You can't see it or touch it. But it's so integral a part of the garden experience that it penetrates the very soul. It's fragrance. And none of our other four senses has the power to trigger emotions as strong or memories as sweet as scent does.
It would take an organic chemist to explain the true nature of scent, and someone of equal discipline to understand it. I'm neither of those. And anyway, reducing fragrance to a complex set of molecules would just spoil it for me. So I'm not going there.
Scents have distinct characteristics. Knowledgeable gardeners can harmonise or contrast them, just as they do with colour. A keen sense of smell can also be cultivated, by sniffing flowers and foliage regularly and memorising the nuances, the olfactory sense can be trained to distinguish differences.
Experts call the initial delicate sweet fragrances 'top notes' and the thick scent, that follows if you don't pull your nose away are 'base notes'.
Fragrance is an important component of many garden designs. Many garden designers will go to some lengths to choose fragrant plants over those that have no scent.
Make the most of scent by matching fragrant plants to the places in the garden they'll be most appreciated. "Pockets" of fragrance, dotted along a garden path, greet and delight visitors as they move through the space. Seating areas and places for relaxation are enhanced by floral overtones.
Enclosures, such as courtyards, trap and intensify fragrance. Some are more fragrant in the evening than during daylight and some scents are so pervasive that plants can be planted several feet away, the smell simply surrounds you. Watering the garden just before sunset intensifies the fragrance of many night-scented blooms. If a plant must be rubbed to release its potent oils, as many herbs do, put those right next to the path or at the front of the bed so they can be touched easily.
Exceptionally fragrant flowers can be a joy to have displayed in a vase in your home. Not only make your house smell gorgeous, but also can be used in dry arrangements or potpourri mixes.
Fragrance adds a fourth dimension to the cultivated environment. Take advantage of scented plants to practice your own individual form of 'aromatherapy' in the garden.
The Fragrant Flower Garden Mix contains over 30 varieties of exceptionally fragrant annual flowers in a wealth of shades, colours and different species. It will attract many beneficial insects including bees and butterflies to the garden.
Major components include:
Cheiranthus allionii, Cheiranthus maritimus, Iberis amara, Lobularia maritima benthamii, Lupinus luteus, Matthiola bicornis, Nicotiana alata, Reseda odorata, Reseda alba, Viola cornuta, Foeniculum vulgare, Ocimum basilicum
Seeds can be sown thinly at around 1 gram per square metre. Do not sow too thickly, while it is good for plants to offer each other a little support you don't want them to out compete one another.
Timing: Sow in Spring or in Autumn.
Sowing can begin from late March to early June as the soil begins to warm up (often indicated by the emergence of weed seedlings). It may begin earlier in milder gardens of the south and west; in colder northern gardens sowing may be later.
Seeds can also be sown in the autumn so they flower earlier the following year. A spring sowing differs from an autumn sowing in that it tends to produce a later flowering display. It should be noted that although these plants usually withstand frosty conditions without protection, some would benefit with a covering with horticultural fleece or a cloche when a heavy prolonged frost is forecast.
Weed the bed, level the soil with a rake and tread lightly before sowing. Mixing the seeds with dry sand will ensure a more even distribution of seeds. You can easily see where seeds have fallen and any bare patches can be covered.
Sowing the seeds can be done either by broadcast sowing or by sowing in drills. Broadcasting sowing is quick and easy, the seeds are simply scattered evenly over the surface of the soil. The main disadvantage of broadcasting is that you cannot easily tell weed seedlings apart from your sowings.
Alternatively, the seeds can be sown in drills (shallow grooves) 30cm (12in) apart. Although this takes a little more time it is time well spent as the flowers appear in rows and can be told from any weed seedlings easily.
Water seeds / plants if conditions are dry. Tall plants may benefit from support in exposed gardens.
At the end of the season you can either leave the seed heads for the birds to eat or cut the flowers down.
The dead stalks should be cut down and any weeds removed, the area can then be re-cultivated in time for the following season.
Beds and Borders, Cottage/Informal Gardens, Courtyards and City Gardens, Wildlife Gardens.
How to Dry Fragrant Flowers:
Drying fragrant flowers is an easy process so long as you have a good area in your home with good ventilation. Once your flowers are fully dry, you will be able to work with them immediately or store for a later date.
Clip your flowers 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) below the bloom just before the peak of flowering to capture the most fragrance. Bring together four to six flowers with the stems pulled together at the bottom. Loop a rubber band around the base of the stems about an inch from the cut ends. Make the loop tight enough to hold the stems securely without crushing them.
Hang the bunch of flowers upside down from a nail or hook in a warm, dry area of your home away from direct sunlight where there are few fluctuations in temperature and humidity. If left undisturbed the petals will dry in place rather than drop off.
Leave the flowers to dry completely for three to four weeks. Larger bloom flowers and/or multi-petal flowers make take longer so check them for inner dryness before taking them down by looking as far inside the bloom as you can. The dry petals become a dulled down color, so vibrant color inside the flower will signal the flowers aren't yet dry.
Take the bouquet of dried flowers down once they are fully dry and either clip the flower heads from the stem or leave them intact depending on your preference and need for the flowers. Be careful as you handle the flowers as too much jostling can knock the petals off. Store any flowers not immediately used in a shoebox in a warm, dry area of your home.
- Additional Information
Genus Mixed Varieties Cultivar Fragrant Flower Garden - Annual Mix Common Name Exceptionally fragrant annual flowers Natural Flower Time June to September Height 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in) Position Full sun or partial shade Soil Moist, well-drained, fertile soil is best. Coverage Sow at around 1 gram per square metre