Scent in the Garden

Wellywoman and Backlane Notebook have started a new meme called ‘Scent in the Garden’ and as for me, fragrance is such an important element in the garden, I have to join in. The winter garden is more scented than at any other time of the year. There are so few pollinators about that the plants that are blooming now have to make sure that they get noticed.

Nobody could overlook the wonderful pervasive musky smell of Sarcococca it travels  such a long way. I would love a hedge of it, but for the time being, I have to content myself with having it dotted about the garden so that I keep coming upon the scent.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna

I mentioned this lovely Muscari ”Golden Fragrance’ recently. I have brought it into the house and the scent is absolutely delicious and filling the room but not in a cloying way.

Muscari macrocarpum ' Golden Fragrance'

Muscari macrocarpum ‘ Golden Fragrance’

I planted lots of little Iris reticulata  and histrioides in pots in the greenhouse this year so that I could inspect the flawless flowers close at hand and enjoy the fragrance. But they aren’t fragrant. Iris reticulata  is mildly scented but none of the hybrids are.

I have sniffed the various Iris unguicularis, although most of them are getting over now. None of them smell at all, apart from the lovely,  lavender ‘Walter Butt’ which smells delicious.

Iris unguicularis 'Walter Butt'

Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’


I have picked a few snowdrops to sniff because it seems to me that they don’t have much fragrance outside. I had already found that Galanthus nivalis  ‘Flore Pleno’ is scented  although my ordinary nivalis don’t smell at all. I  nose- tested ‘Brenda  Troyle’,  ‘S. Arnott’ and ‘Ginn’s imperati’. The first two smelled of honey as they are supposed to.  ‘Ginn’s Imperati’ is supposed to smell of bitter almonds. I don’t actually know what bitter almonds smell of, or if this is desirable. To me it does have a distinct fragrance which is quite pleasant. I also picked the last bloom of  ‘Reverend Hailstone’ and to my surprise he had a strong fragrance. I have not read anywhere that he is supposed to smell nice.

Several bloggers have said how disappointed they are in the fragrance of their witch hazels. I think Hamamelis is never as strong- smelling as when you buy it and bring it home in the car. The whole car smells delicious, but outside the scent seems to get diffused in the cold air and disappear. I think the flowers have to warm up a bit to smell good. The yellow ones smell quite fruity. Stephen Lacey wrote about them in his book; ‘Scent in The Garden’. He said that the orange and red ones smell of parrot. I had to read this twice. Parrot? What on earth does parrot smell like and how does he know? I hate it when people throw out remarks like that, without explanation. Fragrances are difficult to describe, but for goodness sake; parrot! I sniffed lovely ‘Livia’ and there is not much fragrance. Thank goodness she doesn’t smell of parrot.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Livia'.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Livia’.

I have already mentioned the heavenly smell and profuse flowers of Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ this year. I have also said how I crazy I am about the sweet spiciness of the waxy flowers of the wonderful Chimonanthus, although it is going over now and I took this photo a while ago. This one is Chimonanthus grandiflorus. I also have Chimonanthus praecox which has smaller flowers but I think they smell stronger.
I can’t finish a description of fragrance in the garden this month without mentioning yet again Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ . I know I am always on about her, but there is no scent in the garden as wonderful as this. Really it is just the best; absolutely intoxicating. It is always covered in flowers. It is expensive to buy, but well worth it.

Daphne bhloua 'Jacqueline Postill'

Daphne bhloua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

If you love fragrance why don’t you join in with Wellywoman and Backlane Notebook and tell us what scents you are enjoying this month in the garden.

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47 Responses to Scent in the Garden

  1. Tina says:

    I can’t smell any of those, but all are beautify, just beautiful.

  2. Cathy says:

    Shame technology isn’t able to transport those smells to my breakfast table Chloris! They all sound lovely!

  3. AnnetteM says:

    Oh no, I am going to have to get down on my hands and knees and smell my double snowdrop. I suspect it is ‘Flore Pleno’ so it should smell. I have also added a few more plants to my every growing wanted list. Thank you .

  4. Julie says:

    This is a wonderful topic for a meme, lovely! Looking forward to more and has made me realise I do not have anywhere nearly enough good scented plants in my own garden, something I am going to remedy.

  5. Christina says:

    Thank you Chloris, this is a lovely post, I so enjoyed reading it. This month I don’t have anything different flowering that is scented. sadly my Iris reticulata don’t seem to be the ones that are perfumed. I am going to search out Muscari macrocarpum ‘ Golden Fragrance’, Reading about it on your posts is the first time I’d heard of it. Muscari do well for me here so certainly worth planting.I should also search for a Chimonanthus

    • Chloris says:

      I expect you could grow the Muscari outside Christina. It is not quite hardy here. Chimonanthus should do well with you, it needs a good baking in the sun to flower well.

      • Christina says:

        I’ve seen the Chimonanthus for sale but rather ugly looking specimens, I must remember to look again. I know it isn’t a very interesting plant the rest of the year but then, neither is the Lonicera. I would certainly try the Muscari in the ground.

  6. rusty duck says:

    Parrot? I hope descriptions of plant scent are not about to go down the same road as some of the more exotic observations suggested about the aroma/taste of wine.

    • Chloris says:

      I know ‘ germaline with an overtone of tar and old plimsolls’. It is true scents are difficult to describe unless they smell like something else. But I can’ t imagine where he got parrots from.

  7. croftgarden says:

    It is interesting how our perception of fragrance varies. Hamamelis always reminds me of cats, but the flowers are lovely. Apart from muscari and snowdrops the others I can’t grow, so it’s always an incentive to have fragrant plants in the greenhouse or polytunnel. My current delight are scented leaved pelagoniums, which insist on flowering all year round and theres is always a leaf to crush to remind me of summer.

  8. wellywoman says:

    I so enjoyed this post. Thank you for all your tips on scented plants. I love the muscari and the Iris ‘Walter Butt’. My common Galanthus nivalis doesn’t smell either. I’m going to scribble down the names of your scented snowdrops for future reference. I’m always a bit disappointed with witch hazels as I expect them to be smellier than they turn out to be. Parrot?!!! That is a very odd thing to say. Perhaps he has a pet parrot, but I imagine the vast majority of people have never smelt a parrot so I’m not sure it’s the most helpful of smell descriptions. 😉 Hope you can join in next month.

    • Chloris says:

      Well I enjoyed writing it, so thank you for coming up with the idea for the meme. I hope more people will join in. I shall certainly join in regularly. What about settling on a date for it each month?

  9. jenhumm116 says:

    Funny you mentioning the smell of Witch Hazel in the car, as when we got back in our car on Friday, having been on the ferry for 45 minutes, the smell of my new Hamamelis Aphrodite was quite intoxicating – in a slightly reminiscent of grazed knees at Junior school sort of way!

  10. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable post and lovely pictures even though my poor sense of small means that I really have to use my imagination. However the smell of parrot is totally beyond me and makes think of Monty Python! xx

  11. Chloris says:

    Thank you Flighty. Monty Python? Oh no, that makes it even worse, the smell of dead parrot.

  12. Love the color and blooms in your garden, this is the time I enjoy most each year…My growing climate is very similar so my garden and landscape are right about the same timeframe.

  13. Angie says:

    I read this post on my phone at work last night, inspired by it and the fact I finally ‘got’ the scent from the Sarcococca yesterday, I snipped one of the stem from G.nivalis Flore Pleno and brought it inside, it didn’t take long before the scent became apparent.
    The scent of parrot? Makes you wonder which end of the parrot he was most familiar with 😉

    • Chloris says:

      I think many of these winter flowers need a bit of warmth to bring out the scent. When I went to Anglesey Abbey on a really cold frosty day, nothing smelt very strong at all.
      I Iove your parrot comment.

  14. hoehoegrow says:

    What a good idea for a meme, to concentrate on scent as it can be overlooked, and be a poor cousin to colour and form.
    Why do I ALWAYS read ‘Walter Butt’ as ‘Water Butt’!! I love your golden mascara and didn’t know it came in anything but gorgeous blue.

    • Chloris says:

      I don’ t know which is worst Walter Butt or Water Butt, neither of them sound like a beautiful elegant flower.
      It is a shame for fragrance to be overlooked, it is such an important element in the garden.

  15. hoehoegrow says:

    Chloris, we talked recently about swapping some plants – I have been trying to find an email address for you but can’t seem to manage it – here is mine
    Then we can arrange it, if you are still happy to …

  16. snowbird says:

    Goodness me….fancy saying anything smelt of parrot! We have had parrots at the rescue and they don’t smell very parroty either!
    Some beautiful images here, I’ve had the lurgy for a month now and so am unable to smell anything at all……I must look out for the Daphne bhloua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, it would be lovely to have something that fragrant in the winter. If only there was a fragrance app on computers….xxx

    • Chloris says:

      I don’ t expect you ever sniffed the parrots, it would be a peculiar thing to do. I wonder if it was a misprint, but if so I can’ t imagine what he meant to say.
      Oh dear, sorry to hear you have been ill for so long, there has been a lot of it about this year.
      Jacqueline Postill is the very best scent in the world. If I could have nothing else in the garden this is what I would choose.

  17. Kris P says:

    You do have a lot of scented plants in your garden! Most of that currently in mine is provided by foliage rather than flowers (freesias excepted). I’m been on the hunt for Sarcococca but have yet to find in in the local garden centers. The bitter almond smell associated with the one Galanthus was interesting – that smell is often associated with cyanide in mystery stories.

    • Chloris says:

      I hope you find a Sarcococca, you will love it.
      Yes, bitter almonds is cyanide isn’ t it? I still don’ t know what that smells like, but this snowdrop smells lovely.

  18. Debra says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Parrot. haha. As bad as that sounds maybe we should be happy they don’t smell like an ex-parrot.

  19. bittster says:

    Again so many of these are just a tease for me, but I believe I can manage the muscari. It will be on the list for next year, thanks!

  20. Chloris says:

    You wn’ t regret getting Golden Fragrance but it will have to be for your greenhouse, it is not quite hardy.

  21. Of course, Chloris, I loved this post! It’s nice to join in, isn’t it? I enjoyed seeing your little scented flowers, as opposed to my scented shrubs. I’ve been led to believe that, usually, it’s the yellow flowered Hamamelis that have the stongest scent, and I tend to agree. My recent yellow flowered purchase would certainly prove that! When you mention the scent of the Daphne as being the best, what are you comparing it with? Best Daphne? Or best ever?! I may be looking for another Daphne, you see.

  22. Chloris says:

    I meant it is the best scent in the garden. All Daphnes smell sweet but Jacqueline Postill starts blooming in the depths of winter before any of the others. Unlike other daphnes it is smothered in blooms. So best of the Daphne,. and overall best in the winter garden. You really need one Ali.

  23. How lovely to see all these blooms and imagine the scents as our snow does not have any real fragrance.

  24. What a terrific idea for a meme; I hope they keep it up. If I was home, I would actually have something to contribute, as both Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clark’ and Hamamaelis ‘Wisley Supreme’ were showing off. But most of all, how wonderful it would be to discover more fragrant plants for my shady garden. I wish I could get a whiff of your Muscari ‘Golden Fragrance’, it is quite beautiful too.

  25. Chloris says:

    I don’ t know Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clark’ but I have Prunus mume ‘Beni chidori’ which looks and smells wonderful.
    Muscari Golden Fragrance is worth seeking out, it smells delicious.

  26. How surprising to learn that the flowers are more fragrant in winter. I would have thought exactly the opposite! Yet another gardening fact I’ve learned from you, Chloris. Thank you.

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