediterranean native, grows along a path in a Northern California garden.

2. Herbs. For a world of fragrances, try growing herbs. Herbs can be planted in raised beds by the kitchen back door, among other places. This is a useful placement, as you can then pick them fresh for use while cooking. Some herbs release their scent when brushed up against; consider planting those near a garden path. If you plant herbs in containers, you’ll have the advantage of being able to bring them inside during winter to put in a sunny window.

Related: Store Them on Sunny Wall Shelves Indoors



Some popular herbs known for their fragrance include rosemary, marjoram, oregano, sage, cilantro, mint and lavender.

Some herbs, such as chamomile or thyme, work well as ground covers and can be used to create fragrance in the garden. Their scents will be released under your feet if they are planted in between stepping stones. They also have a place in rock gardens.

3. Fruit trees. Plant small to medium-size fruit trees with deliciously fragrant blooms, such as citrus. Fruit trees can be used in many different places: by the front door to greet guests or by the kitchen door near your herb garden, for instance. They can be spaced throughout the garden or even grown in the center of raised beds. Just make sure you have room to walk around them easily to prune and to pick fruit.

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Zeterre Landscape Architecture, original photo on Houzz

4. Roses. There is nothing like a rose garden to make you want to slow down and breathe in deeply. Rekindle memories of special times by planting your favorite rosebush near the house, perhaps under a bedroom window. Some roses are known for their distinctive fragrance, so it is a good idea to smell them before purchasing.

A rose garden needs to get at least four hours of constant sunlight, and the plants often prefer up to six hours. They also need to be cultivated, pruned, fertilized and watered often. Rose plants can live for many years if taken care of. Roses are versatile: You can use them in borders with other perennials, in front of trees, climbing on the house or along driveways.



Two of my favorites are the hybrid tea roses ‘Perfume Delight’, which is pink, and ‘Mister Lincoln’, which blooms a deep red.

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Susan J Tweit, original photo on Houzz

Fragrant heirloom peony ‘Frances Willard’ (Brand 1907) was transplanted from an Illinois garden to Colorado.

5. Peonies. Peonies are known for their beauty, but they also offer fragrance. Look for heirloom varieties for the biggest variety of fragrances. Because heirloom peonies come from wild plants and not greenhouses, they are regionally adapted and will thrive in tough climates.

Peonies are long-lived, sometimes lasting a lifetime. You might get a hand-me-down bush from a parent or as a gift from a neighbor who is moving. Keep memories alive by sharing an old favorite scent in today’s garden.

6. Fragrant hedges. Fragrant hedges, such as lilacs, can double as border fences. Try planting a variety of lilacs along the property line between your house and your neighbor’s. There are many varieties of lilac, and each has its own distinctive perfume. Come springtime, you can be sure your neighbors will not complain as the wind picks up and sends the scent their way.

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Southern Living Plant Collection, original photo on Houzz

Narcissus tazetta ‘Grand Primo’

7. Scented bulbs. Plant fragrant bulbs, like narcissus, in flower beds mixed with other perennials or in rock gardens, or let them naturalize throughout your yard. Left on their own, daffodil clumps will increase each year, bringing more fragrant blooms over time.

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Sunset Western Garden Collection, original photo on Houzz

8. Gardenias. Gardenias are well-known for their fragrance. Consider placing pots of this plant near a yoga space or another area where you can relax outside and enjoy their scent. While fragrant plants can be grown in many garden spots, it is always a good idea to place them where the fragrance is close to your nose.

9. Native plants. Let’s not forget hardworking native plants. Each region of the U.S. has its own native plants, and their fragrance can bring a sense of familiarity and a scent of the region.

For me, the smell of sagebrush brings that familiarity. It makes me immediately remember times when my dog would come home from a run through the chaparral behind my house smelling of sage. That scent tells me I am home.

In the garden we find solitude and the calmness of connecting with the earth. Nature provides us all we need to feel whole and to find ourselves. Perhaps this is why the garden is the perfect place to create your own space. Breathe in, breathe out — enjoy fresh air, wonderful scents, the earth beneath your feet and shadows playing across the garden as the sun moves through the day.




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