Gardens should be a treat for the nose as well as a feast for the eyes. Choose the right plants and your plot can offer up wafts of perfume all year round, thanks to aromatic foliage and scented flowers. Here are 15 of the best to plant this month.
Trees and shrubs
Mahonias are often dismissed as prickly plants that only deserve a place in car parks, but take a sniff of the clusters of acid yellow flowers in late winter and early spring, and you’ll be converted by their strong lily-of-the-valley perfume. Thankfully there is a prickle-free option, Mahonia Soft Caress.
Mexican orange blossom ticks a lot of boxes as a shrub: evergreen, hardy and compact enough for smaller gardens. Choisya × dewitteana Aztec Pearl is my favourite, producing clusters of white almond-scented flowers in mid spring. The leaves have a citrusy scent when you brush past, too.
Roses can really pack a punch when it comes to perfume, but buy plants in bloom if you can, as everyone’s senses are different. I love the big yellow blooms of David Austin shrub rose Golden Celebration which is meant to smell of Sauternes wine and strawberries.
It is not always flowers that deliver scent. The katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) has leaves that turn bronze in autumn, which is pleasant enough, but it is the scent of candyfloss they give off that really sets this tree apart. Grow the cultivar Boyd’s Dwarf in smaller gardens as it will stay a more compact 2.5 to 4 metres tall when mature.
If you get a waft of fragrance in the depths of winter that lifts your spirits as you hurry past, it may well be Christmas box (Sarcococca species). The clusters of tiny white flowers don’t look like much but they make up for it with powerful perfume.
Plants for borders and containers
Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis) is pretty dull for most of the year, but from January to March throws out intricate purple flowers. Cut them when in bud, stick them in a vase and enjoy the scent as they unfurl indoors. They are best planted at the base of a sunny wall.
Pinks are unashamedly old fashioned and wonderfully scented, and they perform well as cut flowers, so you can enjoy them inside. Try the peachy Dianthus Tequila Sunrise or the classic pink Shirley Temple. They love a sunny spot and free-draining soil.
A plant that smells of chocolate? What sorcery is this? But chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) exists, and the flowers it produces all summer long look chocolatey as well as smelling like a bar of Dairy Milk. This Mexican native is great for containers but needs to be kept out of the cold in winter.
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is hard to beat for scent or pollinator pulling power in summer: plant in full sun. Choose compact cultivars such as Little Lottie for pots. For the most powerful scent of all, try the larger Lavandula x intermedia Grosso.
If you have moist soil and some shade, bugbane’s bottlebrush flowers in pink or white offer scent in late summer and early autumn. Actea simplex Atropurpurea Group adds to the drama by offering dark red- or chocolate-coloured ferny foliage.
The almond-scented flowers of Clematis armandii Snowdrift are produced in abundance in March and April, and the evergreen leaves mean you can grow this climber up a trellis to create a year-round screen.
Akebia quinata may be called chocolate vine, but some noses will find the fragrant, dark red flowers that appear from March to May more akin to freesias. This vigorous climber may produce unusual sausage-shaped fruits if the summer’s warm enough.
The scent of honeysuckle is a heady spring and summer treat, never more so than the cultivar Lonicera periclymenum Scentsation; pollinators love the white and yellow flowers, too. Make sure you have room to let it scramble up a trellis or over a pergola or arch.
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is an evergreen climber for a sheltered south- or west-facing spot. Summer evenings will be heavy with the perfume of the clusters of white flowers; shut your eyes and you’ll be transported to the Mediterranean.
Clematis x triternata Rubromarginata does not have the most dramatic flowers of the clematis, or a common moniker that is easier to get your lips around than its Latin name, but it wins out for the delightful scent of its flowers in late summer.