Just for the Smell of It: Fragrant Plants for the Garden & Home

Butterfly, Påfågelsöga, Butterfly Bush, SyrenbuddlejaBuddleia [Butterfly Bush] – Invariably, when butterflies swarm around a plant, it is fragrant. Butterflies love the sticky-sweet smell that some flowers have, and I am with them on that. Today, I want to tell you about some of my favorites of my garden’s fragrances. 

Catmint – I have gardened almost all of my life, but before I truly understood it, I dismissed catmint. I didn’t realize that it had beautiful blue flowers–almost like a salvia–and I also failed to realize that cats are not the only creatures who love the fragrance of catnip’s foliage.  Last summer, I added several catnip plants to my garden.  I am eager to see how they fare this season.

Clematis – Sweet Autumn – Last year, I planted Sweet Autumn in my garden. Unlike most of the other Clematis, Sweet Autumn has a tiny flower; but it is big on fragrance.


Daffodil – I have always loved daffodils. When I was a child, I often heard them called Easter flowers. When daffodils push through the winter soil and begin filling my lawn with their signature scent of spring, I am always relieved. To survive winter in the northeast is a challenge, and daffodils are the reward.

Geddes Rd Wa, Gardenia Jasminoides, Flowers

Gardenia – I lived most of my life in Mississippi, and Gardenias are among the things that I miss most about the South. They look like small Magnolia trees, but the scent of the gardenia is much more flowery than that of the magnolia. If you have never smelled a gardenia, don’t waste another summer without it. Buy a ticket to the South–for June.

Honeysuckle, Vine, Flower, Blossom, Bloom, Garden

Honeysuckle – Simple, plain honeysuckle is one of the fragrances that most remind me of my childhood. When I was young, my family had no air conditioner. Instead, there was an attic fan in our house and at night, we slept with the windows open. Honeysuckle was planted on the fences that bordered my yard, and after dark, the scent of honeysuckle was drawn across my room. It rocked me to sleep.


Hyacinth – I have hyacinths planted all along the curving, stone path that leads to my front door. Winter is long and brutal in the northeast and when my hyacinths bloom, I know that spring is trying to begin. Some people think that the smell of hyacinths is too sweet and strong, but to me, their scent is heavenly.


Iris – My grandmother had a large assortment of irises in her garden, and I am fortunate that I still have some bulbs that originated there. Irises are not the earliest spring flower. They are not even the earliest of the fragrant, spring flowers, but unlike other spring bulbs, they do not bloom until winter has definitely disappeared for the year. When I smell irises blooming in my garden, I remember my grandmother and my childhood. Because I know that it is finally safe to begin planting things outside,the iris season is an exciting time for me.


Lavender – Lavender is one of the most fragrant of flowers, and it holds its fragrance even after it has dried. For that reason, lavender, which is considered to be a herb, has long been a favorite for sachets and also for cooking.

Lilac Flowers, Lilac Umbels, Syringa, Spring, Garden

Lilac – I recently wrote a post about the hot, summer, boldly-colored flowers that I love during the summer. As I began to write this post, I realized that spring is a lavender and green season, and oddly, spring flowers have the sweetest smell. Lilacs are among my favorite, sweet-smelling spring flowers.


Lily – The lily in the above photo is called Stargazer, and it is one of the taller and more magnificent of the lilies that grow in my garden. Like many of the other plants named here, lilies have a bold fragrance. Some people find the smell to be too much, but I love my lilies.

Southern Magnolia, Magnolia Grandiflora, Tree, Flower

Magnolia – With its strong, sweet, lily-lemon fragrance, Magnolias are a staple of the Southern garden. The Magnolia is Mississippi’s State Tree.

Syringa Vulgaris, Mock Orange, Flower, Shrub, Close-Up

Mock Orange – When I smelled my first Mock Orange bush, I was an adult in Mississippi. As the name might suggest, the blossoms of Mock Orange have a strong orangeness about them. I love it.


Narcissus – All of the daffodils are from the Narcissus family, but the white narcissus, with the tiny bloom, is the one that I consider to be the true Narcissus. Its fragrance is exquisite. Inside the house, narcissus bulbs can be forced to flower throughout the year, and I often have them blooming at Christmas time. I had not really thought about it before, but during the Christmas holiday, fragrance is one of the gifts that I most cherish.

Peony, Pink, Blossom, Bloom

Peony – My grandmother also had a huge bed of peonies in her garden. Like that of irises, the scent of peonies remind me of my grandmother and home.

Pineapple Sage – With its inconspicuous, red blossoms that sparsely scattered along leggy stalks that are about 4′ tall, Pineapple Sage is a delightful addition for the garden–especially for  an untamed cottage-like garden; and it truly smells like pineapple.


Rose – At one time, most roses had a wonderful fragrance, but later, much of the precious rosy smell of roses was bred out of them. Louise Odier [pictured above] is a rose that has the luscious rosy smell. I plant Antique or Old Garden Roses, and most of them are not only disease-free, but their fragrances are reliable.


Rosemary – Rosemary [potted on the left] is another fragrant herb. Rosemary is often grown to look like a small Christmas tree, and it is one of my favorite holiday decorations during the Christmas season. I enjoy the smell of Rosemary more than I like the way that it looks.

©Jacki Kellum April 7, 2016






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