Friday 9 December 2016

Marie Staunton: Scentsational

Fill your garden with plants that create sweetsmelling memories, says Marie Staunton

Marie Staunton

Published 07/05/2011 | 05:00

One of the most striking shrubs for spring and early summer is the California lilac
One of the most striking shrubs for spring and early summer is the California lilac

My first memory of scented flowers was when I was about six, when we were asked by our teacher to bring flowers into school, as "May is the month of Mary". The only flowers in our garden at that time were from a lovely old lilac tree, so, proud as punch, I headed into school with a beautiful, big bunch of sweet-smelling lilac.

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Scent, without question, can conjure up memories of childhood, family holidays and those people and places that have a special place in our hearts. A garden should always have a few surprises and scented plants add to the mystery.

First to the Lilacs -- 'Syringa' is the Latin name. With so many varieties to choose from, you will be spoiled for choice -- and they come in lots of other colours besides lilac. Consider Syringa 'Charles Joly', which has beautiful double crimson flowers, or Syringa 'Madame Lemoine', which has a double white flower. 'Syringa vulgaris' is my favourite, with its beautiful lilac flowers -- common as muck really, but I'm a sentimental sort of girl and this is the one I grew up with, so I make no apologies for including it.

Syringa has a wonderful scent and comes into flower around mid-April onwards. It has a fairly short flowering season, so put them to the back of a border and they will serve as a backdrop to other showier, summer-flowering plants.

Daphnes are invaluable -- because of the many varieties on offer, there really is one to suit every garden. Daphne 'Valerie Hillier' is one to treasure, a beautifully scented shrub flowering in summer.

All Daphnes will thrive when the soil has good drainage, but they also like deep, moisture-retentive soil, so incorporating well-rotted organic matter at the time of planting will give them the perfect conditions to thrive.

'Daphne collina' is another beautifully fragrant flowering shrub that will add a little something special to your garden in April through to the end of June.

I am conscious of the fact that, in our garden, we lost a lot shrubs over the winter, so I'll mention only those that came through with flying colours, otherwise you might just be wasting your time and money planting borderline plants that we chanced over the years. Nature has a way of making us toe the line.

With that in mind, I recommend the very lovely 'Philadelphus' -- the common name is Mock Orange. "Hardy as snipe", as a friend of mine would say, this shrub bears white flowers in early summer with a powerful perfume that will permeate the whole garden. They like a sunny spot and will do very well in most soils. They're not fussy at all and, even better, they tolerate cold, exposed gardens.

Viburnum are many, so I will narrow it down to just two of my favourites. Viburnum x burkwoodii 'Mohawk' has a spicy scent and flowers from the end of April through to the end of May. The leaves turn a beautiful orange-red in autumn, and it's a hard-working plant worthy of a sunny spot in the garden.

Second is the very lovely Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'. This one flowers from autumn into spring, and is heavily scented, with pink flowers that fade to white. Give it a place in the sun and reap the rewards.

I'm thinking of mechanising my scare-crow so that its arms flap a bit -- between the pigeons, rabbits and my hens there will barely be enough for a sandwich after that lot have gorged themselves on my veg plot.

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