The Knowledge: How to grow a scented garden
Aromatic plants bring an extra dimension to a garden; an unexpected waft of scent can stir emotions and be calming or refreshing. The key when designing your garden is to avoid focusing on just one element.
If you focus only on scent, for example, you may end up with a bed of too many different colours, forms and foliages, which can look overdone. Think about balancing scents, shapes, foliage colours and flower colours, keeping in mind when each plant will be in bloom during the year.
Keep herbs close to home
Herbs, such as mint, rosemary and thyme, are beautifully fragrant. If you use them in your cooking, it’s a good idea to keep them close to the kitchen in a window box or in pots — not only for the lovely scents,
but also for practical purposes. Herbs are easy to keep; they respond well to being picked to meet culinary needs and you can plant them all year round. Buy them as developed plants from your local nursery. Like most shrubs, they need a good drainage system and plenty of water.
Choose a sunspot
For stronger-smelling plants, find a site away from the house that receives sunshine in the early evening — the sort of area where you might sit and linger for a while. Jasmine is a valuable ingredient in perfumery — it takes 200 days of labour to produce 1kg (2lbs) of its essential oils — and has a sweet, musky scent that grows stronger in the evening. Hesperis matronalis is a tall perennial with
dark-green leaves, upright flowers and
a clove-like fragrance that is also particularly noticeable in the evenings. Roses are the queen of the scented flower bed. Cardinal de Richelieu is bright burgundy, and has a beautiful flower shape and vigorous shrub, which means it can be planted in most places around the garden.
Plant fragrant shrubs near borders or paths, so that, as you brush past them, their scents are released. Both lavender plants and the silver-grey leaves of Artemisia alba ‘Canescens’ release a light fragrance when touched. Nepeta, or catmint, has aromatic leaves, and is a great choice for edging as it has a sprawling growth habit.
Thymus serpyllum has a citrus smell and is very low-growing, so it’s perfect for planting along borders. Chamomile nobile ‘Treneague’ is a low-growing camomile plant that will tolerate occasional light foot traffic, making it an ideal alternative to a traditional grass lawn. As it is non-flowering, it is great to spend warm evenings on if you are a hay-fever sufferer.
Go to public gardens for inspiration. Gardens aren’t like buildings, which are done once the construction is finished.
A garden takes years of nurturing. It is interesting to return to public gardens and see how they are developing.