An important component of a successful garden draws the sense of smell. A sweet smelling garden is just as desirable as the visual beauty. Many hybrid flowers have little to no scent at all because they were bred and developed for their visual attributes and not their smell. Old varieties of many plants can bring the scent of spring and summer to a garden. Scatter scented plants among those that do not have strong fragrance to entice visitors to the garden.
Several species of trees have delicious scents when they flower. Black Locust produces a white flower in May that smells wonderful and will attract beneficial insects to the garden. Citrus trees, which can only be grown in warm climates, have flowers that bloom with a heavy fragrance. Linden trees have fragrant flowers that bloom in May and June. Star Magnolia trees produce a beautiful flower with a mild scent.
There are many different shrubs that bloom with fragrant flowers. Azaleas are an all-time favorite with spring blooming scented flowers that bloom in bright or pastel pink, yellow and white. Gardenia flowers are white and grow on evergreen shrubs. They have a heavy fragrance all through the summer. Lilac bushes are an old favorite and have plums of purple to pink and white flowers that lend their perfume to the garden. Mock Orange, another old-fashioned shrub, has large white flowers that have a strong scent at the beginning of the summer. There are many different Viburnum species that produce small white flowers or snowball-like clusters of flowers and they all smell heavenly and the scent carries several feet from the shrub. Witch hazel blooms in fall or winter with scented yellow, orange or red flowers that resemble spider legs.
There are several vining plants that will creep along porch railings or up trellises to lend their heady perfume. A few clematis varieties have scent and their large colorful flowers are a show stopper. Honeysuckle vines produce white to yellow trumpet-like flowers that have a strong fragrance and attract humming birds. Jasmine is used to make perfume and there are several varieties that are extremely fragrant. Moonflowers open in the evening to lend their scent to the night garden. Sweet peas are an invasive plant but if contained, they will produce fragrance all summer long. Wisteria grows up trees with drooping cascades of fragrant purple flowers.
Annual flowers are planted every year because they fade and die with the first frost of fall. Many of them have aromas that make a garden special. Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco, has trumpet-shaped flowers that lend a strong scent during the evening. Four-o'clock bushes have bright multi-colored flowers with a heavy fragrance. Stock is an old flower with a clove-like scent. Old petunias, sweet Williams and some varieties of snap dragons also have fragrant scents.
Perennial flowers return every year. Day lilies come in several different varieties with beautiful flowers that have a great scent. Hostas are shade loving plants. The leaves grow in fountain-like mounds, and in late summer a stalk will appear with white or lavender flowers that have a lovely scent. Some bearded iris varieties are very fragrant like Thriller, Last Chance and Old Black Magic. Lavender has a sweet and clean smell to both the flowers and foliage which can be retained by drying. Oriental and trumpet lilies have a strong aroma. Dianthus, also called Pinks, have delightful daisy-like flowers in all shades of pink with white that have a sweet clove-like smell. Spring blooming lily-of-the-valley with bell-like flowers packs a heavenly scent.
Hybrid roses, unless bred for scent, generally do not have a great fragrance. This applies especially to tea roses. However, several old rose varieties are still available and they do have a wonderful aroma. David Austin Roses have a few varieties that have strong scents.
Other Fragrant Plants
Some herbs have strong scented leaves and will add to the fragrance of a garden. Mint, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena and rosemary all emit delightful scents when the plant is touched. Scented geraniums, different than regular geraniums, come with a long list of fragrances including rose, lemon, spice and fruity scents.