The Best Shrubs for Fragrance
Shrubs are an essential part of any good garden design. They can be an organic alternative to fencing, used for creating garden rooms to break up large spaces in a large yard, and if chosen wisely the right shrubs can encourage wildlife, providing nectar for bees and butterflies, hiding places for small mammals, nesting areas for birds and good berries for all to nibble. The shrub can make the garden, but fragrant shrubs make the garden even better, involving all the senses.
There are many fragrant shrubs to choose from for your garden, so it can get confusing as to which are the best ones. Every garden is different so here is a list of the top performers both for fragrance and beauty plus functionality.
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
Top of the line in the shrub department is Lilac. This is a deciduous shrub with bright green, heart-shaped leaves and highly fragrant cone-shaped flower clusters. Two or three of these in a vase will perfume an entire house and one bush can perfume not only your yard but the whole neighborhood. They do best in cold winter regions and in slightly alkaline soil on the sandy, dry side, but they are adaptable to other, less ideal soils. These shrubs can grow to be 15-20 feet tall and as wide if allowed but there are smaller cultivars readily available. It makes a wonderful, impenetrable hedge.
Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
This is a deciduous shrub growing in zones 4-8. It can get 10 feet tall with a 20 foot wide spread, but is very slow growing. It gets its name from the somewhat star-shaped flowers. Petals are long, lazily floppy in a stark white. They are the earliest to bloom in late winter or early spring with wonderfully fragrant, profuse blossoms.
This cultivar of the common Azalea has neon bright flowers in bright yellow and orange. You can smell these when in bloom from a mile away. Absolutely a must in the semi-shady, woodland garden.
Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)
Most people think Honeysuckles are only vines but these are great shrubs for a tall backdrop to a garden or for hedging. They explode in sweet-smelling pink or yellow blooms in early spring. They grow about 10-12 feet tall, but it can be tamed to a sedate yet solid barrier 6-8 feet tall. An extremely vigorous grower, it produces loads of bright red berries the birds go nuts for.
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
The dark green, thick and shiny leaves of the Gardenia show off the creamy double blossoms perfectly. Their perfume is incredible. They are hardy only to zone 8 and need summer heat to bloom well. Height varies from 3-8 feet tall depending on cultivar and they require acidic soil which retains moisture, but is also fast draining.
Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
This plant, at 20 feet tall at maturity with a slightly wider spread, can be termed a small multi-stemmed tree or kept trimmed as a smaller shrub. It has tiny greyish green leaves and rather insignificant, tiny, pale yellow flowers. One whiff of their intoxicating perfume, however, will knock you for a loop. It also has inch long thorns—good for protecting small mammals and birds for larger predators– and produces little berries that wildlife crave. Russian Olive tolerates extreme cool, drought, poor soil and blistering summers, so it is tough as can be.
Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)
An evergreen growing between 4-8 feet high with narrow glossy, thick leaves, has wonderfully fragrant, pink to red flowers with paler pink centers. They grow in clusters at the end of branches and bloom late winter or very early spring. A bit fussy to care for, but well worth the trouble.
Now you know what to do. Go out and get yourself at least one of these lovely, fragrant shrubs. One is sure to tickle your fancy and possibly your nose too.