Summer scent

Gardening should be about pleasure and what is more enjoyable that catching a waft of lavender the most soporific and aromatic herb of all, or the headily scented lily, or the twining woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum), the scent of which comes alive as evening light falls in order to attract the clumsy moth. Not only will a sensuous perfume sooth your soul and delight our senses, it will also attract the bees and butterflies into your garden.

Aromatics for Full Sun

Aromatic plants produce their own fragrant oil and they use it as a sunscreen to prevent scorching, so anything aromatic or silvery needs full sun. Although drought-tolerant, these plants rely on a deep root system and once established they will never need watering, or feeding. When you plant a silver or aromatic plant however, it must be coached through its first season, so water it regularly. After that it will put down fine roots that go down for two or three feet and you need never water again.

The quintessential aromatic is lavender and there are three basic types on offer. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the hardiest of all and it produces low-growing plants with fine foliage topped by summer flowers that are held on short stems, just above the leaves. It's compact enough for the front of the border, or train it as a low hedge. Good forms include the deep blue 'Hidcote', the highly regarded blue 'Little Lady', the pretty lilac, or 'Munstead'.

Melissa Lilac' which is a stunner, with large flowers in the English lavender mould. If you wish to dry the flowers pick them early, usually in the last week of Wimbledon, otherwise cut back the long faded flowering stems in the autumn leaving the leaf. When it comes to pruning, on young plants prune hard to encourage new bushy growth, but once it is established, prune in April to remove the previous seasons growth, being careful not to cut into older wood.'

The second is known as a lavendin and this hybrid flowers in late summer producing billowing foliage and long stems topped with tapering slender flowers. Named L. x intermedia, make good statement plants but they are not as hardy. Round the plants off every autumn, when flowering becomes ragged, but never cut them back hard. An autumn trim produces rounded plants that have good winter presence. 'Grosso' is the form grown all around Provence for oil production, but the foliage is a fresh-green rather than grey and the purple flowers splay outwards from the foliage. Lavandula × intermedia phenomenal ('Niko') is an exciting new form with beautiful large purple/blue fragrant flowers, supported on sturdy strong stems to reduce the likelihood of them flopping. However the big appeal of this lavender is that if you cut back the fading flowers, it can have another second flush.

Finally the tufted lavenders, with petals that stick out of the top, are the least hardy so they only tolerate being lightly trimmed in May or June, after their first flush of flower. The pink-tufted 'Rocky Road' is particularly lovely, but the most elegant is the Spanish lavender, Lavandula pedunculata subsp. pedunculata, with very long waving petals that constantly shimmy and sway in the slightest breeze.

Tactile Touchables

Having aromatic plants close to a sunny seat can be very soothing because the foliage is within reach of the fingers and a gentle stroke of lavender can be very soothing on a stressful day. Culinary purple sage, Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens', mingles well with all lavenders and in hot summers the purple foliage fades to damson damask, setting off all silvers. From early summer lilac-blue flowers follow which are loved by the bees. Add a thyme or two, a green sage and some chives and they'll be useful in the kitchen as well. The Herb Collections, containing six plants, could be displayed in a galvanised container close to the kitchen door before being planted into the ground in autumn, or planted into a terracotta herb pot for easy picking.

Clove-Scented Beauties

Every garden should aspire to grow a pink, or Dianthus. It is literally the flower (anthos) of Jove because these flowers were used to honour the gods. Dianthus need good drainage and a completely open situation to thrive, plus unpolluted air. Given this (and a yearly trim in August) they will reappear year after year.

Some of the older traditional forms still deliver that wonderfully strong scent with a floral display over many months. Dianthus 'Gran's Favourite' is a gorgeous frilly pink, with swirls of raspberry along the edges of the petals. 'Doris' has soft, pale pink blooms with a reddish middle, and 'Haytor White' is a white-flowering pink of great charm. The word pink used to refer to the crimped edges of the petal, as it was not as well known as a colour until the 17th century. Pinks make excellent cut flowers, particularly when placed in a vase filled with fizzy lemonade, but always snip between the bumpy nodes on the stems.


Every garden contains some shady areas and honeysuckles like to have their feet in good soil in shade, before they scramble into the sun. They take up very little ground room and they can climb trees, or drape themselves over walls, or they can be shaped into pillar shrubs although you will need to provide wire supports. When it comes to scent, it's the rhubarb and custard flowered ones that pack the punch and not the brighter orange and red American species. The latter attract hummingbird pollinators by their bright colour, not scent.

They greyer-leaved 'Graham Thomas', with custard cream flowers, is a softer alternative than the rhubarb-pink forms. 'Belgica' is the first rhubarb and custard form to flower and 'Serotina', a stronger mix of cream and purple-red, is later. Recently there have been some new introductions, compact varieties that will happily grow in smaller spaces or containers. Lonicera periclymenum 'Rhubarb and Custard' is a top performer with masses of rich rhubarb and custard flowers, with a heady scent which is adored by the bees. For yellow and cream highly scented blooms with a compact bushy habit, Lonicera Blond & Beyond (‘Honey Baby’) is ideal for patio pots or even as a low growing informal hedge, or 'Strawberries and Cream' is an amazing new plant flowering from midsummer onwards - a magnet for bees and butterflies. Honeysuckles do take time to establish, but once they feel their feet they deliver and they make an excellent backdrop to roses. They produce bird-friendly red berries and the only maintenance is a trim back after flowering - should you wish to. If you want to plant on a wall, choose a western elevation that will deliver rainfall.

Top Drawer Roses for Scent

Hybrid Musks mingle well with English honeysuckle and they are amongst the most fragrant and healthy. They perform from July onwards, after the main flush of most roses, so they are useful to the gardener. Hybrid Musks are still in the top drawer, despite being bred almost a hundred years ago, but they do need a warm position and they really resent pruning. Hold off on the secateurs, find a sunny position and 'Buff Beauty' will reward you with a profusion of soft apricot flowers displayed against reddish foliage. Or plant the lovely Rosa 'Cornelia' with her generous clusters of fragrant, double, pink-tinted, coppery-apricot blooms making delightful cut flowers. Hybrid musks go on late and cope with poorer soil, having been bred in the relatively dry county of Essex.

Always try to find room for a once and only rose that drips in flower in June, before fading away, because these abundant roses make June glorious in rose time. Repeat-flowering roses tend to eke out their flowers instead, producing good flushes, but they never drip with flower. 'Constance Spry' was David Austin's first rose and named after the great flower arranger and cook who gathered together the best collection of old-fashioned roses in the country at Winkfield Place, now the home of Legoland. 'Constance Spry' can be trained as a climber or grown as a large shrub, and the almost globular flowers are eye catching either way.

Fragrant Shrubs

Certain shrubs flower with the roses and Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile' is one that has a fresh citrus scent. The white flowers have a subtle maroon splash that picks up the colour of pink and purple-pink roses and this compact shrub will only reach man-height. The hint of colour will also prevent this philadelphus it from looking glacial in the summer sun. Trim back one third of the old wood after flowering, to encourage a good shape. Other philadelphus can be either too tall, or too small. This is a Goldilocks' plant and just right!

Several of the smaller-flowered lilacs are also very scented and the scent hovers between lily and rose. Syringa meyeri 'Palibin', a form of Korean lilac, has lavender-pink flowers above green foliage. This tolerant shrub is extremely hardy and flowers reliably, whether in full sun or in slight shade, and the neat foliage is good enough to shine for the rest of the year before colouring up well in autumn. It's slow growing, so an ideal plant for a small garden, or large container, and the scent is all-pervading. If size is an issue, then there is a new breed of dwarf lilacs which are repeat flowering. Perfect for a large patio pot to appreciate the many sweetly scented flowers from mid-spring to mid-autumn. Keep them well watered and fed and they won't disappoint you!

Border Phloxes

Finally don't forget about border phlox, for they provide a meadowsweet scent in July and August. Forms of Phlox paniculata pack the best fragrance and their flowers come in pink, white, lilac and shades of red, often supported by good, green foliage. Clean whites often have fresh-green foliage, such as 'Rembrandt' which has triangular heads of white flowers with a hint of cool-green. 'Mount Fuji', always the last to flower, has tight heads of smaller flowers. The parma- violet 'Franz Schubert' looks and smells sensational in the evening and this is a strong, easy-to-grow variety from Alan Bloom.

Some phlox have colourful eyes and these include 'Alexandra', a disease resistant phlox with hot pink flowers and a white eye, while some phlox display black-toned foliage before they flower. The almost-red 'Starfire' is worth growing for foliage alone. It's a stunner.