Flowers were originally planted in cottage gardens for their medicinal qualities and scents as well as for their beauty. Unfortunately the scent has been bred out of some types of flowers in exchange for larger and showier blossoms and different colors. In any case, scent is one way flowers attract pollinating insects. Fortunately for gardeners, many flowers retain their fragrance.
One of the most recognized fragrances is that of the rose. The essential oil from roses is used for perfumes and has been for centuries. The rose fragrance may have under notes of citrus, vanilla, tea, honey and berries. Some of the most fragrant roses are Tuscany, Gertrude Jekyll, Mme Legras de St Germain and Ardoisee De Lyon. Check the label or tag on modern roses to make sure the variety you're considering is fragrant. If it isn't noted on the tag, it probably doesn't have a strong scent.
Narcissus are small daffodil-shaped flowers that bloom three to seven flowers to a stem, unlike daffodils which bloom one to a stem. The leaves are sword shaped and grow to 18 inches long. The flowers are white, yellow and two-toned with the trumpet-shaped center cup orange. Narcissus bloom in early spring.
Hyacinths grow to 12 inches tall with a central stalk covered with small trumpet-shaped blossoms in white, pink, purple and almost true blue. They bloom in mid spring. The bulbs don't naturalize or reproduce themselves on a reliable basis. Plant new bulbs every fall.
Oriental lilies are intensely fragrant. However, there are some types that have little scent so check the variety. Lilies have three to five blooms on a central stalk growing 3 to 4 feet high. Casa Blanca, a pure white lily and stargazer a white lily with pink are very fragrant. Oriental lilies bloom in the summer.
Lots of annuals are strongly scented and others are faintly scented even within the same kind of flower. Check the label or catalog description. Old-fashioned sweet peas are sweetly scented and prefer cooler temperatures. They grow like edible peas on vines up to 6 feet tall. The stems of the flowers are only 4 to 6 inches long. They make good cut flowers and will perfume an entire room.
Nicotiana is a member of the tobacco family. The flowers are trumpet shaped in shades of white, yellow and pinks. The plants aren't particularly attractive but the scent of the flowers make up for it. They prefer partial shade in areas with hot summers.
Alyssum has a strong honey scent but because the flowers grow so low, the scent is often missed. Alyssum, planted in hanging baskets, brings the scent up close and personal.