Some plants don’t smell so good. And some plants don’t smell at all. And, yes, you’ll want some in your garden or window box just for the way they look. But when it comes to introducing those that do carry a lovely fragrance, you’ll need to not just think about where they’ll look nicest, but also where you’ll be able to fully appreciate their scent.
Start with pathways and patios.
Many plants need heat or touch to give off their fragrance. On a hot, sunny day you’ll be swimming in it, but the rest of the time you’ll need to encourage them. So, try lining a path with things like lavender and rosemary that you can run your fingers through as you pass. Or fill the cracks between paving stones with a low-growing plant like thyme so it releases its scent as you tread on it. You could even go further and create a whole lawn from chamomile. Picnics never smelt so good.
And speaking of food, surround the space you eat in with herbs that’ll get your stomach rumbling, like the ‘curry plant’, Helichrysum italicum, which smells like every spice rolled into one. Or try those that soothe when you might’ve over-indulged – think mint and fennel.
Trees are a little different. You’ll want to place these upwind of where the breeze usually comes from (putting up a temporary flag can help you work this out). They can offer more than just blossom: consider things like cedar, juniper, eucalyptus and pine, which have a balsam-y, resinous scent.
And don’t neglect winter. The number of plants that’ll flower in the colder months might surprise you, like the honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima, or witch hazel (try Hamamelis vernalis). You’re not going to stop and sit down to appreciate the smell at this time of year, so place these plants where you’ll pass by them, where they’ll welcome you home or tempt you out.
The top three
Our favourite picks for a scent garden:
Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ – you can probably guess what this plant smells of. The trick is to smell the leaves, not the flowers.
Nicotiana sylvestris – don’t let its name put you off (it’s also known as the ‘tobacco plant’). This summer-flowering plant gives off its musky scent in the evening, perfect for when you’re sitting out on a warm night.
Rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ – if you plant just one rose (and at least one is a must-have in a scent garden) make it a climber, like this cream-coloured, fruity-smelling one. Grown up the side of your house, you’ll be able to enjoy it at nose-height and when your windows are open.