The Sweet, Seductive Power of Scent: Garden Fragrance…

May 31st, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Lily of the Valley, (Convallaria majalis), fills my bedroom with a fresh, green scent…

“Smells  are  surer  than  sounds  and  sights  to  make  the  heartstrings  crack” ……………………………………………………………………- –………………………………………………………………………….rudyard kipling

Imagine stepping outside and into the garden on a warm spring evening. Close your eyes and breathe deep. Does the air smell sweet? Are you drawn down a winding path, lined by flickering shadows; lured deeper by the faintest whiff of perfume? What is that elusive fragrance drifting this way and that? White lilac? Fresh lily-of-the-valley? The lingering scent of a first rose?

Our sense of smell is powerful -directly linked to memory and emotion- and as gardeners, fragrance is one of our most seductive design tools. Delicately sweet mockorange beside the screen porch, spicy viburnum outside the bedroom window, and lavender edging the dining terrace; when fragrant plants are placed near doors and windows, they have a way of luring us outside. And have you noticed how roses, warmed by the afternoon sun, can literally stop you in your tracks, even on the busiest of days? I pay attention to smell when I am designing gardens and shopping for plants -even when they aren’t blooming- never underestimating the olfactory power of foliage. Herbs, such as rosemary and mint for example, as well as many deciduous shrubs and evergreens, add delightful fragrance to the air when brushed or stirred. When I’m out weeding in my front garden, the thyme planted between the stones in my walkway releases a delicious lemony scent, rewarding me each time I haul away a basket of debris.

The months of May and June seem particularly heady, filled with some of the most beautiful and nostalgic garden fragrances. I have collected a few of my springtime favorites, and I’d love to hear about yours…

Folded promise of potent fragrance to come – Rosa rugosa in bud…

Spicy and sweet, this favorite combination makes Rosa de Rescht a much anticipated flower in my garden…

David Austin English Rose, Rosa ‘Bibi Maizoon’ -a voluptuous beauty beyond compare- possesses the kind of old-fashioned fragrance I covet and fuss over every year…

Wild woodland phlox, (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ )- this free seeding beauty lures me straight down the garden path in the still of early morning, filling the air with it’s delicate, powdery fragrance..

Fragrant abelia, (Abelia mosanensis), blooms late May through early June, and you have to smell it to believe it. I’d tape a bunch to my nose if I could get away with it…

Abelia mosanensis, sweetly fragrant with a touch of spicy clove

Fragrant tree peony, (Paeonia moutan x lutea, an  American hybrid (1952),  ‘High Noon’ )- Peonies of all kinds bring beautiful fragrance to the garden, and tree peonies possess some of the more exotic scents…

Tazetta-type daffodils are some of the most fragrant springtime bulbs…

Fragrant Star Azalea, (Deciduous Rhododendron atlanticum x canescens ‘Fragrant Star’), fills the air with a gorgeous, musky and exotic scent, and she possesses a beautiful form to match her perfume…

Rhododendron prinophyllum, our intensely fragrant native roseshell azalea, has a decidedly clove-like scent…

Powerfully fragrant, double white lilac, (Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’), is the only white lilac for me…

Korean spicebush, (Viburnum carlesii), and many other viburnum are prized for their uniquely spicy, highly alluring fragrance…

One tiny sprig of variegated daphne,(Daphne x burkwoodi ‘Carol Mackie’),  floating in a shallow bowl is enough to scent an entire room…

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Season-Spanning Garden Design: Springtime Shrubs to Enjoy Now and Love Again Later – Three Favorites…

May 11th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ in May – Native American Witch Alder

Is there anything more delightful than the sweet scent of blossoms on a sparkling spring morning? Nature never ceases to amaze me. I often marvel at the seasonal cycle here in my cold climate. In spite of my garden’s success, I still find it hard to believe that some of the more delicate-looking plants can survive winter’s wrath on this exposed hilltop. And yet every year, after months of frigid temperatures, brutal, blasting winds, and crushing snow topped with cracking ice, winter recedes and the blossoms return again. To me this is nothing short of a miracle.

The growing season in the Northeast is quite short. And the familiar, tongue-in-cheek saying, “New England has nine months of winter and three months of darn poor sledding”, never fails to bring a short, nervous burst of laughter amongst the locals. The temperatures here in Vermont have changed dramatically over the past few days, and over the weekend, I awoke to find a dusting of snow on my hilltop. Late spring snow always seems to stand out more in my memory than tardy autumn frost. Needless to say, in my work as a garden designer, and here in my own garden, extending seasonal enjoyment of the landscape is a big priority. And there are benefits to this multi-season approach no matter where you live…

One of my favorite early-spring blooming shrubs is very high on my list of ‘bests’ for autumn foliage. The native witch alder in my garden, (Fothergilla major and the compact Fothergilla gardenii), is currently smothered in beautiful white flowers and buzzing with honey bees. My tiny, winged garden guests are attracted to Fothergilla’s sweetly scented bottle brush blossoms and the ample pollen they provide in the early season. I absolutely adore this good garden ‘witch’, and long-time readers may recall my obsession with her late season color from my post on the subject last fall. If not, travel back and read more about this wonderful, woody plant by clicking here

Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ , (in closeup at top of post), is a lovely treat for bees in May…

And she also glows again with various perennials in early November, luminous in the grey light…

When it comes to my love-affair with the next shrub on my list, Viburnum carlesii, I am almost at a loss for words. As I pause to think back on our romantic history, I believe that my passion for the genus can be traced back to a Korean spice shrub planted beside the farmhouse next door to my childhood home. The slightly spicy, delicately sweet flowers of this lovely shrub were both familiar and exotic to my curious little nose. Every spring, I would invent excuses to ride my wobbly bike down the road, just to catch a whiff of those delightful blossoms on the breeze. Over time, I became acquainted with other members of this large and varied genus, and I have to admit that even now, no other woody plant -even the beloved Acer palmatum– can compete with my affection for viburnum.

Why such devotion? Well to begin with, although these shrubs aren’t always fragrant, some of the earliest blooming, and most beautifully scented flowers are produced by species of viburnum. The intensely fragrant Viburnum bodnantese ‘Dawn’ blooms at roughly the same time as the witch hazel in my zone 4/5 garden, filling the air with the most wonderful, almost edible, scent. Closely following V. bodnantense in flower is V. carlesii, (hardy in zone 4-8), better known as Korean spice shrub or Mayflower viburnum. This intoxicatingly fragrant shrub is the coveted Viburnum of my childhood memory, and her gorgeous great-grand daughter now occupies a prominent spot near my front door. Come autumn, her leaves will turn brilliant orange-red, (see photo below), and her shiny black fruits gleam amongst the glowing foliage like polished obsidian jewels….

Viburnum carlesii – Beautifully fragrant pink blossoms delight in the spring garden…

While ebony fruits and bright color make Korean spice a favorite come fall…

And the last spring-bloomer on today’s season-spanning shrub list -oh yes, you know there will be more coming- has to be Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’. As a whole, Daphnes have a well-earned reputation for being somewhat temperamental garden plants. However, given the right siting -excellent drainage and protection from crushing snow and burning winter wind, is key- this season-spanning beauty will perform well in zones 4-7. There are other, equally lovely Daphne species and cultivars, however ‘Carol Mackie’ remains at the top of my list of favorites due to her glorious variegated foliage, which turns a honey-gold color in autumn; beautiful against the cool, dark stone landing at the entry to my Secret Garden. And the fragrant flowers in spring? Well, that is really the hook. I have a botanically-obsessed friend who cradles the blossoms in her hands every May, as if they were the rarest commodity on earth – and with good reason! The perfume is sensational; slightly musky with hints of clove and subtly sweet fruit. If only it could be bottled…

Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ – Lovely, fragrant pink blossoms and golden edged green leaves, this shrub turns a lovely golden hue in autumn..

As shown here, (with Acer palmatum), in autumn

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Article and photographs copyright, Michaela at TGE. All rights reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Happy May Day!

May 1st, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Image © 1895, Walter Crane, via Yale University Library online

Welcome, welcome, sweet month of May! Melodic bird song and the intoxicating, clove-like scent of Mayflower viburnum, (also known as Korean spicebush, Viburnum carlesii), were the first pleasures to greet me on this first day of one of the loveliest months of the year. Special thanks to photographer Tim Geiss for his beautiful shots of Common Lilac, (Syringa vulgaris), and Mayflower viburnum, (Viburnum carlesii)

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

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Photographs are courtesy, and copyright, Tim Geiss. All rights reserved by the artist.

Article copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE, photographs copyright 2010 Tim Geiss, (exceptions noted). All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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