Engaging sense of smell
Bringing beautiful scent into the garden can provide just as much pleasure as sight and sound. This article shares key things to think about when creating a scented garden.
  • Getting closer to beautifully scented plants can provide the motivation to get out into the garden
  • Certain scents can have a positive effect on mental wellbeing, helping us feel calmer and happier
  • The fragrance of some plants can trigger memories and feelings, sparking conversation and connection
Roses in a flower bed
Roses in a flower bed

There are many reasons why you might want to create a more scented garden. Including fragrant plants in your garden may help and support you, or others, to spend more time in it.

You can welcome scent into your garden whether you have a huge or tiny space. Many plants will grow happily in containers or in a small bed. You could also create scent inside through your choice of houseplants.

I have increased the number of plants that have a strong scent, for example: Royal Spanish jasmine; orange blossom, hyacinths, narcissus... and I have sweet peas in my vegetable patch.

Jean, blind gardener

Smells are an intensely personal experience and can trigger a range of memories and feelings. At Thrive, we often use scent to support the work we do in social and therapeutic horticulture. A scented garden can be enjoyable for anyone. But, it can be particularly valuable if you have sight loss or to support those with dementia.

Enjoy exploring the options you have and trust what you like. Catching the scent of a favourite plant on the breeze and connecting to the happiness it brings can be a wonderful experience.

Important advice

Plants that are strongly scented may be a trigger for some conditions like asthma. If any plants cause you irritation, you could replace them. Or, if possible, move them further away from your house.

A buddleja stem with vivid purple flowers
Summer flowering buddleja

It's always a good idea to choose plants you like for your garden. This is just as true with scented plants. Growing a plant you don’t like the smell of may upset the balance of your space.

Plants can have very different types of scent. They could be floral, sweet, musky or earthy. You may, for example, find you have a preference for the muted smell of shrubs and find sweet scents too much. Or, you may love intense floral scents.

Think about what you want from your garden. Do you want a calming or stimulating space? Stronger smelling plants can be good at stimulating, while softer smells can be calming. Again, it also depends on your personal feeling about different scents.

Bee on lavendar Charlie Garner 2019 3
A bee on lavendar

The number and position of scented plants is important. Having lots of different scented plants may create too intense an effect. When thinking about where you place scented plants, consider:

  • How close one scented plant is to a different scent (do they need to be further apart?)
  • How the wind might move the scents around the space

You could create small areas of scent in your garden for different purposes. You could have one area that creates calm and peace and another area that stimulates.

Less is often more when it comes to scent. Try and group together smells that work to support each other. If you have a sheltered area of the garden, growing scented plants here can help contain the fragrance. If you are including scented plants in a large border, position smaller scented plants at the front so you can enjoy them as you pass.

The wonderful thing about gardens is that they can be ever-changing. You don’t need to decide everything now and stick to it. If something isn't quite working, you can always change it.

Daphne 2814611 1280
Daphne in bloom. Photo credit - Pixabay

Spring and summer may be thought of as the key seasons scent. But, it is possible to plan a garden that produces fragrance throughout the year.

Lavender, for example, is scented all year round. The scent is strongest, though, when it is in full bloom.

There are plenty of beautifully scented winter shrubs. If you are growing these, you may want to place them close to a door or window so you can enjoy their scent from indoors.

Herbs are great for scent and can be grown in the smallest of spaces. From thyme and sage to basil and mint, you can find all the fragrances you like. You could grow them in your home, or around your back door.

Winter jasmine
Winter jasmine

Here are a few of our recommendations for scented plants and flowers throughout the year:

Winter Flowering

  • Daphne
  • Witch Hazel
  • Viburnum
  • Winter Jasmine
  • Honeysuckle 'Winter Beauty'

Spring Flowering

  • Magnolia
  • Clematis
  • Wisteria
  • White Forsythia

Summer Flowering

  • Buddleja
  • Pyracantha
  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender

Autumn Flowering

  • Evening Primrose
  • Late flowering Lilac
  • Autumn flowering Camellia

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