Broken glass and scented borders

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag. Yesterday I was in the conservatory that I use as a greenhouse and somehow managed to send myself through its glass door when I was a bit over zealous trying to shut it! After establishing I seemed to have survived this unscathed I realised my poor plants were in for a battering, as our latest gale was now blowing straight through the large hole I had created! Thanks to my very nice husband and father in law (who have spent the whole of their Saturday putting a new glass pane in the door) everything is now back to normal, and my plants will not be getting blown away!


This week was also back to snowy blizzards which put a stop to any outside gardening getting done. Whilst this is getting frustrating I was luckily able to indulge in my other love in life – baking and cake decorating. I might not have been growing any flowers this week but at least I could make sugar paste ones!


Also this week I have been continuing my research into scented shrubs. When you move into a new home in winter you await all the surprises that come up in a garden as the months go on. When we moved house two years ago I remember that first summer smelling the philadelphus mock orange growing at the top of the rockery steps. Ever since I discovered it I have been hooked on fragrant plants. Disappointingly I watched what else came up in the garden and this was one of the only scented shrubs I was to find.

I spent much of last year digging new beds for my cut flowers and the borders largely fended for themselves. This year I want to spend some time developing them and filing them with scented shrubs. When you come to buy flowers from the garden I would love it to be an experience that is enjoyable and memorable. I want the garden to be full of shrubs that smell amazing and make you want to linger for longer. On a personal level I also would love to be able to sit out in the garden on a summer evening, kids in bed, glass of wine and good book enjoying the garden and all its scent.

So my job this winter was to find out which kind of scented shrubs to put in the garden borders.


I had no idea there was such a choice! I think I am finally starting to narrow it down and here are a few of my ideas.

Philadelphus mock orange is a favourite of mine so I have been looking to see what other varieties of this there are to add into other parts of the garden. I like frosty morn and snowbelle which are both quite compact in size and have fragrant white flowers in early summer. I also like  the virginal variety with its double flowers but this is a lot larger in size and I will need to think carefully if there is a space for it in the garden.

I have a syringa vulgaris already in the garden but I am tempted to buy another as it has beautiful panicles of fragrant double flowers early on in the summer.

Some smaller evergreen shrubs that I am thinking about planting are Myrtus communis, otherwise known as myrtle, rhaphiolepsis or indian hawthorn and prostanthera cuneata or the alpine mint bush. Myrtle and the alpine mint bush have white flowers and aromatic leaves. Myrtle also has berries in the autumn. The indian hawthorn has pink flowers with a light fragrance and it and the alpine mint bush will need some protection in the winter.

Convallaria majalis lily of the valley are short with a height up to about 25cm. Their fragrant white flowers would provide great ground cover and eventually would spread providing a carpet of fragrant blooms under other shrubs.

Which choisya to choose is another difficulty. I like them all! Aztec pearl, ternata and white dazzler are full of fragrant white flowers.  Aztec pearl is more compact than ternata which may help with my decision making later!

The shrub daphne transatlantica eternal fragrance appeals as it is so long flowering with its scented flowers that keep coming from spring through to autumn. The grand bleu variety of caryopteris with its aromatic foliage is also longer flowering than other varieties. These two shrubs are compact so finding a spot in the borders for them should be easy.

In the late summer to autumn, shrubs such as clethra delavayii the sweet pepper bush have fragrant flowers. This is a deciduous shrub that likes some partial shade in a border which will suit some sections of my garden.

For winter colour and fragrance I have been looking at sarcococca confusa and hookeriana with their white fragrant flowers from December through to March. I also like viburnum bodnantense dawn with its dark pink flowers on bare stems over winter. Viburnum carlesii with its red buds turning into pink flowers appeals too but it does not flower until spring. Like other shrubs I am looking at I will probably have to make a choice between varieties, as I can’t get carried away and buy them all!

For the front of some of the borders lavender will look good with its compact size and fragrant stems from mid to late summer. I like munstead blue with its purple flowers and little lady with its light blue flowers.

A space has come up against a south facing wall on the house where an old clematis used to grow. I am thinking about jasminum officinale ‘clotted cream’ for this spot, but it does need winter protection and I am unsure if it will survive a Scottish winter. I think its worth a try though with its larger cream flowers with reputedly more fragrance than other varieties.

These are just a few of the fragrant shrubs that I have come across and liked, that I have been thinking of for my garden this year. I would love to know your thoughts on what I have chosen and what your favourite fragrant shrub would be?


10 thoughts on “Broken glass and scented borders

  1. What a delightful post about fragrant plants you have a list of some wonderful plants. Can you squeeze in a honeysuckle? I would include Pittosporum tobira, but you will need a sheltered spot.


    1. Thank you croftgarden for following my blog and for your suggestions. What a good idea to add a pittosporum tobira. I had not thought of that, but will add it to my growing list of shrubs to buy!


  2. You have been doing your homework! I know and approve of all of those! In actual fact, I think I grow all of those species, just different varieties. It’s good to see you have considered different times of the year. To have scent all year round has to be the aim! And you have also taken into account different heights, forms and foliage, with a mix of deciduous and evergreens for interest. I could bombard you with many more suggestions, but that would just confuse the issue. I would like to propose one, if I may. Consider Pittosporum tenuifolium, as well. It has tiny, somewhat insignificant, chocolate coloured flowers in April, with a strong honey scent. But what may be an added bonus for you are the delicate small wavy edged leaves, sometimes subtly variegated, on black stems, which are perfect for flower arrangements, which, I believe, is your main interest. Good luck – I’m looking forward to watching the progress! My favourite? Well, I can’t be without Sarcococca, and Philadelphus is just to die for, and of course I couldn’t be without the aromatic scent of lavender, and……….! 🙂


  3. Hello Ali, thanks for your suggestion about pittosporum tenuifolium! I admit I had overlooked pittosporums completely. There are just so many lovely shrubs. Now I just have to try and not get too carried away shopping!


  4. You have already got a lovely long list! I have a philadelphus that barely smells at all, so be careful when you choose another variety as it may not have much fragrance. Not strictly a shrub, but wonderful for scent in early summer, is the elder, Sambucus nigra. I personally wouldn’t choose the cultivated ones with pink flowers as the fragrance is not as intense. I think it is my favourite scent after the peonies. Oh yes, a peony would be another plant for your list!


    1. Hello Cathy. Thanks for the advice about philadelphus varieties. I am still trying to work out 18 months on after moving what some shrubs are in the garden. This winter I have been looking up one in particular that has grown a bit out of control and I think It might be a sambucus nigra ‘gerda’. I want to hard prune it to get it back to a reasonable size but that may mean losing all the flowers this year? Peonies are gorgeous. As they only flower for a couple of weeks and are relatively expensive I hadn’t thought to buy them but if they take a few years to establish and are that lovely maybe I should reconsider! Catherine

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have peonies flowering for 4-6 weeks, and they were all divisions from a friend’s plants! They flowered the first year after transplanting too, contrary to what everyone says. If you stick with the old established cultivars they are worth investing in. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You didn’t mention the shrub honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima which flowers from November to May with the best perfume you’ve ever smelt! the shrub isn’t pretty in summer but is ideal to grow a clematis through once it is established.


    1. Lonicera fragrantissima is the only cutting that survived from my old garden when we moved house. I have planted it here and it has grown to about 4 feet with leaves. It has not flowered yet so it wasn’t one I mentioned among the scented shrubs. I am wondering if it takes a few years for it to flower when you grow from cuttings?


      1. No, I think they flower very quickly. Maybe it doesn’t like where it is planted. Mine is flowering better after all the rain last year although it is quite drought tolerant in shade.


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