From traditional lavender to chocolate-scented annuals, Kim Wilde explains which plants will get your garden smelling gorgeous.
Summer evelllllgs are a special time to relax in the garden. Many plants are at meir most fragrant at this time of day - sitting in the balmy air surrounded by their perfume is what I ca1l aromatherapy. Perfume is more likely to be released in still, warm air so place your fragrant plants in south- or west-facing areas in a sheltered position. Position them near your patio to make the most of the perfumes they release.
On still summer days our home is filled with the lovely smell of lavender, which I've planted close to the house. I've chosen old English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, which is grey-leaved and not as colourful as Lavendula angustifolia 'Hidcote' or Lavandula 'Munstead', but has a much better scent. Lavenders grow well in light, well-drained soils with plenty of sunshine. Give them a trim in the spring and again after flowering.
No fragrant garden should be wimout one, climbing a fence or wan, or trained over an arbour. They require little attention, other than pruning to keep them within bounds after flowering. Look for varieties of Lonicera periclymenum, which are the most sweetly scented of them all.
Wmter- and spring-flowering honeysuckles include Lonicera fragrantissima and Lonicera x purpus ii, bom shrubby plants. They don't look very decorative, but their penetrating scent in mid-winter makes them well worth p1anting in an inconspiruous, sheltered place, near to the house.
Summer-flowering shrubs with scent include the graceful and quick-growing Buddleia altemifolia. It looks its best trained as a standard tree. Always give it a thorough pruning after flowering to stop it becoming a woody, tang1ed mess. Cytisus battandieri sthel1s of sweet pineapples and is another quick-growing p1ant. The leaves are silvery and large, and it will grow wel1 in dry, poor soil. Foliage shrubs, such as the two brooms Elaeagnus pungens 'Maculata' and Elaeagnus x ebbingei 'Gilt Edge', are easy to grow and give an evergreen backbone to the garden. Plant them for screening and to provide year-round structure, as well as for their small, white, fragrant flowers.
Daphnes are renowned for their beautiful scent, which often carries for several thetres. Evergreen and deciduous, they vary from low-growing to medium-sized sluubs and like a good dose of manure in well-drained soil.
Daphne x burkwoodii 'Albert Burkwood' is a fast-growing, semi-evergreen shrub with fragrant clusters of flowers from late spring to early summer. Also try Daphne x burkwoodii 'Somerset', another semi-evergreen with sweetly scented, pale pink flowers, most freely produced in sunny sites.
Roses are lavender's perfect partner for a double dose of perfume. Old climbers, such as Rosa 'Climbing Lady Hillingdon' with its apricot-yellow flowers, or Rosa 'Madame Alfred Carriere' with large white blooms tinged pink, have magnificent scents. New climbers include 'Compassion', a repeat-flowering rose that's sweetly scented throughout the summer. 'Maigold' has bronze-yellow flowers with golden stamens and a strong perfume. Always train new extension shoots of climbing roses as near to horizontal as possible, which wil1 encourage more flowers.
Each May, I look forward ta the hawthorn being in bloom with its sweet perfume. Crataegus monogyna can make a very effective dense screen if kept trimmed, with pretty white blossom in spring, followed by lovdy red berries.
Many of the flowering cherries have a subde perfume. My Prunus 'Shirotae' bas large, snow-white, semi-double flowers, which droop in clusters in spring and have a delicate, sweet almond fragrance. Given a sheltered position, the beautiful Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) gives out a delicious smell of burnt toffee. It also bas beautiful foliage.
Pungent herbaceous plants
For the chocolate lovers among us, Cosmos atrosanguineus bas deep maroon flowers in summer, which have a curiously strong scent of chocolate. Planted with the silver leaves of Artemisia 'Powis Casde', they will stand out dramatically. Verbena bonariensis is a tall, graceful plant with branching sterns tipped with an intense purple flowerhead that smells divine. It's also very popular with butterflies, and flowers for up to four months. Agastache foeniallum bas the umnistakable scent of aniseed, with clusters of violet-blue flowers in late summer. It reaches 90cm and needs well-drained soil in full sun.
Most of the heavily scented annual flowers are white or have very light colours. Night-scented stocks, Matthiola bicornis have colourless, folded up flowers which unfurl at dusk, releasing a ddicious scent into the Waml evening air.
Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), Sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis), and mignonette (Reseda odorata) all have glorious scents. Mignonette is best planted by ilie back door to appreciate its exceptional perfume on warm, sunny days.
Get the kids out in the garden
Summer's the best time to get children interested in gardening. Start them off with their own small patch or flowerbed, making sure it isn't too big to cultivate. Dig it over to make sure there aren't any sharp things lurking. I find it's a good idea to begin by growing something that they can eat, such as carrots, strawberries or radishes, which are all quick-growing, too. Nasturtiums are also great, as they're quick and easy to sow from seed, grow as if by magic, and have flowers that are both pretty and edible. Sunflowers, which shoot up to tower over them, are also very satisfying for children. Make sure that as well as sowing seeds, you show them how to take cuttings from plants - geraniums are especially good for this.
The garden can be a magical place for kids, but make sure it's safe for them by following these tips:
Point out that some plants are poisonous and that they shouldn't eat anything from the garden unless you teIl them it's safe to do so
Don't let children handle sharp tools, machinery or electrical equipment
Keep chemicals out of reach and don't use them in the children's area
Avoid toxic or irritating plants in any part of the garden
Make sure kids wash their hands every time they've been in the garden
Things to do in June
- Tie in climbing roses as the new branches develop
- Plant hedges using container-grown bushes
- Top up the water level of ponds - little and often is the best way
- Remove side shoots from tomato plants
- Cover raspberries and redcurrants with netting to stop birds from eating them
- Hoe in between rows of vegetables each week - it's easier to get rid of weeds
- Don't forget to remove suckers from the base of rose bushes
The cover of Bulbs For Al1 Seasons by Kathy Brown (Aquamarine, 20) is enough to make you want to buy this beautifu1 book. Inside, it's packed with a11 you need to know about growing bulbs throughout the year. Prima readers can order it for the special price of l7, inc p&p, by ca11ing 01223 894870 and quoting Prima Q4101X.
Q: I love my strawberry plants - how I increase them?
A: Strawberries are easy to propagate from the plantlets they put out on runners in summer. Bury small pots of compost around the plants you want to increase. Using bent wire, peg down a plantlet, still attached to runner, into each pot. When they're weIl rooted, cut the runner to form a new plant, which can be transplanted later on.
What's in bloom
- Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) is a pretty, summery flower that looks good trained against a fence, or trailed through shrubs.
- Crane's Bilt geranium has a long flowering season and is easy to care for. Try Geranium 'Russeli Prichard', which has vivid pink flowers.
- Wisteria is a climber with masses of long flowers. It's perfect for covering a wall or for growing over a pergola.
Garden of the month
Candacraig Gallery and Nursery Garden, Stradtdom, Aberdeenshire
(01975 651226). Lovely three-acre walled garden that's home to swathe's of unusual Himalayan poppies (Mecanopsis betonicifolia).