Scented plants in the landscape
There are so many ways we can use plants in the garden. They provide flowers, fruit, shade, form, focal points, screening and much, much more. But what I love most about plants is the way they provide a fragrant landscape.
Aromatic plants create a sense of place equally important as any visual element, whether it be the subtle, though pervasive smell of the rock rose or the heady assault in the afternoon of the Port Wine Magnolia.
Scents can conjure up images and memories. The smell of some plants will tell you that you are home after travelling or remind you of places you have travelled. Others will remind you of afternoon visits to your grandparent’s place.
Scents also reflect the seasons. For me the privet in flower is the smell of Christmas approaching. In Melbourne where I grew up, its smell filled the streets in the evening when we went out walking to spot Christmas lights.
In his book, Scented Flowers of the World, Roy Genders lists in excess of 3000 species of plants from which scents can be extracted. It’s not only the flowers which are worth considering. Leaves, wood, bark and roots of plants can be the source of a plant’s aromatic secret.
The fragrance of flowers is simply to attract pollinators. Some produce their perfume all day long while others target specific pollinators by only producing the perfume at certain times of the day such as evenings or mornings. However not all flowers produce pleasant smells to achieve this end. The peculiar and rather impressive members of the genus Amorphophallus give off the smell of rotting meat for a day or two at the height of their flowering to attract their preferred pollinator, the fly.
Other plants have aromatic oils in their leaves or stems to ward off insects and animals looking for a feed.
When selecting them for your garden, give some thought to the placement of scented plants. Grow plants with fragrant leaves, such as mint or lavender, next to frequently used pathways where you are likely to brush against them or crush them underfoot, filling the air with their gift.
If you live in an exposed site with strong prevailing winds, try creating an enclosed garden to capture the scents of your plants. Winds will disperse the perfumes before you get a chance to enjoy them.
In order to maintain good neighbourly relations, consider your neighbours preferences for any plantings along the boundary of your property. Certain scented plants can cause allergic reactions for some people.
Add some perfume to your gardens plant list. It may bring back fond memories or be the source of future ones.