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Fragrance in the Landscape

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When planning a landscape, there are many considerations for plant selection. Adding fragrance to the yard or garden adds another positive, welcoming and inviting dimension.

We all know that plant fragrance comes from flowers, but don’t forget leaves and foliage. Herbs can be a great option, with scented flowers and leaves. In addition, these can be planted in pots and brought in if you are concerned with them lasting through the cold season.

There are many advantages in adding fragrance to your landscape. Fragrance can help minimize odors. Indoors, there is nothing more natural than clipping a sprig of rosemary or thyme or a small twig from your cedar or pine tree to enjoy by placing in a pretty vase with water. One of my all-time favorites is gardenia. Float flowers in water in a pretty bowl and the whole house smells of gardenia.

Some water-wise fragrant plant and flower options include:

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officianalis): Aromatic and evergreen, blue blossoms appear from winter on. Flowers are edible; leaves can be used as fresh or dry seasoning. Full sun, little to moderate water, attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Thyme: Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) or woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) is wonderful in rock walls or between flagstones or pavers. Plants are hardy once established and the aroma is released as you walk over them. Sun to light shade in hottest climates, little to moderate water, attracts bees and beneficials.

Lavender (Lavandula): Use as an informal hedge or edging in herb gardens or borders. Thrives in full sun; needs low to moderate water. Most types have purple flowers. English lavender (L. angustifolia) is sweetly fragrant and used for perfume and sachets. Lavandin, hedge lavender (L. x intermedia) “Grosso” is possibly the most fragrant lavandin of all and is often used for drying and essential oils. Attracts birds, bees, and butterflies.

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides): Intensely fragrant, white blossoms, glossy bright green leaves. Thrives in summer heat, full sun to partial shade in hottest climate zones, regular to ample water.

Fragrant vines:

Honeysuckle (Lonicera): Evergreen to semi-evergreen shrubs and vines. Fragrant, tubular flowers (varying colors), peaking in spring. Full sun or partial shade. Moderate to regular water. Flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, berries feed other birds. Beware: Lonicera japonica is aggressive and highly invasive; choose one of the other varieties.

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides): Oval leaves, glossy light green to dark green when mature. Pinwheel shaped white blossoms in spring or early summer. Light shade in hottest climates, regular water. Attracts bees.

There are many other plants to consider as fragrant options. The Sunset Western Garden book has a section dedicated to fragrant plants.

Ann Arshakuni is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.

University of California Cooperative Extension Central Sierra Master Gardeners can answer home gardening questions. Call 209-533-5912 in Tuolumne County, 209-754-2880 in Calaveras County or fill out our easy-to-use problem questionnaire here. Check out our website here. You can also find us on Facebook.