Best an­nu­als & peren­ni­als for scent

There’s more to gar­den de­sign than per­fect paths and peren­nial bor­ders. The very best de­signs in­clude sump­tu­ous scent-scapes too. Grow a mix of both fast-grow­ing an­nu­als and stal­wart peren­ni­als.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - Fragrant Flowers -

Whether an­nual or peren­nial, botan­i­cal aro­mas be­come am­pli­fied if you place plants in a shel­tered and con­fined space, so a court­yard or cor­ner where you spend time is the place to clothe walls with climbers such as hoya, jasmine and wis­te­ria.

For the gar­den, choose a mix of an­nu­als and peren­ni­als. An­nu­als flower gen­er­ously, so they’re ideal for pick­ing – and if you keep pick­ing them, the flow­ers will keep com­ing. Try sweet peas, stock ( Matthi­ola in­cana), Vir­ginia stock ( Mal­colmia mar­itima), snap­drag­ons, ( An­tir­rhinum ma­jus), he­liotropes ( He­liotropium ar­borescens), tobacco plant (nico­tiana), mignonette ( Reseda odor­ata) and an­nual phlox ( Phlox drum­mondii) for de­li­cious scent.

In the peren­nial sta­ble, there’s a wider choice of fra­grant blooms: choisya; daphne; gar­de­nia; deutzia; miche­lia; mag­no­lia; boro­nia; rose; skim­mia; sweet rocket ( Hes­peris ma­tronalis), pic­tured above; lily of the val­ley bush ( Pieris japon­ica); win­ter­sweet ( Chi­mo­nan­thus prae­cox); sweet vibur­num ( Vibur­num odor­atis­si­mum); mock or­ange (Philadel­phus); lilac; di­anthus; and prim­ula, among oth­ers.

Com­pared to an­nu­als, peren­ni­als usu­ally have a shorter bloom time, but with care­ful se­lec­tion you can choose peren­ni­als with long flow­er­ing pe­ri­ods.


There are sev­eral seed mixes of the tobacco plant ( Nico­tiana alata) in colours from blood red to lime green. It’s one of the few an­nual bed­ding plants that grows well in shady cor­ners. Sadly, many of the fancy new va­ri­eties are diminu­tive in both size and fra­grance. The larger white strains of­ten have the best scent, so keep an eye out for these.


Choose your flow­ers ac­cord­ing to your taste­buds – or your favourite dessert. 1. Choco­late: Plant choco­late-scented blooms for a no-calo­rie op­tion. Choose the peren­nial choco­late cos­mos ( Cos­mos

atrosan­guineus), Clema­tis mon­tana var. wilsonii, On­cid­ium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fra­grance', and Carolina all­spice ( Ca­ly­can­thus floridus). The lat­ter's flow­ers and leaves both smell of choco­late. 2. Fruit: If you pre­fer fruity aro­mas, grow frangi­pani, grape hy­acinth, mag­no­lia, Hy­brid Tea roses and scented gera­ni­ums (ap­ple-, le­mon- and or­ange-scented gera­ni­ums). Rhodo­den­dron lu­teum has a fruity aroma too. 3. Spice: For a spicy mix, choose car­na­tions and di­anthus, cer­tain rhodo­den­drons (try Rhodo­den­dron 'Fra­grantis­si­mum' and 'Elsie Frye'), stock, and the nut­meg-scented gera­nium, Pe­largo­nium × fra­grans. 4. Honey: Honey scents in­clude bar­berry, bud­dleia, mead­owsweet, hawthorn and hy­brid musk roses. The old-fash­ioned snap­drag­ons have a sweet flo­ral or honey-like scent too. 5. Or try the bub­blegum scented port wine mag­no­lia ( Miche­lia figo), the vanilla scent of He­liotrope ar­borescens or the burnt toffee fra­grance from the leaves of Cer­cidi­phyl­lum japon­icum.


Stock ( Matthi­ola in­cana) is a well-loved an­nual, grown for its spicy, clove-scented flow­ers in white, pink, laven­der, rose or red. You can buy plants in pun­nets or as in­di­vid­ual pot­ted spec­i­mens, de­pend­ing on how many you want. Or grow from seed. Sow in trays or small pots for trans­plant­ing into the gar­den later on. Plant in a sunny spot in free-drain­ing soil. Stock prefers cooler weather, grow­ing best in spring and au­tumn; once tem­per­a­tures hit the 20s, they won't per­form as well, or at all. Stock makes an ex­cel­lent cut flower. Pick for the vase when half the flow­ers are open.


Some wis­te­rias ex­ude a musky fra­grance; oth­ers emit a sweet one. Their scent ranges from faint to strong to al­most over­pow­er­ing. Which­ever va­ri­ety you plant, it needs a strong wall or per­gola, and sharp shears to keep it un­der con­trol. Wis­te­ria most of­ten fails to flower be­cause it's too young, it has been pruned too much or too lit­tle, or it has been spoilt with ni­tro­gen-rich fer­tiliser.

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