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Planting for the perfume

The good fortune of having a home garden brings with it, among many other agreeable perks, the superb pleasure of being greeted by bursts of fragrance on strolls through the landscape.

The good fortune of having a home garden brings with it, among many other agreeable perks, the superb pleasure of being greeted by bursts of fragrance on strolls through the landscape.

If you are starting a new garden or contemplating additions to an established one, consider the fragrant plants. Start with areas near most used doors. It's an enchanting thing to open a front or side door in the morning to become immersed in sweet floral perfume.

The door I use almost exclusively is a side door into the carport. For an extended period in early to mid-spring, a winter daphne growing beside the carport envelops me in its heady fragrance early each morning as I venture out to retrieve the delivered Times Colonist. More recently, a long-established Hall's honeysuckle growing behind the daphne has taken over the task of delighting with its distinct perfume.

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance visiting the garden brought along a honeysuckle she had just bought for an arbour near her front door. The variety was 'Peaches and Cream,' a compact honeysuckle suited for growing as a small vine or shrub. I loved the fragrance of the magenta, pink and white flowers. There is an advantage in buying these vines with a few flowers open to check on. Some honeysuckles have gorgeous flowers but little or no scent.

It is possible to have some fragrance in the garden throughout the year. The deciduous viburnum called Pink Dawn bears lightly scented clusters of pink flowers from early autumn through April. Folowing a similar flowering pattern is the evergreen V. tinus, which opens a few clusters of pinkish white flowers sporadically during mild winter weather until it comes into full April bloom.

Spidery yellow Chinese witch hazel flowers in January, along with the shiny-leaved, low-growing evergreen Himalayan sweet box (Sarcococca humilis), whose small, feathery white flowers bless the winter garden with a pervasive scent.

In February and March come the sparkling, vibrantly coloured sweet violets, well worth plucking for tiny bouquets to perfume the house. At the same time, winter daphne begins to flower in pale pink clusters.

Spring brings daffodils, early pinks, Mexican orange blossom with fragrant flowers and foliage, and Korean spice viburnum, whose strong, spicy scent pervades the centre of my back garden in late April and early May.

In late spring there are fragrant wisteria bowers, lilac and the beautifully perfumed swamp azaleas (Viscosum hybrid azaleas).

June is resplendent with popular mock orange shrubs, and the beginning of the rose season.

Then comes summer, awash in glorious scents - a parade of roses and powerfully perfumed Trumpet and Oriental lilies, romantic lavender, carnations and pinks, flowering tobacco, nasturtium, sweet peas, common or poet's jasmine (Jasminum officinale) and the elegant star jasmine (Trachelosperum jasminoides) with perfect pinwheelshaped white blooms.

Let's not forget the herbs. In the summer sun, their scents speak of Mediterranean hillsides, pungent and hinting strongly of exotic, flavourful foods. Thyme and sage (especially purple sage) are reputed to make healing teas. Mint perks up a glass of water or other assorted beverages, and is a naturally fine, fresh-tasting companion for cucumbers, peas and new potatoes.

That's just the tip of the perfumed plant iceberg. What fragrances send you into paroxysms of ecstasy? Primulas, Pansies?


Tranquil baskets. On my regular biking expeditions around the neighbourhood I've noticed a preponderance this year of hanging baskets on a blue and white theme. The common medley is blue lobelia with white Bacopa.

At one home, four baskets hung across the house front. They were impressive. Three of the baskets had a begonia topping the displays, but still the blue-white theme predominated. One day, after admiring these baskets for a while, I brought my camera and rang the doorbell to request a close look and permission to photograph.

The lobelia is a bright blue with a distinct, clear white eye - probably Sapphire Blue, an older variety that is always beautiful. White Bacopa is familiar and highly popular in mixed container plantings. I like the colour combination for its gentle, calming but still impressive effect.


Lavender season. The lavender is at its best at Happy Valley Lavender Farm at 3505 Happy Valley Rd. The farm is open Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with banks of roses to bask in, fields to stroll, display gardens to explore and a vegetable patch to admire. Admission is free. Cutting day will be Sunday, July 29. Check out the website ( for more enticing features at the farm.

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