Scented Flower Bed

Creating a scented flower garden

When planning a garden, whether it’s formal, a patio container garden, or a functional back yard, the main considerations are generally shape, texture, color, and blooming times for flowers. Scent often is more of a secondary thought, especially when considering mixing fragrances of different types of plants, flowers, shrubs, vines, and trees.

The RHS Companion to Scented Plants, a new book by Stephen Lacey, is already educating me on the complexities of defining living scents and how they could be combined for the most pleasurable impact. And it’s not just about flowers! It’s true that many plants have aromatic petals but essential oils can also be released from leaves, bark, stamens, and roots. Much like blending an expensive perfume, choosing the right plants and in the right proportion can transform a decently scented garden into an amazing olfactory experience.closeVolume 0% 

Tips on blending the 15 categories of scented flowers and plants when planning your sensory garden. Categories compiled by Stephen Lacey

The sweet and rosy scented Rose Geraniuim

The general rules for blending fragrance

The meat of the book lists of hundreds of types of scented plants and flowers along with photos and descriptions of their growing, blooming, and scent habits. The rest covers everything from choosing scents to last the year round to planning your scented garden and creating fragrant features. The most interesting section for me covers the fifteen generally recognised types of scents in growing plants.

Though my readings I understand that they can be grouped into ‘High Notes’, ‘Middle Notes’, and ‘Base Notes’, in much the same way essential oils are categorised. The general rule for mixing these three types of fragrance in aromatherapy follows blending top notes at 15-25%, middle notes at 30-40%, and base notes at 45-55% of the blend.

Tips on blending the 15 categories of scented flowers and plants when planning your sensory garden. Categories compiled by Stephen Lacey #flowergarden #sensorygarden

Use different scent categories of plants to plan your sensory garden

The 15 Categories of Scented Flowers and Plants

Top Notes

  • Aniseed – black licorice – Fennel, Sweet Cicely, Agastache rugosa, Magnolia salicifolia
  • Exotic – Heavy and tropically sweet – Jasmine, Tobacco Flowers, Trumpet Lily
  • French perfumes – Piercingly sweet and floral – Lily of the Valley, Hyacinths, Cyclamen, Lilacs
  • Honey scents – Deliciously rich and sticky – Crocus chrysanthus, Mahonia aquifolium
  • Rose scents – the varied scents of all roses but also found in some apricots and crab apples
  • Mint and Eucalyptus – rich and piercing – Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Catnip, Elsholzia

Middle Notes

  • Fresh green scents – considered as a misc scent it includes the green scent of parsley and celery
  • Fruit scents – warm and full fruity scent – Evening Primroses, Magnolia, Lemon Thyme
  • Pea scents – sometimes sweet and sometimes musky – Wisteria, Lupins, Acacias, Laburnum
  • Vanilla & Almond – ‘foody’ and not too sweet – Clematis armandii, Heliotrope, some Cherries

Base Notes

  • Camphorous – camphor and pungent – Achilleas, Artemisia, Santolina, Tansy
  • Resinous – turpentine, woodsy, incense – pine, cedarwood, Rosa primula, Balsam poplar buds
  • Spicy – from culinary herbs to curry scented plants – Rosemary, Myrtle, Curry plant, Bay, thyme

The other two categories don’t easily fit into into the categories of high, middle, and base notes:

  • Rogue scents – pleasant but not sweet – Milk of Magnesia, Callistemon pallidus, Rondeletia amoena.
  • Unpleasant scents – plants that obviously smell terrible, whether of rotting meat or cat urine, or something else. Foul smelling plants often make an appearance in planting schemes since some of them look beautiful. Just be aware of the scents of the plants you use and minimise the impact of their fragrance when necessary.