The Best Flowering Plants for a Fragrance Garden

Treat yourself by planting a fragrance garden

What could be more wonderful than strolling through a flower garden full of enticing scents and fragrance and in riotous colour from spring through fall? Everyone loves a fragrant flower, whether it’s spicy, musky or sweetly scented. By selecting carefully, you can design and plant a fragrance garden to exude special scents and aromas to appreciate and enjoy all year long.

Plant these aromatic plants in a concentrated area as an aromatic theme garden, in containers near the door, or interspersed  throughout your garden for special fragrant interludes as you pass by, and you’ll enjoy your fragrant garden even more.

Hyacinths are a must-have for a fragrance garden

Hyacinths for Spring Fragrance

In early spring, we all welcome the sight of early blooming bulbs. Many of these early flowers are also deliciously fragrant. Among the first bloomers, cheery daffodils and narcissus waving their golden hued heads in spring breezes. Along our main street every March, the planters are filled with these cheery blossoms.

Grape and traditional hyacinths planted with narcissus by your front door, or in pots on the front porch will welcome everyone with color and fragrance.

Down the path to the Marina here in Comox, a patch of these gorgeous hyacinths add a burst of color. As you walk by, their rich heady scent is almost overwhelming.

Another favorite of mine is the Siberian squill, with its bluebell blooms. It can quickly fill in your beds with early spring color, and has always been among the first to bloom in my gardens, along with a few fragrant daffodils.

In a woodland setting or shaded area, plant snowdrops for some of the earliest blooms. Several varieties of these miniature bulbs with dangling bells of white blossoms are scented. You may miss the scent unless you have a sunny and warm day to disperse the scent. Another white choice is the lily of the valley. Like snowdrops, these will soon form a bright and scented groundcover.

As spring progresses, lilacs, roses and peonies add their individual perfumes to the air. Plant taller shrubs such as lilacs at the back of a bed, or prune into a small specimen tree near a walkway. One of my most fragrant and nostalgic memories is passing by a hedge of lilacs on the way to school.

Lush peonies look great even before they bloom, with their bushy  dark green foliage. Peonies die back in winter, but come spring, new shoots will appear as the snow melts. As they bloom, they are a feast for the nose as well as the eyes. Natives of Japan and China, these lovely plants have long been valued for their many medicinal uses. Nowadays, they are common in flower gardens throughout the world. Plant enough for some cut blooms to fill the air inside your home with their rich heady fragrance.

Peonies are a must-have in the fragrance garden

This single peony blossom can be up to 5 inches in diameter!

There are several different types of peony blossoms. Single peonies have a circle of single petals surrounding a large central mass of pollen-bearing stamens and seed-bearing carpels. In Japanese varieties, some of the stamen filaments have broadened, and the anthers have expanded, making a fuller center.

A double peony takes this broadening a step farther, making petals of different widths and size. Double or bomb peonies have much broader petals derived from both carpels and stamens, no crown, but clearly differentiated from the guard petals.

Line your walkway with border dianthus (pinks or sweet williams) and enjoy their spicy scent as you walk by. Their deliciously clove scented flowers grow on compact plants that are also good for containers. Their silvery-green foliage is another bonus. Most dianthus sport bunches of flowers that have notched petals around an inconspicuous center. The blossoms range from white to pink, red and purple in colour.

Choose from either perennial or annual varieties of dianthus. Sweet Williams are biennial or short-lived perennials covered with bicolour flowers in late spring. Pinks are low-growing dianthus, very suitable for rock gardens. Carnations are taller and good for bouquets but tend to be less hardy than other dianthus.

The all-time favorite among floral scents, prolific in every cottage style garden, is that of sweet peas. Check the label on the seed package to ensure you get the really fragrant ones, and plant them early, directly in the garden. If you’re short of trellises for them to grow on, plant sweet peas beneath bushes and shrubs, and they’ll grow up through, with the colorful blossoms peeking out.

“Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight With wings of gentle flusho’er delicate white, And taper fingers catching at all things To bind them all about with tiny rings.” –John Keats (1795–1821)

Everyone's Favorite... Sweet Peas

Everyone’s Favorite… Sweet Peas


Once your sweet pea plants are in full flower you should regularly dead-head them to prevent seeds setting and encourage more flowers. Simply snip off any faded blooms or forming seed pods. If you love having fresh cut flowers in your home, fragrant sweet peas are the plants for you! They are ideal for cutting as the more blooms you cut, the more they grow.

Did you know that there are some flowers that are more fragrant at night? Imagine relaxing on your patio on a summer evening, just as a full moon is rising. With night-scented stock, nicotiana, four-o-clocks or moonflower vines blooming nearby, one or more of your senses will be tantalized. These will blossom well into fall, giving you months of fragrant enjoyment.

Fragrant Foliage

In your fragrance garden, grow some plants that have aromatic foliage, along with your fragrant blossoming plants. Lemon verbena, scented geraniums, thyme, tansy, santolina, rosemary and lavender all have the bonus of colourful flowers as well as richly scented leaves.

Creeping thyme grown between paving or stepping stones will release a refreshing scent as it is crushed underfoot. Monarda or bee-balm has the double advantage of fragrant foliage and flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Fragrant Shrubs

Lets not leave out the shrubs and trees that can add fragrance to the garden. Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) sports clusters of creamy flowers whose perfume, somewhere between lilac and jasmine, will wind around the garden. They will climb fences, wind up trees and drape over pergolas.

Daphne is a top shrub choice in a fragrance garden

Fragrant flowers of the Daphne bloom in winter and early spring.

The shrub, Mahonia japonica has sprays of small fragrant yellow flowers above leathery spiny leaves. A third shrub to add to any fragrance garden is the winter daphne. It has yellow-margined leaves and rosy-pink flower buds that open to white. The fragrant flowers bloom in winter and early spring.

If you’re ready to enjoy a scent themed garden, whether in flowerbeds, borders or containers, check with your local nursery for the plants that will best thrive in your area.

The plants listed above are just a few of the richly scented ones available to add that extra dimension of fragrance to your garden.