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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In the Garden: Don’t forget to add fragrance

A garden should be a sight to behold, with plenty of color, chirping birds and butterflies flitting about. But that picture isn’t complete without having some lovely fragrances to enjoy as well.

There are many delightfully scented plants that more than earn their place in the garden. Several of my Master Gardener friends and I have compiled a list of some of the best. Let’s look at them by plant type:


Chocolate-lovers will want to plant chocolate cosmos once they inhale the scent of milk chocolate in its deep-red blossoms. Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana) waits until the evening to share the sweet scent that wafts from its tubular flowers; consider planting Floating Cloud (N. elata). The fragrant purple flower heads of heliotrope remind me of baby powder. Stock (Matthiola incana) is a must-add annual as well, due to its heavenly scent of cloves.


Bugbane Brunette (Actaea simplex, formerly known as Cimicifuga) features a strong scent, lacy burgundy-purple foliage and white flower spikes. Hummingbirds go nuts over Licorice Mint hyssop (Agastache rupestris) and you will, too, after seeing its orange-and-lavender flower spikes. Another hummingbird magnet is bee balm (Monarda didyma) and its foliage has a pleasing citrusy scent.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are so easy to grow; fragrant cultivars include Ironwood, Rushing Delight, Catherine Woodbury, Lullaby Baby, Siloam Gumdrop and Wineberry Candy. Pinks (Dianthus) have a clove scent, pink- to raspberry-colored flowers and gray-green foliage.

While most gardeners prize hostas for their interesting foliage, one of the most fragrant cultivars is Guacamole with its lily-like flower stalks. I wasn’t aware of this but, in addition to attracting butterflies, milkweed (Asclepias) has a lovely fragrance.

Herbaceous peonies also have wonderful scents and make attractive cut flowers; look for Duchesse de Nemours, Eden’s Perfume, Karl Rosenfield, Sarah Bernhardt and White Sands.

Phlox are very cold-hardy, drought-tolerant and simple to grow; fragrant cultivars include David, Goliath, Laura and Peppermint Twist.


My two favorite bulbs that have wonderful scents are Oriental lilies and bearded irises. The former features stunningly beautiful blossoms with exotic fragrances; look for Casa Blanca, Mona Lisa, Salmon Star and Stargazer. The scent of bearded iris reminds me of lemon frosting. Iris are technically rhizomes (fleshy roots), are simple to grow as long as you plant them shallowly, and there is an amazing array of colorful cultivars just waiting to be added to your garden.


Fragrances don’t come just from blossoms, right? The leaves of lemon balm, lemon thyme and pineapple sage are very pleasing when rubbed or brushed up against. Two lavenders hardy for this region – Munstead and Grosso – treat us with that long-admired perfume from both their flowers and foliage.


Roses are the most rewarding and sought-after shrubs in the garden; let your nose guide you at the nursery to make choices. With Spokane being the Lilac City, at least one lilac should grace your garden such as Lavender Lady, Beauty of Moscow, President Lincoln or President Grevy.

Viburnums are another worthwhile shrub, with their attractive lacecap flowers in the spring, berries from summer into winter and lovely fall foliage. Two of the most fragrant are Koreanspice and Burkwood.


The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning two vines to consider, honeysuckles and sweet peas. Scentsation is one of the most fragrant honeysuckles for the garden. Suggested sweet pea cultivars include Mrs. Collier, King’s High Scent, Old Spice and Fragrantissima.

View this week’s “Everyone Can Grow A Garden” video at Susan Mulvihill is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Pat Munts. Contact her at and follow her at

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