Sweet Sensations: Fragrance

A huge amount of emphasis in gardening is focussed on how plants and hard landscaping can be combined to make a space look good, using colour, form and texture.  However, incorporating features which engage other senses can be equally important in creating a garden which can be enjoyed year round. 

Scent can be incredibly evocative.  At our allotment we have a Blackcurrant bush and the smell which is released by the leaves and fruit when harvesting the currants takes me right back to my childhood and picking fruit at a local farm during the summer holidays. It also adds to the enjoyment of a garden throughout the year.  For example, during the winter when the visual display may be diminished, shrubs such as Sarcococca confusa and Skimmia japonica can deliver a punch to the senses with their sweet smelling fragrance as it drifts on the breeze. In addition, scent is a key factor in attracting pollinating insects and therefore incorporating fragrant plants can be a good way of attracting wildlife into a garden.

In our garden we have Rosemary and Lavender shrubs which provide wonderful fragrance in the summer and are a big hit with bees and other pollinating insects.  However, they aren’t really in the ideal position as they are on the shadier east side of the garden and both prefer full sun.  As such they have grown together into a rather unwieldy blob and I have earmarked them for removal as part of my (now overdue) plans to revisit the planting in the two small beds that we have.

The existing Rosemary and Lavender shrubs

Before I go ahead with that though I did not want to lose the beautiful aromas that these two plants deliver to the garden.  So I have created instead a short row of containers with alternating Rosemary and Lavender.  The idea is to form a kind of small containerised hedge of fragrant planting which is situated next to our garden seating area and can therefore be enjoyed whenever we are outside having a coffee/ beer/ life induced crisis.

Newly potted up Rosemary cutting

The Rosemary plants I have used are cuttings which I took from the existing Rosemary shrub during the Autumn.  Propagating Rosemary by cuttings is a really straightforward way of multiplying your plant supply.  I took a few sprigs around 10cm long, removed the leaves from the bottom 2-3cm, dipped them in some rooting powder and inserted them into a pot of compost.  After a few weeks I checked which of the sprigs had started to form roots and then potted those on into small individual pots before leaving them in the growhouse to do their thing over winter.  By Spring the cuttings had formed a decent network of adventitious roots and it is these that have now been potted up again into the larger ceramic pots depicted.  These were three pots of the same design I already had so adding these ‘new’ plants to the garden has been achieved at the cost of only a few handfuls of compost which probably amounts to pence.

Lavender Pot

For the Lavender element I bought two new small plants from Okells, a local family run garden centre, along with two new ceramic pots.  I chose the turquoise-blue glaze both because I love the colour and because I think it will complement the purple of the Lavender flowers well, while avoiding a clash with the green of the Rosemary pots.  The cultivar is Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ which is a more compact variety and therefore well suited to container growing.  The pots are fairly small but (a) I wanted some which were similar in size to my existing Rosemary pots, and (b) I did not want the plants to look lost in a container of too large a scale at this point.  They can always be upgraded to larger containers in the future.

And here’s the finished product …

A fragrant mini-hedge in the making

I’m looking forward to seeing how these develop over the summer. I have pinched out the tops of the Rosemary to encourage side shoots so hopefully we will end up with a lovely fragrant potted mini-hedge that can be enjoyed by both ourselves and the local bee population.  The advantage of using containers is also that I can always re-locate them or change the composition if I feel the urge.

I think this shows that adding fragrance to your garden or other outdoor space is easy, need not be particularly expensive or require a lot of room.

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