Fling open a bedroom window and inhale the perfume of summer roses. Sit outdoors on a summer evening or soak in the spa pool surrounded by tropical sensations. Welcome your guests with a waft from exotic smelling delight. Summer is a key time to enjoy some of our most beautiful fragrant plants.
Plan for perfume around outdoor living spaces, entranceways, and under windows and those long summer evenings will be all the more enchanting. Here’s a starting lineup of some summer-scented favourites.
All roses have a scent but some are more fragrant than others. Take the opportunity to walk in a rose garden this summer to discover your favourites. Among the most loved in NZ gardens are hybrid tea picking roses, ‘Aotearoa’ (pink), ‘Auckland metro’ (cream), and ‘Deep Secret’ (red), and also the ‘David Austin’ roses. For a truly romantic fragrance try the old fashioned French varieties such as ‘Anais Segales’, ‘Fantin Latour’ and ‘Zephirine Drouhin’.
The chocolaty-vanilla scent of Heliotropium arborescens (aka ‘common heliotrope’ or ‘cherry pie’) is one of summer’s most delicious. This shrubby perennial makes an excellent container plant. It is frost tender but well worth growing as a long-flowering summer annual in cooler climates. Common heliotrope grows 2 to 3 feet high with starry light purple flowers in tightly packed clusters. The compact variety, 'Marine' has a neat low habit, deep purple flowers and attractive dark foliage, but it is not as richly fragrant.
Refreshing, rich and pervading without being overpowering, the summer scent of citrus flowers is almost as valuable as their fruit. Citrus grown on dwarfing rootstocks, are well suited to small courtyard gardens and grow well in large containers provided they’re generously fed and watered.
A mass of bright blue or purple flowers is not the only unforgettable trait of much loved lavender. All lavneders are perfumed but the classic lavender scent belongs to the summer flowering ‘English lavenders’ (L. angustifolia, L. intermedia and their cultivars). English lavender loves a hot dry climate, with well-drained soil.
Low carpet forming Dianthus (aka ‘pinks) are tough little perennials that bloom from spring till the first frost, and produce a wonderful spicy perfume. Modern hybrids such as
the fully double ‘Magnifi-Scent Pinks’, which have flowers like ‘miniature carnations’ and the ‘Scent from Heaven’ pinks that produce masses of single or semi- double offer a wide choice of colours. All are beautifully fragrant, ideal for garden borders or pots.
If your climate is more on the tropical side, you can enjoy the intoxicating perfume of gardenia. Good in containers, gardenia is a glossy evergreen shrub which needs a humus rich, well drained soil and ample summer moisture in sun or semi shade. Mulch to keep the surface roots moist. There is a range of gardenia varieties to suit different situations.
The pure white trumpet flowers of Mandevilla laxa exude an exotic gardenia-like perfume, especially lovely in the evening. This quick growing deciduous vine is ideal for archways, fences and pergolas. Or try it over an obelisk in large pot.
Romantic Philadephus has branches packed with creamy white flowers that will fill a room with fresh, orange blossom perfume. There are double flowered forms and singles with showy golden stamens. These quick growing deciduous shrubs tolerate most soils and make great background fillers. Plant them in sun for best flowering.
With its sweet jasmine scented flowers, Trachelospermum, is one of the most useful landscaping plants of our time. A dense sprawling evergreen, it can be grown as a wall cover, groundcover or low clipped hedge. Tiny propeller-shaped flowers smother the glossy foliage from early summer.
Brugmansia is a genus of small, quick growing trees loved for their large fragrant trumpets, which hang from the branches in summer. The intoxicating evening scent from tree in full bloom, can be overpowering so ideally planted a distance from the main sitting area. Brugmansias come in a range of colours. They can be trained as a tree, pruned hard as a large shrub or grown as an espalier against a fence.They need a frost free location with full sun. All parts of this plant are poisonous (if ingested).
Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) is loved for the fragrance of both its leaves and flowers. In late summer when there is not much else about it flowers profusely. A great feature tree for urban gardens, this Queensland native is slightly frost tender when young but can be grown outside in frosty areas provided it is planted in a sheltered position in semi-shade. Untrimmed it reaches four or five metres tall but it responds well to trimming. You can make lemon tea with the new leaves, which are strongly lemon scented.
Lavender Thumberlina Leigh
Lemon myrtle - Backhousia citriodora
Heliotropium arborescens - common heliotrope - cherry pie