Carol Siddorn, Carol's Garden, Cheshire
Everybody seems to love fragrance in their flowers. Scent is strongly transformative - whether it’s the smell of chrysanthemum leaves in your grandad’s allotment, sweet peas that you grew as a child, or roses in your first garden - so many garden perfumes take us right back to a special time and a place.
So why do few imported flowers have scent? The simple reason is that specialist ‘florists’ flowers’ have often been bred to turn all their superfluous scent-producing effort into extra petals. Scent also attracts pollinators and pollination can also shorten the life of a flower, whether in a garden or in a vase.
But we British flower growers love scent and here are some fragrant flowers for every season of the year - so you can fill your garden and home with wonderful perfume…
Narcissi - so easy, so cheap and so glorious in spring. Some narcissi have an overpowering scent (such as paper whites) but the later ones can have a delicate, beautiful scent. Quail is a beautiful deep yellow, or Chinita is a tall lemon, pheasants eye type, Pueblo for a small, dainty creamy white. Spread the season with different varieties - from early Feb to May, when the beautiful, refined true Pheasant eye, Narcissus poeticus, is the last to flower.
Wallflowers bring a soft, old-fashioned kind of scent. Gentle and reassuring, never over-powering
We’re really spoilt for choice in summer scents - from roses to Philadelphus (mock-orange), peonies and lilies.
But if I had to choose just two candidates and nothing else, I’d go for:
Sweet peas - can be flowering from May to September outside in the UK, if the weather is kind. But they're cheap, pretty easy going, and the scent is unbeatable both in the garden and in the house.
Herbs - whether for their scented foliage or their flowers, most herbs, especially the mediterranean ones really come into their own in summer. Oregano and marjoram are my favourites for flowers - usually in purple, lilac or white, they can be tall or short, much loved by bees, and taste good too!
There is less scent around in autumn as the insects die away for the winter. But there are still lots of perfumed plants you can grow:
Scented pelargoniums - although these are perennials and will be scented all year, I really appreciate them in autumn when we start to cut the foliage for cut flower arrangements, or bring the pots inside for the winter.
Roses - if you choose repeat flowering roses, then they will often still be flowering well into autumn. Not always the most perfect blooms, often damaged by wind, rain and frost - but bring a stem inside a warm house and you'll still get that lovely rose scent, reminiscent of summer days.
Winter box (Sarcococca) is an understated little evergreen plant, which will cope in shade, and has small, dainty white flowers through winter, with a sweet, drifting scent. It can be hard to pinpoint - especially if the plant is hidden away under shrubs, as it often is.
Hyacinths - a strong, rich scent. Sometimes too strong and cloying in a warm house, but put some bulbs in the garden or a cold greenhouse, and you'll enjoy it all the more.
So there we are, a whole year of perfume. Don't settle for lifeless, scentless flowers - choose freshly grown, bunches of scented wonders from your local FFTF grower - or grow your own.