Choosing Fragrant Flowers for the Southern Garden
There are so many wonderfully fragrant flowers filling the Southern Spring and Summer air with heavenly scents wafting on breezes from Southern gardens or fields nearby. Every breath is a discovery of a new fragrance or an interesting combination of the many. The scents often trigger memories: some sweet, some sad.
There are a multitude of trees and flowers that are wonderful additions to the Southern garden and their aromas are the perfect addition to tranquil summer evenings as you watch fireflies light up Southern night.
If you enjoy floral fragrances and would like to bring some of them to your garden, the following are a few suggestions of flowering plants to add to your Southern garden or any garden where the climate and the soil are conducive to the blooms:
Roses. The rose is sure to come to mind immediately when thinking of fragrant Southern flowers. It is one of the most easily identifiable fragrances. Itâ€™s delicate scent is the base of many of the most popular perfumes, although the scent is just as popular as a stand alone fragrance.
Roses are also popular as an essential oil for use in cosmetics, both because of its scent and because of its healing properties. Some petals and other parts of the plant are edible.
Unlike what many may believe, roses are not difficult to grow and you should not let intimidation prevent you from adding this deliciously soft fragrance to your garden.
When choosing a rose, however, be sure that it is not only a pleasing color, but also that it actually has a fragrance. Some of the roses today do not. Choose damask, Bourbon, or China varieties or do research and ask your local nurseryman for recommendations so that you don’t end up with one of the varieties that are scentless.
Magnolia Trees. The South is not the South without the magnificent magnolia tree. It just happens to be the state flower for Louisiana and Mississippi. It is everywhere. The flower is huge, usually creamy white (you can find it in red, purple or yellow) with a softly sweet fragrance. Although the tree grows slowly, its beauty and its fragrance are worth the wait. Really do your homework when deciding which type of magnolia tree is best suited for your garden. Consult a good nursery or garden book to find a type that you like and plant it in a partially sunny to sunny spot.
Hyacinths (a personal favorite that always says spring). Hyacinths are extremely easy to grow. Plant the bulbs in the fall and be rewarded with purple, white, orange, yellow or pink blooms with a lingering scent that is unmistakable and a feast for the senses. The flowers are well suited alongside daffodils and crocuses to herald the start of springtime. You can also grow them in containers.
Viburnum. There are many species of viburnum many of which are wonderful additions to the Southern garden. The flowers can be white, cream or pink. The fragrances can also be varied. Work with a knowledgeable nursery or consult a good garden book to choose the variety that is best suited to your southern garden and your senses.
Verbenas. Another easy to grow plant for your garden or your container garden. The plant is fairly drought tolerant and will bloom in summer and early fall. Planting along retaining walls can add interest and lemony fragrance to the spot.
Petunias. Petunias are prolific in most Southern gardens. In fact, it is one of the most popular annuals. The scent is not particularly strong, but it is present and adds subtle scent to the air, mingling with the other scents in the southern air. Their popularity is due to their hardiness and because they come in such a variety of colors. Some of the New Wave varieties developed in the recent years create spectacular borders and hanging baskets. Grow them from seeds or from plants. Just choose your colors.
Tea Olives. The tea olive is ideal for hedges and plant screens. Surrounded by large, dark, waxy, pointed leaves, the fragrant little flowers are generally creamy white but can be deep yellow and orange. The fragrance of the tea olive is hard to pin down, but has been compared to the peach or jasmine. The plant is moderately drought tolerant and likes sun to medium shade. The variety of tea olive will determine the height.
Night-Blooming Jasmine. The intense fragrance of the night-blooming jasmine is a wonderful addition to the garden. It can also be grown indoors. Many gardeners strategically plant the night-blooming jasmine under windows or near the patios or decks so that the fragrance can be enjoyed on summer evenings. The scent is heady and blends well with the warm, sometimes heavy Southern air. Itâ€™s a scent that evokes strong memories for Southerners.
Gardenias. The scent of the gardenia is almost palpable and envelopes you with its sultry, sensuous, heady fragrance. The fragrance is found in many perfumes and also as a solitary scent. It is grown as a lone bush, but can also make a great hedge of the most delicious, fragrant kind. The dwarf size gardenia is well suited for containers on the terrace or patio. When well watered, it is relatively easy to maintain and any gardener will be rewarded with a fragrance that is not easily forgotten.
Lilacs. Lilacs do not fare well in the deep South because of their affinity for the cold, but Southern states like Virginia and Maryland present excellent growing conditions for them. The fragrance from the lilac is often used alone as perfume, it is so distinctive and pleasant. They grow well in sunny, dry spots. A suggested planting spot, if at all possible, would near a window. The scent is delicious to wake up to in early summer and the memory will last a lifetime.
Wisteria and honeysuckle grow prolifically in the South and they both smell divine. With its purple clusters hanging heavy like grapes and its vines twisting and clambering over anything it can find, wisteria is also a beautiful spring blooming plant.
Honeysuckles on the other hand, are small yellow flowers on a vine that also likes to climb along fences, over dead or live trees and over rocks. In other words, it grows wildly over just about everything. The nectar is sweet to the taste (when you master the art of getting to it) and the scent is unmistakable, often found in perfumes and lotions.
Both wisteria and honeysuckle can be bought at nurseries. However, you must be very careful if you decide to add either to your garden. They can become uncontrollable and extremely difficult to get rid of.
These are just a few of the fragrant flowers that can be grown in most Southern gardens. Your favorite scents may be among the list here or there may be others that were not included. Fragrance is so personal, be sure to explore the scents before you decide to plant. For example, some gardeners are not particularly fond of the intensity of the gardeniaâ€™s fragrance. Donâ€™t be afraid to add a variety of fragrances to your garden, choosing plants not only by the scents but also by the blooming schedules so that you can enjoy delightful and memorable scents from early spring until the first frost.
What is the name of your favorite fragrant flower growing in your part of the world? Leave your answer in the comment box below.