Summertime in our gardens 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 it together is very important, but fragrance is, perhaps, the most important when it comes to creating that sensory refill. Ironically, most of the colours with which we surround ourselves have little perfume. So, it’s time to add the fragrance!
Plants to Add Summer Fragrance
As easy as it sounds, finding lasting perfume is 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 in the Fraser Valley is possible, but we all need to think out of the ‘flower box’ just a little.
When folks ask for a flowering shrub that blooms all summer with a nice perfume, one plant leaps ahead of all others—the butterfly bush (buddleia). Native to China, Japan and other parts of Asia, as well as Chile, Mexico and the USA, there are at least seven different species, all unique in their own ways. The greatest challenge for many species is their invasive nature, and in many regions of North America, including British Columbia, Oregon and Washington, gardeners have been encouraged not to plant them. Now, however, many new varieties are sterile and do not pose this very important environmental concern!
A few years ago, Proven Winners introduced very compact varieties that do well in containers, such as Buddleia x ‘Blue Chip’ from the ‘Lo & Behold’ series, the first miniature (24-30’’ or 61-76 cm) sterile variety, and the new white ‘Ice Chip’. Hardy to zone 5, both require little pruning or deadheading and bloom or rebloom all summer until frost. Lo & Behold ‘Pink Micro Chip’ also adds a nice perfume to our gardens and patios all summer and, of course, attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds. Proven Winners’ ‘Miss Molly’, a vibrant hot magenta, grows vigorously to about five feet tall and wide. And the newest ‘hot’ buddleias are Proven Winners ‘Pugsters’. They’re short, have big blooms and butterflies swarm all over them!
One of the most under-used plants 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 nice to enjoy all-year-round, even to brush up against or simply rub your hands over the foliage, and their blue, lavender, pink or white flowers put on quite a show. Today, there are a number of lavender varieties from which to choose. The hardiest are the angustifolias, particularly ‘Munstead’ and ‘Sweet Romance’ (zone 5) with their very compact habits.
My favourite lavender, however, is Spanish lavender (L. stoechas), especially the many ‘Anouk’ varieties. Their soft, lavender to rich purple, perfumed blooms are so prolific they just keep coming all summer long and, with a little pruning, even into the fall. They are a little more tender (zone 6), so they need winter protection to make it through the coldest parts of winter. Their flowers are huge and tend to bounce around in the wind like huge purple bumblebees.
Other Plants to Add Summer Fragrance
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 to keep looking great and growing well. Lemon-scented foliage plants, like lemon verbena and lemon balm, are wonderful additions to the sensory herb garden, too! Pineapple sage has exceptionally fragrant foliage, but you do have to rub it gently to be able to really smell it.
If you do a little searching, you’ll discover many more garden jewels that have a delightful summer perfume, like incredibly fragrant Oriental lilies, hostas, perfumed roses, clethra (Summersweet) and summer-blooming jasmine (Jasminum officinale).