Garden fragrance may evoke memories

by How Does Your Garden Grow? By Sharon Daniels

The strongly-scented blooms of Bubby Bush opened four weeks ago and should last a while longer. You may call this shrub by its true name, Carolina Allspice, or Strawberry Shrub or Sweet Shrub, but some of you call it as I do. Stand near it and inhale, and you may have trouble deciding if the scent reminds you of strawberries, almonds, melon or green apples.

Various plants, especially roses, lost their sweet scents through over-breeding, and we missed the familiar odors. Today some of the most popular roses are fragrant. The late David Austin crossed heirloom types with modern roses and was able to restore fragrance. Other breeding successes produced re-blooming plants for longer bloom seasons.

Some plants, whether sweet, refreshing or musky scented, evoke memories. Carnations once were nestled in Easter corsages. Now I correctly call them Dianthus and whether they are Sweet Williams, Cottage Pinks or Clove Pinks (Carnations) I am drawn to the rich, spicy fragrance. White, red and pink ones are blooming in my garden now, and there also are oranges and yellows.

Another plant in full bloom this week is considered a weed because of its profuse volunteer seedlings, but the lovely scent of Multiflora Rose is powerful with a fragrance like honeysuckle. Birds love its red fruits in fall.

Speaking of honeysuckle, on a hot summer day or a humid summer evening, if you walk by it, or drive near it on a country road, you will experience a heady fragrance. Birds also like honeysuckle fruits. It is rampant or invasive but can be cut to the ground with little harm.

When you add scented plants, keep in mind that the closer they are to your nose, the easier it is to enjoy their perfumes. I have a huge bed of nicely-scented lily-of-the-valley, but I enjoy it only if I pick a few. If it were growing in a raised bed or even a pot it would be accessible.

Consider planting mints of various “flavors” or scented geraniums for garden or pot and offered in chocolate, citrus, pine and more. Other possibilities are lemon balm, lavender, Russian sage, catnip and catmint, both attractive to cats, lilac, daphne, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana) and peonies, especially the double-flowered ones.

I recommend anise hyssop which I acquired only last year. It grew in a large plot at a lavender farm I visited last June, and pollinators swarmed around it. It has chartreuse foliage and when it blooms will have lilac blue flowers. Understandably, they smell like licorice.

Another you may remember, one I rarely see now, is wild strawberries. Picking wild strawberries on a hillside carpeted with them was not a chore in childhood. You’d eat a few tasty, sweet-smelling ones, even as you anticipated a tasty cobbler to come at suppertime.

Sharon Daniels is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer.