We choose flowers for their color, size and shape. We should also consider their scent.
Fragrant flowers and scented leaves can be categorized by their predominating essential oils. These oils are stored in the epidermal cells on the upper surface of the petals and are released in minute quantities in warm air. Thick petals such as those of lily of the valley, jasmine and orange blossom hold the most perfume.
As a general rule, the lighter the petal color the stronger the scent. White flowers give off the most fragrance and blue, red and orange flowers stress color over perfume. There are exceptions to this rule, particularly in roses where many of the newer white varieties are scentless.
Flower scent groupings include the rose scents, lemon, fruity, violet, honey and musk. In some plants, it is the leaves that are fragrant and they contain chemical elements not found in flowers, including the menthol of mint, camphor, eucalyptus and sulphur.
For a big impact, choose scented trees. Buddleia, the butterfly bush, is wonderful in the garden, bringing color, scent and movement all day long, with frequent visits from bees and monarch and swallowtails seeking nectar from the purple, white and lavender blossoms.
Other lovely scented trees and shrubs include caryopteris, many citrus varieties, lilac, sweet gum, magnolia and viburnum.
Many of the flowering vines that cover walls, trellises and arbors provide fragrance as well as beauty in the landscape. Clematis are winners on both counts. Give them shade for their roots and plenty of sun for the blossoms.
Sweet peas are my favorite scented flowers and I grow them every summer. They take me back instantly to gardens of my childhood. I love their pastel scent and long stems for indoor arrangements. When buying seeds, be sure to opt for packets that say "latyrus odorata" to be sure of that heavenly vanilla/citrus perfume.
Before you commit to a wisteria, be sure you know what you are getting into. Once it is rooted, that massive root system that develops fast is almost impossible to remove. The vine needs a strong support and a determined gardener who will train it in the right direction.
Now for annuals, perennials and bulbs.
There are more than 300 species of dianthus, most of which are fragrant, including the carnations, pinks and Sweet Williams. White sweet alyssum is deliciously honey-scented and makes a nice border for any flower bed, and white annual candytuft smells much the same. Nicotiana, four-o'clocks, scabious, violas and all types of violet are well worth growing in a scented garden.
Many of the bulbs that grace our gardens in early spring and survive through frost and even snow in some years are scented as well. This is not so noticeable because we are more inclined to look at them through a window than to pull up a lawn chair and admire them at close range. Crocus, grape hyacinth, freesia and iris, as well as daffodils and narcissus, have this gift.
Tuberoses are considered to be the most highly scented of all flowers, and florists sometimes include a spray in a bouquet to ensure customers notice the scent even if nothing else in the collection is scented.
Most wildflowers are not scented, although clover is an exception.
And then there are roses and herbs - but that's another column.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
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