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Fragrant Plants

Real fragrances are one of the pleasures of life. To surround yourself with wonderful fragrances is to massage the senses. Remember the aroma of bread baking or a strawberry field at high noon when the chamomile grows about the ripe berries. Both are delicious beyond description. Once experienced, they are part of the sensory memory forever. Just a faint whiff brings back vivid pictures of days gone by, people or events of the past.

Night Blooming Jessamine - Cestrum nocturnum
Night Blooming Jessamine - Cestrum nocturnum
Romantic scents are usually associated with flowers in bloom. Jessamine and Bermuda's tropical nights, gardenia and weddings, roses and first romances or proms. They all have a place in our memories.

Yet garden fragrances can be a daily occurrence with a little thought and planning. Early in the spring Witch Hazel, Sweet Box and fragrant Violets, as well as Mahonia, can fill a mild day with their sweetness.

A little later in the season, the Lilac, Viburnum and Magnolia gently ride each warm breeze around the garden and in our open windows. In summer the deck can be an outdoor home of a special selection of houseplants that need to summer out in the humidity to really bloom to their full potential. The Cestrum nocturnum, or Night Blooming Jessamine as it is sometimes called, is one of the sweetest smells in captivity. It covers many tropical islands, as is often associated with balmy vacation spots where it fills the night air with its aroma.

All the true Jessamines, the Gardenia, the Passionflower and even the hybrid lilies all bloom well in pots during the summer. They make the area around a pool or porch wonderfully fragrant.

Passionflower growing in New Jersey
Passionflower in Lorraine's Garden
Roses are among the most fragrant of the garden plants. They do not shout at you with their scent, but are rather a bit subtle to the point of sometimes being elusive. They are wonderful near pools or other spots in the garden where their fragrances can be appreciated on warm summer afternoons and evenings as it floats about the air.

Many of our favorite herbs are quite fragrant. There is a certain haunting quality found in the lovely fragrance of the Nasturtium, while the clean scent of Lavender is truly a classic. Both are easy to grow in sunny spots. Even Petunias and Marigolds are wonderfully fragrant to many gardeners.

Some night blooming annuals that are especially fragrant after dark are the spicy stocks, flowering tobacco (certain varieties) and the moon vine. All are so nice near an entrance or under a bedroom window that is usually left open.

Some of my favorite are native plants that bloom in the swamp on the other side of the creek (head of Maurice River) that borders our garden. The first is the luscious May/June blooming Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), follwed by the rather tenacious Honeysuckle. Later in the summer the Clethra fills the air with its sweetness, best appreciated tubing or canoeing along a meandering cedar water creek. This is usually side by side with or closely followed by the Buttonball (Cephalanthus accidentalis).

The list could go on and on. There are so many plants that are fragrant, why not add some each year to your surroundings. Make memories happen for those who live in or pass by your garden.


Lorraine Kiefer is the owner of Triple Oaks Nursery and has been a garden writer since 1972. Click here to email her.

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