Scent in the Garden. March

DSC_1027The sweet sound

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odour‘.

William Shakespeare. ‘Twelfth Night’.


Ever since I was a child I have loved violets, for their elusive fragrance and their modest flowers which appear so early in the year. In my garden they are weeds really; I have huge areas where they have taken over, but I let them do what they like because they are so lovely.
I always used to wonder why, after that first heady fragrance, you couldn’t smell them any more, no matter how you sniff. It is because they have a ketone compound called ionone which desensitises the receptors in the nose so that for a while the scent is lost to you.

The wild Viola odorata is lovely, but there is a nursery in Devon; ‘Groves Nursery’, which has the National Collection. Here, you can get many beautiful cultivars. My daughter knows about my passion for violets and for Mother’s Day she brought me some back from a recent visit. What could be more delightful than a box of violets?






I already have a pretty deep pink one, ‘Perle Rose’ in the garden, but now I have the delicate pale violet Viola odorata ‘Charles Winston Groves’ and I love the cream and pale pink of Viola odorata ‘Princess Thirza’

Parma violets are not hardy here in Suffolk, so the lovely double white ‘Stanley White’ will have to live in the greenhouse.I must get it a nice terracotta pot.

Viola odorata 'Stanley White'

Viola odorata ‘Stanley White’







Whilst we are in the greenhouse, I have another pot of the gorgeous scented Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’. I planted these a bit later than the pot I showed you a while ago, so that the flowers would be staggered.

Muscari macrocarpum 'Golden Fragrance.

Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance.







Still in the greenhouse, I have the lovely Gladiolus tristis. I don’t think it is quite hardy, but the fragrance is wonderful. I bought it on a nursery visit in February when I went on a jaunt with Julie from Peoniesandposies.

Gladiolus tristis

Gladiolus tristis

Out in the garden, I have a lovely plant  with flowers  which smell of violets mixed with a note of vanilla. It’s name, Ypsilandra thibetica doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but it is worth looking out for, because it is so pretty. It comes from the Himalayas and is  hardy although it looks quite fragile.

Ypsilandra thibetica

Ypsilandra thibetica

There are still long-lasting, scented, winter shrubs which have been blooming for weeks and they show no sign of stopping yet.  I think that Daphne has the most wonderful fragrance known to man; apart from Plumeria, Frangipani. (But for that you need a different hemisphere.) The winter-flowering honeysuckle has a very sweet scent and has been blooming for ages. The Witch Hazel ‘Arnold Promise’ is very late-flowering; all the others have finished. It doesn’t have a very strong fragrance, but I just sniffed it and it is decidedly fruity.

I keep showing you my beautiful Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’ . I love it so much, it has such lovely, dark pink flowers and they are scented. They smell of almonds and what else? Honey perhaps? I find scents so difficult to describe.

Prunus mume 'Beni-chidori'

Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’

Thank you Louise at Wellywoman for coming up with the idea for this lovely meme. Do go over and see what she has to say about fragrant flowers this month. She is a fellow violet lover and you can read the interesting article she wrote about them for ‘The Guardian‘.
What lovely fragrance are you enjoying in your garden this month? Do join in and tell us.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Scent in the Garden. March

  1. How interesting….my witch hazel ‘Arnold’s Promise’ was one of the first in my collection to bloom this year (Pacific Northwest/USA), and it’s the only one I can detect a fragrance from. But it is also my largest/oldest witch hazel and this is the first year I’ve noticed (purchased plant in 2008). I first noticed a lovely scent late one evening while rolling the yard waste container out for collection in late January. The only thing it could be was the blooming witch hazel a few feet away. Right now (mid-March) my big fragrance producer is Viburnum carlsii, which just opened it’s flowers a few days past. My Edgeworthias are almost done blooming and they are supposed to be quite fragrant, but I’ve never detected a whiff of anything from them. And on a warm day (which were are having an unusual number of this year) I can smell the yellow primroses on my ‘special plant table’ under the deck. It is only the yellow ones that are perfumed tough….Primlet series primroses (ruffly double ones).

    • Chloris says:

      That’ s funny Arnold Promise is always the last by a long way here. Viburnum carlesii has a lovely scent but it doesn’t t bloom until April here. I envy you being able to grow Edgeworthia, I have tried twice but just can’ t grow it. It is so beautiful.

  2. Debra says:

    At the risk of repeating myself yet again: thank you for sharing all this beauty. I have a brugmansia flowering outside my bedroom window. I leave the window open at night to let in the cool air and scent. (happy sigh). That gladiolus is lovely. I must have it. hahahha

  3. Lovely, Chloris. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Lovely scented flowers….my native violet is not scented as far as I know, but I love the flowers that dot themselves all over the garden in spring.

    • Chloris says:

      Where I grew up in the north of England, our local violet was Viola canina, the dog violet which is unscented. Here the scent of Viola odorata is beautiful. As you walk past you can smell them.

  5. rusty duck says:

    You will be a source of great inspiration as I start my greenhouse collection. I don’t have a great nose for scent but under glass perhaps it will be easier. I love Ypsilandra thibetica too, it looks so exotic.

    • Chloris says:

      I’ m looking forward to seeing what you will grow in your greenhouse. Scented plants are always nice, it is wonderful opening the door to fragrance.
      Ypsilandra looks so exotic that I was worried in case it wasn’ t hardy. I have had it for 2 years now though and it is perfectly fine. It likes shade.

  6. Christina says:

    The Prunus seems very early; even the almonds are only just flowering here! I agree about the Daphne having the very best perfume but the winter honeysuckle comes a close second and I can grow that! You do have some wonderful treasures in your garden.

    • Chloris says:

      Prunus mume is an early one, it starts flowering in February. That is one of the reasons I treasure it so. I agree the winter honeysuckle smells wonderful, you have a beautiful specimen.

  7. pbmgarden says:

    Wonderful gift of violets from you thoughtful daughter. My former shady yard had lots of wild violets. I never noticed a scent really but enjoyed them so much. I agree with you about Daphne’s lovely fragrance.

  8. Chloris says:

    Yes she is a thoughtful daughter and knows just what I like. She loves violets too and is building up a collection of different ones.

  9. Prunus mume is one of my 20 favorite top 10 plants. Do you know the Romans made violet wine? I found a recipe online but decided it is beyond me. A cocktail from violet liqueur (creme de violette) would be much easier and probably tastier too.

  10. mattb325 says:

    I never knew that about V. odorata…thanks for the information! Australia even has a couple of little native violets, V. hederacea & banksia, both flower almost all year round (but are best in early-mid summer which is a nice habit to complement other violets) and have charming blue and purple/white flowers. I love the Daphne bhoula. I must add it to my collection!

  11. Alain says:

    I also like violets and grow several. V. labradorica seems to like the garden particularly. In a previous garden, I had the Confederate violet (v. sororia). It is a very invasive plant so I never thought I might miss it. In the proper spot, it is a lovely plant. It grew well in dry shade but needed some sun to bloom.

  12. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I love the idea of a fragrance in the garden meme! You’ve some great fragrances going on in your garden right now. I also have a soft spot for violets and had no idea why the fragrance was lost after that first whiff. Thanks for sharing that information!

    • Chloris says:

      Yes I think fragrance is very important in the garden and it is certainly one of the joys of Spring. I think the scent of violets is extra precious because it is so elusive.

  13. I like violets as well, my mother ‘grew’ them as you do and referred to it as ‘Southern Lawn’ They would never take in my garden.
    Here in Florida, the Plumeria is still leafless, but my neighbors Arabian Jasmine is filling the air with a wonderful scent.

    • Chloris says:

      I do actually have a Plumeria in a pot which a Martiniquan friend brought me 5 years ago from a cutting of her tree. It does grow each year but as it lives on a windowsill I don’ t suppose it will ever flower.
      Is Arabian jasmine Jasminun sambac? It is beautiful but a pot plant here.

      • Wow, put the plumeria outside! I will ask my neighbor if I can take a picture of this Jasmine. It is probably 8 feet tall. I will look up the latin as it is an obscure plant

  14. Cathy says:

    Your different coloured violets are really lovely. I planted one scented violet last year after realising that most of mine don’t smell and the wild ones in the lawn are all dog violets. They should start flowering soon. Otherwise there is not much fragrance here yet. I bet your greenhouse smells nice!

    • Chloris says:

      I hope you will start to enjoy fragrance in your garden soon. Yes, the greenhouse does smell wonderful, I would show more pictures of it but it is terribly untidy.

  15. Amy says:

    Your violets look (and sound) heavenly, though I won’t be able to grow them… But Gladiolus tristis is now on my look-for list – what a lovely picture and I didn’t realize it was fragrant. Thanks so much for sharing all these wonderful scents here. 🙂

  16. The Apricot blooms are stunning! They remind me of Crabapples. I love Violets, too! 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      I am hoping that I will get apricots from my tree in the greenhouse this year. The Japanese Apricot has very small inedible fruit. But the blossom is so pretty.

  17. Kris P says:

    The assortment of violets is a lovely gift. I’m aware of only one wild variety here and I’m unsure of it’s species – probably V. adunca. It’s a weed but a pretty one.

  18. Brian Skeys says:

    What a lovely Mothers Day present, I wasn’t aware there was such a range of violets available.

    • Chloris says:

      Indeed, there are fragrant violets in colours ranging from pale pink to deepest purple.. I even have an apricot coloured one but it blooms a bit later.

  19. Flighty says:

    Thanks as always for an enjoyable, and interesting, post and lovely photos. xx

  20. wellywoman says:

    A really lovely post. And what a fabulous present. I’m eyeing up a patch in the garden for some. We’re off to Dorset in June so I’m going to stop off at that nursery. So many plants for me to note down and covet. 😉 Wondering where I can squeeze in some more plants. 🙂 Thank you for joining in the meme.

    • Chloris says:

      Groves do have a wonderful range of violets. I wonder if they will produce some children in interesting new colours if grown together in groups.

  21. this is a lovely idea for another meme – sadly, I am working and can not always find the time to join in with them all, but love reading them on other blogs. I have loved the scent of violas from childhood too and the science bit was fascinating.

    • Chloris says:

      I wonder whether you are enjoying any fragrant flowers at the moment. Maybe your Cistus will have a nice resinous smell when we get a bit of heat.

  22. I’ve made notes for the next collection. 😉 At one time I had some Parma violets tucked under a south facing yew hedge abutting a protected corner and they survived for two milder-than-normal winters but the third one did them in.

  23. Julie says:

    Yes, I would like everything you have shown us today!

  24. Your spring blooms are such a grand sight…My garden is just starting to bloom so I am just a bit behind.

  25. snowbird says:

    You do have some exquisite plants! How I wish I could smell them all. I didn’t know that violets have the ketone compound, that’s fascinating! I have always loved violets, they remind me of my childhood. Amother lovely

  26. bittster says:

    Interesting about the fleeting scent of violets! You have a smart daughter and a generous one as well to bring you such a nice box of goodies. I wish they were a little more available in this country since last week’s internet searching paid out nothing in the way of interesting varieties. I suppose that’s one more thing for the wish list.
    Feel free to continue posting as many quince photos as you’d like. It’s such a beautiful flower for this time of year or any time.

  27. I love your violets and can think of no better mother’s day present than your box of them. There is a daughter who knows her mother! Our little wild violets are not yet in bloom here in North Wales. Something else to look forward to!

    • Chloris says:

      Are your violets Dog violets, Viola canina or Sweet violets, Viola odora? I had never seen Sweet violets growing wild until I came to live in Suffolk.

  28. No fragrances yet, I’m afraid. In a week or two I will plant some annual Stocks, and then we have some Hyacinths and fragrant Tulips later in spring.

  29. Right now my garden smells like mud but I have a big pot of sweet peas next to my back door that will smell amazing once they bloom. I chose the varieties with the most scent. My violets don’t smell like anything but maybe I just need to get closer and give them a good sniff. How amazing it would be to stand in your garden for just a few minutes to smell all those wonderful flowers. :o)

    • Chloris says:

      Oh dear, I am sorry that your garden smells like mud but soon you will have nice things to smell. It is a good idea to chose Sweet Peas for fragrance, some of the modern hybrids don’ t smell very much at all

  30. What a lovely Mothers Day gift to receive, Chloris – lucky you! That’s an interesting fact about ionone desensitising the nose. It’s making me wonder if I hadn’t lost my Viola odorata after all – I just couldn’t smell them, so thought they were a different species that had taken over! I’ll be a bit more careful from now on. The winter favourites are still going strong, in our garden too. But there’s so many buds waiting for next month.

  31. Chloris says:

    I always think of you when I come across a fragrant plant and wonder whether you have it. Yes it is amazing how long the winter flowering shrubs hang on. They are lovely of course but we are all waiting for spring plants to bloom now.

  32. Robbie says:

    I have a lot of catch-up! Everyone is greening up + blooming. I did see a little yellow crocus and that was about it for last week. A few dwarf iris are poking through….no fragrance in our garden yet-Oh I can hardly wait! lovely post

  33. Anna says:

    What a perfect Mother’s Day present Chloris 🙂 Violets are one of my mum’s favourite flowers and she bought some clumps over from her native Italy when she first came to live here. I wonder which violet Shakespeare was referring to. He mentions them a few times in his writings.

  34. Chloris says:

    I think Shakespeare was talking about Viola odorata because he refers to their fragrance.
    I didn’ t realise you are half Italian. How wonderful. Do you speak Italian?

  35. Sheena says:

    So I’m 4 years late to the party 😂! But I just found your blog and its so lovely! I have to ask, do you happen to remember which violet is at the top right corner of your box of beautiful goodies? The really pale one? It’s absolutely gorgeous and I must know 😍

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s