Summertime in our gardens, whenever it comes, should be the ultimate outdoor sensory retreat.
The wonderful long evenings on the deck or patio should be the antidote to the stress we all feel during our busy days. The big question is can our decks, patios and gardens meet the challenge?
Summer colour and how we blend analogous tones together is very important, but fragrance is perhaps the most important when it comes to creating that sensory refill.
Ironically, most of the colour with which we surround ourselves has little perfume. It’s time to add the fragrance!
As easy as it sounds, finding lasting perfume is a more of a challenge than most of us think. Finding plants that will accommodate sun or shade, be compatible with other plants and continue to perfume all summer is possible, but we all need to think out of the ‘flower box’ just a little.
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) is one of the most universal of all summer blooming plants. However, not all heliotropes are created equal. Some of the new varieties are far more compact, but have little perfume.
The very best is still the ‘nameless’ old fashioned variety that has that lingering scent of baby powder. It’s versatile enough to be used in hanging baskets, containers or in bed plantings. It will, as most heliotrope varieties, do well in shade or sun.
If you need it to be more compact and well behaved, simply pinch it back a few times. My second favourite variety is ‘Sachet’. It is a very dark foliaged variety with fragrant deep lavender-purple blooms. Its rich dark foliage provides wonderful contrast with pink, white or silver flowers and with other foliage.
‘Blue Marine’, another compact dark foliaged variety, produces fragrant deep blue flowers about 10cm across and grows only 25cm (10 inches) tall and wide. Like ‘Sachet’, it’s a rich deep contrast plant to other colours.
White heliotrope provides slightly less perfume, but its white flowers add a very different look to planters and ground beds. The blues will always be my favourite, but in the right situation, the old fashioned white varieties can provide quite a classy look.
When folks ask for a flowering shrub that blooms all summer with a nice perfume, one plant leaps to mind – the Butterfly Bush or buddleia. Some species can be invasive but the great news is there are now many new varieties that are sterile and do not pose this very important environmental concern.
Another under-used plant for our patios is lavender. You need a hot sunny spot with very good drainage and a trained sense not to overwater! The fragrance of lavender is so nice to enjoy all year round, even to brush up against or simply rub your hands over the foliage.
When they flower with the blue, lavender, pink or white flowers, they put on quite a show.
Rosemary is another summer patio and garden plant that is not used nearly enough in summer planters and garden beds. Like lavender, it needs a very sunny, well drained soil.
If you do a little searching, you’ll discover many other plants that have a delightful summer perfume, like fragrant hostas, dwarf ‘Honey Baby’ honeysuckle, perfumed roses, clethra (Summersweet) and summer blooming Jasminum officinale and so many more wonderful garden jewels.
Fragrance makes a huge difference to the enjoyment and appreciation of our summer garden and to our senses.