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Scented gardens - exotic and native

By Ben Sims
4 July, 2021

Gardenia .jpg

A garden is for all the senses and a scented garden can be enjoyed by everyone, even people who may be vision impaired or elderly. Even if mobility is an issue, you can enjoy the beautiful fragrance as some plants will have strong fragrance when in flower.  Simply open a window and allow the sweet smell to drift in with the breeze. 

Here are some popular and less popular plants that all have fragrant flowers, and some have fragrant leaves also when crushed. They range from small, medium and large shrubs up to trees and vines. What you might notice is that many plants from the same family have fragrance such as Hypocallyma from the Myrtaceae (Eucalypt family) has fragrant flowers, but many members of this family have essential oils in the leaves and the leaves are fragrant when crushed. Another family the Rutaceae would you believe includes Boronia, Citrus – lemon, lime, orange, mandarin etc and Orange Jessamine – Murraya and all these plants have fragrant flowers and the citrus also all have fragrant leaves to. 

Vines are great because they can be grown on a trellis or over anything. You can have a trellis or wire right next to a path or along a brick wall next to a window and the fragrance can be enjoyed from in the house. 

Chinese star Jasmine - Trachelospermum jasminoides is an extremely popular vine for landscapers and homeowners in WA as it is fast growing and can cover a structure/wall in 2 years of less. It is very tough and can take the full WA sun. It has nice fragrant white flowers.  

Honey suckle - Lonicera spp. – this vine is also very tough once established and can even take a fair bit of shade and still flower. It has allot of flowers and produces nice perfume. 

Common Jasmine - Jasmine polyanthum - this vine grows quickly and is the most common Jasmine that people know. It has fragrant flowers. 

RosesRosa sp. – There are a wide variety of roses available and most have a good fragrance but some better than others. There is everything from bush roses, standard roses, miniature roses, heritage roses and climbing roses.  

Butterfly bushes - Buddlejas – these are beautiful tough insect attracting plants with a beautiful, sweet smelling flower. It attracts butterflies and some nectar feeding birds. It is from the same family as the Eremophilas which have non fragrant members with tubular flowers that birds like.  They grow into beautiful bushes and there are smaller varieties available now. 

DaphneDaphne sp. – these are small compact shrubs that have nice pink/white scented flowers. I have never grown one, but I have had customers that have them looking good in a cottage garden style garden. 

BoroniaBoronia sp. – for a few weeks, a year these are covered in small flowers that produce a huge amount of fragrance. They natural grow in wetter/shadier areas in WA so they need protection from full hot sun and hot winds. In general, they are not easy to grow here in Perth unless they are protected from afternoon sun and have some shade, water retaining soil and adequate water throughout the hotter months. 

Swan River Myrtle - Hypocallyma robustum - this small shrub is a nice garden plant and has beautiful pink sweet-smelling flowers. It is easy to grow and will take a fair amount of shade or full sun. 

Honey bush - Hakea lissocarpa -like most Hakeas this small shrub is tough once established and has nice perfumed white flowers. It     has bird attracting flowers and most likely attracts insects also. 

GardeniasGardenia sp. – These small shrubs have nice fragrant flowers and grow well here in Perth if the soil is right which means they like an organic soil with some clay for holding water and nutrients and they like a slightly acid soil. You can buy planting mixes that are exactly right for Azaleas/Gardenias etc from some nurseries, and you can plant straight into these. 
FrangipaniPlumeria – these trees are most fragrant at night as they are trying to lure moths. If you have fragrant plants that release their fragrance at night, it is because they are trying to attract moths. They have a range of flower colours from white/yellow through to pink/purple. They can grow quite large but are slow growing and you can cut them back to the size you want and grow new trees from the cuttings. They are extremely popular here in Perth. 

Citrus – lemon, lime, orange, mandarin – It is not only nice fruit these plants produce but also fragrant flowers. They are white and have a beautiful fragrance. Insects love them. 

Orange JessamineMurraya paniculata – This plant is extremely popular in Perth and has nice fragrant white flowers. It can be grown as a bush or a hedge and can be grown from 1m up to 5m. It is tough but it is best to give good soil preparation with compost/clay mixed through the soil and a good source of nutrients because I have seen these die or go very yellow when stressed. 

Port Wine MagnoliaMichelia figo – these medium shrubs do well with a bit of protection from the hot afternoon sun. They have beautiful small fragrant flowers that smell like bubble gum. They can also be grown as a hedge.  

RadermacheraSummerscent – these plants are very versatile and can be grown in pots in full sun in Perth or in the garden as a medium shrub to screen a fence or wall. 

Wedding bushRicinocarpus sp. – these can be grown for topiary/hedging or screening. They have small white fragrant flowers and a nice deep green foliage. They respond very well to pruning. 

MagnoliaMagnolia sp. – these are a popular screening large shrub/small tree and most have large white fragrant flowers and glossy green/purple leaves. They suit professionally landscaped and stylish gardens or can look good in many garden settings provided you have room for them to grow. They grow well along a fence to screen your neighbours especially if your block is lower than theirs.  

We featured Thomas J Ephel on an episode of the Plants Grow Here Podcast which talks about learning plants from the family first because like us plants have family characteristics, they have in common such as fragrance for example or flower colour might be another, leaf type might be another or edible fruits. 

**If you want even more detail about learning plant families and their characteristics, please check out the Thomas J Ephel webpage – Botany in a Day and buy his book Botany in a Day which is a fantastic resource that I use regularly.