Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
IT is just human nature in that we would be first attracted to a particular plant by its colourful flowers, berries, foliage or bark but that is just one of the five common senses that we have, such as sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
These five senses can all play a part in how we garden. If we can harness them within our outdoor space-all the better. It is an unfortunate fact that some people may not have one or more of the senses and in that case more emphasis can be given to the senses that are receptive. It is common enough to create sensory gardens and there are plenty of plants that can be included in order to fulfil a particular need.
I do not use the term ‘smell’ in relation to a plant as ‘fragrant or scent’ sounds more pleasing. A story was told to me recently by G, a local well-known and knowledgeable plantsman who in his youth said to Mr C, “I wonder does that plant have much of a smell”, only to be told that, “Cows smell and plants have a fragrance.” Lesson learned and reinforced.
If we focus this week on fragrant plants and see how it can enhance your enjoyment, you might be surprised at what is out there but glossed over or been unaware of. I suppose the obvious one is that you expect roses to have a pleasant scent and instinctively we all bend down to smell the flower. Mostly we are pleased with the experience. Further down the line there are other lesser known flowers that we think might have a scent such as pinks or carnations (Dianthus) and lilies, but not all those plants have been bred with scent in mind, which can lead to disappointment.
What I do like is the surprise element in any of the senses but fragrance would be near the top of my ultimate joys. Can you just imagine wandering along in a garden and suddenly being arrested by a beautiful fragrance and then trying to find out where it came from? That happens often enough and I am always happy with the experience, such as one winter when I was walking through Wakehurst Gardens and was suddenly overwhelmed with a strong fragrance and then 20 minutes later discovered it came from a large group of Christmas Box (Sarcococca confusa).
Scented plants can come in all sizes from the very small, such as the ‘Parma Violets’ or the better known ‘Lily-of-the-Valley’, which has beautiful delicate white flowers and does best in shade, and Muscari ‘Golden Fragrance’. There are a few obvious scented trees such as Chestnut and Lime but the vast majority are to be found in the shrub range from the low growing, like Coronilla valentina ‘Glauca’ at 1m (3’) to the tall Pittosporum tenuifolium 5m (16’). In between are many treasured plants such as Azara microphylla, Cordyline australis – which might surprise, Cytisus battandieri, Elaeagnus x ebbingei, Myrtus, Perovskia, Philadelphus, Rhododendron luteum (plus other deciduous Azaleas) and ‘Lady Alice Fitzwilliam’, Syringa (Lilac) and Viburnum (many types). Lastly three scented climbing plants are Lonicera ‘Halliana’, Jasminum officinale ‘Affine’ or ‘Fiona Sunrise’ and Wisteria.
TIP OF THE WEEK
The month of May was tough on gardening as there were continuous frosts for the first two weeks and, thereafter, so much rain that it had already exceeded the records by the middle of the month. Plants suffered and if they were weak they might have keeled over and rotted off but it is not too late to replant and sow again if needed so look at all your recent planting critically and make individual decisions there and then. If you have any queries or comments you are welcome to share them with me on 051-384273 or [email protected] and if of general interest I will include it in a future article.