Spend evenings in a fragrant garden

By Marilyn McKinley

OSU master gardener volunteer

Sit back, feet up, relax.

Imagine – it’s a warm summer evening, you are sitting on the deck, patio or porch. A soft breeze brings a wonderful aroma gently tantalizing your olfactory nerves. Take another sip of wine as you pleasantly are so proud of yourself for creating an “after-hours” sensory garden.

Sounds so lovely. Here’s how to do it.

I suggest you plant your nighttime fragrant garden in pots on or close to your deck, patio or porch. Maybe even under your bedroom window.

Think about which way the wind is most likely to blow and take advantage of that when placing your plants. Consider having plants with heavenly fragrances for the three growing seasons.

What are these amazing plants?

For springtime, nothing can beat a lilac bush. They bloom mid-May, just about the time we start utilizing our outdoor rooms.

Bloomerang is a great choice. It’s a rebloomer, with lavender blue florets; a bushy variety, that grows only to about 6 feet, needs sun and a soil pH of neutral.

Mock orange also makes my list; sweet, orange aroma, small white flowers. This shrub will get up to 8 feet tall, grows in almost any soil and needs to be pruned after blooming.

Dianthus has a spicy fragrance. You can find perennial “pinks” or annual ones. These delicate little gems grow close to the ground, spread a bit, making a wonderful border. Think carnations.

Valerian has a wonderful fruity aroma. This, like most herbs, is a traveler in your garden.

Speaking of travelers, mint will always emit a nice smell.

On to summer. Common milkweed has a nice lilac, sweet vanilla fragrance. It likes sun. Monarch butterflies will love this one.

Note: It spreads quite easily, but you can share the seed pods with others to reduce the spread.

Moon flower. This beauty blooms only at night. Large and white, its spicy floral scent fills the air. Moon flowers will reseed and easily get out of control if not corralled.

For mid to late summer, one of my favorites is four o’clocks. These little gems open in late afternoon. They come in many colors; an heirloom variety will give you the most scent. My four o’clocks have reseeded for six years now.

Old-fashioned roses always give off a wonderful aroma. However, in my book they are just too needy, and so prone to Japanese beetles. The hybrids are pretty, but most have no fragrance at all.

In late summer, tuberose has white or pink flowers that emit a wonderful gardenia-like smell. This is a tender bulb in our area, so it needs to be treated like a dahlia. Plant each spring in 2-4 inches of well drained soil. Keep the soil moist.

All the plants listed are easy to grow, require little maintenance and will give you many evenings of wonderful fragrance while cooking on the grill or just relaxing. Enjoy.

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