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Certain garden plants make terrific scents

Oriental lilies have an intoxicating fragrance and are easy to grow. (Susan Mulvihill)
Oriental lilies have an intoxicating fragrance and are easy to grow. (Susan Mulvihill)

A garden should be a feast for the senses: bright colors for the eyes, soft textures to touch, and delightful scents to inhale deeply.

When it comes to fragrance, there are a lot of plants that are worthy of a place in your garden. Here are some suggestions:


One of my favorite summer-flowering bulbs is the Oriental lily. They will reach about 3 feet in height and come in nearly as many colors as tulips. They are very hardy and the intensely fragrant, show-stopper blossoms can’t be beat.

Hyacinths have large flower heads and are usually 8 to 10 inches tall. In addition to the traditional pink, white or blue blossoms, yellows, violets and reds are available.

Most Narcissus have pleasant scents as well.


Scented geraniums come in a lot of flavors: apricot, pineapple, rose, apple and lime, to name but a few. They can be grown indoors or out but are not hardy enough for our winters.

Stock (Mattiola incana) is another annual that has a spicy scent that smells like cloves. Other popular annuals include Sweet Alyssum, Heliotrope and sweet peas.


One of my favorite springtime perennials is the Bearded Iris. The blossoms come in hundreds of beautiful colors; I think they smell like lemon frosting.

Another plant with an appealing citrus scent is Bee Balm (Monarda). Peonies, Pinks (Dianthus), Lily of the Valley, Sweet Woodruff and Phlox are all extremely hardy perennials that add their intoxicating scents to the garden.


Climbing plants make interesting accents in the landscape and should be planted near windows and gates to enjoy their scents completely. One of the most popular vines is honeysuckle (Lonicera) which has the added bonus of attracting hummingbirds.

Clematis montana ‘Rubens’ has small pink flowers with a vanilla scent.


In addition to the rose with its wide variety of fragrances and colorful blossoms, there are several shrubs that also treat us to enjoyable fragrances.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus) is a native plant with prolific, orange-scented flowers that bloom in early summer.

Lilacs are easy-to-grow shrubs with purple, pink or white flower clusters that have an old-fashioned, sweet fragrance.

Summersweet (Clethra) has white or pink flower spikes that attract butterflies. Viburnums – particularly ‘Koreanspice’ and ‘Burkwood’ – have attractive white flower clusters with intoxicating scents.

While most gardeners know that Witch Hazel (Hamamaelis virginiana or H. vernalis) has the unusual trait of blooming from winter to spring, it may come as a pleasant surprise that the flowers have a nice scent.


Magnolias are available in both small and large trees. One of the most fragrant is the Star Magnolia (M. stellata), which is a multi-branched small tree that can grow to 15 feet tall.

Other cold-hardy varieties include Saucer Magnolia (M. soulangeana) ‘Rustica Rubra,’ ‘Betty’ and ‘Alexandrina,’ and the ‘Little Girl’ series of hybrids.

Black Locusts can be found growing throughout the Inland Northwest. They are tough trees that can grow to 80 feet. In the spring, their delicate white, pea-like flower clusters have a spicy sweet perfume that will mesmerize garden visitors.

Chocolate, anyone?

If you are a chocoholic like I am, try adding some fun to the landscape with chocolate-scented plants like Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus), Columbine (Aquilegia) ‘Chocolate Soldiers,’ and Sweet William (Dianthus) ‘Bittersweet William’ to the landscape.

Chocolate mint has a delightful scent that is reminiscent of York Peppermint Patties. Just be sure to plant it in a container to keep it from taking over the garden.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at Visit her blog at susansinthe for more gardening tips and information.