Fragrant plants in the landscape are a real bonus. I find that fragrant plants fall into two groups. The best ones are plants that produce fragrance that’s noticeable just walking past from a distance. Other plants have fragrance only if you brush against the foliage, and some plants will require that you get your nose close to the bloom. In some cases, as us “tree huggers” know, you have to really try hard to get the scent — as is the case of the vanilla scent given off by the bark of the majestic ponderosa pines.
The most common plants that I use in my landscape designs that have fragrance are rosemary, roses, Carolina jessamine, agastache and Salvia Greggii. Agastache varieties have scents that include anise, bubblegum, licorice and several fragrances that can be debated. In addition to the scent produced, they are also compact in habit, easy to grow and produce wonderful blooms.
Lavender, honeysuckle, wisteria and mints also produce fragrances if you get close enough or, as in the case of mints, touch them. These plants are not at the top of my list for several reasons. Honeysuckle and wisteria get out of control and woody as time passes. Both can actually destroy wooden trellises and pergolas. Lavenders look great and smell especially wonderful for a while, but eventually get dead spots exposing the woody interior. Mints are very invasive but they are fun plants for adults as additions to teas and mixed drinks. Kids love to rub the foliage and guess the scent produced. Mint varieties give off scents that include apple, peppermint, sage, spearmint, orange and lemon. Since they are so invasive I’m often asked, “How do you get rid of mint?” The same answer to true for bamboo and Bermuda grass. The answer is, “Move.” Grow mint in containers to avoid relocating.
Although not my favorite as landscape plants, the big winners for fragrance are Spanish broom (when in bloom) and chocolate flower. Spanish broom gets too large for most yards, can’t be sheared to reduce the size and produces tons of dead stems as the plant matures. I have had some clients say that it is a sickening smell, but many others love it. Chocolate flower can get your attention from 50 feet away, but loose scent in the afternoons. If you are a chocolate lover, as I am, this plant is a huge winner. Unfortunately, if irrigated it grows to knee high and then can collapse showing its interior stems. One plant upwind (southwest of your front door) will give you a smile as you head off to work in the morning!
Mike Dooley is the designer and owner of Dooley Landscape Designs. Visit his website at www.dooleylandscapedesigns.com. He can be reached at 505-400-0257.