purple wildflowers

The delights of a fragrant garden

Scented blooms, aromatic shrubs, fragrant flowers and more can help you take your gardening to the next level.

So much of our garden planning revolves around visuals. Gardeners tend to select plants for their colour, their shape, and the pattern of their leaves. This year, why not rediscover one of the oldest attractants known? Plant a fragrant garden at your cottage in Muskoka.

It’s funny that we seem to have forgotten the delights of scented blooms, because there was a time when that was one of the main reasons for growing flowers.

Even today, many of the most fragrant perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees are old-fashioned plants, or heritage varieties. These are plants that our great-great grandparents would have grown in their gardens, blooms that rewarded you every time you took a breath. But somewhere along the way, plant breeders began to focus more on colourful blooms and gorgeous leaves and stopped focusing on fragrance.

Fortunately, a lot of those old-fashioned plants are still in existence. And plant breeders haven’t completely forsaken fragrance, so you can also find new varieties of aromatic flowers to include in your fragrant garden.

What to include in your fragrant garden

Aromatic plants can be found in every shape and growth habitat. There are fragrant shrubs, trees, annuals, perennials, spring bulbs, vines, evergreens, ground covers and more. So, no matter what part of your landscape you want to enhance, there are aromatic plants to include.

Here are some that we really enjoy including in landscaping at cottages in Muskoka.

Lilac. Ah, the good old-fashioned lilac. Is there anything more emblematic of a spring day in a cottage garden than the sight and scent of a lilac in bloom? Lilacs were once so prized that settlers would bring a few cuttings with them when they emigrated from Europe to claim a hundred acres of land in the new world, cossetting the cuttings for weeks until they could establish them in in their new homesteads. Today, when you find lilac bushes growing in a patch of forest in Muskoka, you can be sure that you’re standing on ground that was once someone’s home. A new lilac bush pays tribute to those hardy settlers, and also lets you enjoy amazing scents each spring.

Summersweet. This North American native plant is a great addition to shade or dappled gardens, particularly if the soil is consistently wet. It will grow in full sun, but only if it is well-mulched so its roots stay moist. Summersweet is a shrub, typically around 4 to 6 feet tall (although there are compact varieties as well), and from August to freezup it is rich with gorgeous, scented blooms. Butterflies and hummingbirds love this fragrant shrub.

Lavender. It looks lovely, dries beautifully, and smells divine: what’s not to like about lavender? Still not convinced? How about this: deer and rabbits don’t eat it, it grows well in poor soil (hello Muskoka cottages!) and sachets of lavender can help prevent moths for laying eggs in your clothing. And if you don’t care for the classic lavender colour, there are around 350 different cultivars in colours that range from deep magenta to nearly pure white.

Heliotrope. Our grandparents and great-grandparents likely knew this plant well, but for some reason it went out of favour in the second half of the last century. But they’re on their way back in as a new generation of gardeners discovers this gorgeous plant with its blooms that last from midsummer all the way to first frost. The aroma is sometimes described as vanilla or cherry pie, and while there are white and pink varieties of heliotrope, the deep purple flowers tend to have the richest scent. In Muskoka, these are annuals, but you may be able to take cuttings in fall and keep them indoors through the winter. They do incredibly well in containers.

Four O’Clocks. As their name implies, the flowers on these bushy annuals don’t open until late afternoon. But when those flowers emerge, watch out! They emit a powerful perfume punch that is truly amazing. It’s not unusual to find aromatic blooms that emerge late in the day — in fact, many of our most fragrant flowers don’t bloom until evening or even after the sun has set, when their gorgeous scent attracts moths and other nocturnal creatures. In Muskoka and other northern garden areas, Four O’Clocks are fast-growing annuals that will flower from midsummer until first frost.

Other fragrant garden options

This is just the start of the options for your aromatic garden. Other scented annuals and perennials that you may want to consider include:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Fragrant hostas
  • Roses (particularly rugosa roses, which tend to be very hardy)
  • Hyacinths
  • Daffodils
  • Lily of the valley
  • Mockorange

The options truly are endless, and the ultimate choice will depend on your growing conditions, as well as the layout of your individual property. Contact us to discuss options, and we can include some fragrant blooms in your garden plans this year.

For more great gardening tips, check out these posts from our blog:



Posted in In the Garden.