Sunday, September 10, 2017

My New Scented Garden

Hello everyone -- I'm sorry it has been such a long time since I posted. Perhaps I haven't mentioned it before, but I own a small retail shop, and my one full-time employee has been on maternity leave since early July, so I've had to hire temp workers and spend more time there than usual. Additionally, the building in which my store leases space was sold and I've had to find a new space, which I'm preparing to remodel and move into in about a month.

Not to make excuses, but I've been distracted by all this, and unfortunately, my gardens have been somewhat neglected this summer, as has been this blog.

But one bright spot has been my new Scented Garden, which, perhaps because it's right next to my house, I have managed to look after, weeding for a few minutes now and then as I water the new plants. So even if the rest of my gardens don't look great, I can at least post about this one area that I've been enjoying all summer. Here's some background:

BEFORE: Last year, the patio was surrounded by roses (at right), perennials such as phlox and self-seeded hollyhocks, and annuals. This photo looks very pretty, but the rear beds were full of grass and weeds and needed to be re-done. Plus, the seating wasn't working for us -- the couch was placed there temporarily while our front porch was being enclosed into a sunroom, and the cushion always seemed to be damp or dirty. It was time for a re-vamp of the beds, and perhaps a table and chairs at which to have tea and enjoy the garden.

Last winter, I greatly enjoyed thinking about and planning a new garden to surround the patio. I read a number of books about various kinds of gardens and enjoyed considering how they could be achieved here in Iowa:

  • I first thought of making a tropical garden, full of bananas, cannas, potted palm trees and other exotic things that don't grow in Iowa without protection.
  • I also considered making a Mediterranean or Islamic garden, filled with fruit trees and some scented flowers, as well as some kind of water feature in the center.

But then the idea of a Scented Garden began to appeal to me, and I read probably a dozen books about fragrant garden plants. Scented plants are best placed close to the house, where they can be enjoyed the most frequently, and there are many plants of lovely fragrance that I hadn't grown before. So I planned what I would include, started annuals and perennials from seeds, and ordered several plants online to be delivered for spring planting.

Out with the old, in April.

In early March, I dug up most of the roses and moved them to other beds. I also moved a peony, a small patio peach tree and a mock orange tree from other areas to these beds, before they started leafing out.

Then in April, I got down to the real work outside:

  1. I dug out all the remaining perennials (except for two boxwoods and one of the original rose shrubs) and moved them to other beds
  2. Then I painstakingly dug through the soil to remove every last strand of runner grass 
  3. I next installed a plastic edging inside the brick edging to try to keep the grass from growing back into the beds
  4. Lastly, I added a thick layer of leaf compost to improve the soil
  5. By late April and early May, the beds were ready for planting

A clean slate, except for the plants mentioned above (and a few tulips I couldn't bear to dig out just yet!). I also left the grape hyacinths, as they are fragrant.

By mid-May, most of the plants had been planted. The mock orange shrub can be seen leafing out at left, several potted plants that overwintered in my house are on the patio, and I had bought a new table and chairs for the area. 

Here is a list of the many scented plants that I planted:

  • Mock orange Philadelphus 'Innocence' (moved from another part of my gardens)
  • 'Bloomerang' reblooming lilac
  • Rosa 'Sharifa Asma'
  • Rosa 'Jude the Obscure'
  • Rosa 'Golden Celebration' (two divisions that I moved from another location)

  • Dianthus (Pinks) - Fringed 'Rainbow Loveliness', started from seeds
  • heirloom Iris 'Queen of May'
  • heirloom Iris 'Plumeri'
  • Clematis montana 'Mayleen'
  • Chabaud carnations, started from seed
  • thyme
  • lavender
  • Berlandiera lyrata Chocolate Flower (a yellow daisy-like flower smelling of cocoa)

  • Polianthes tuberosa Mexican tuberoses
  • Hymenocallis Spider lilies (these still have not bloomed, and show no signs of doing so)
  • Cosmos atrosanguineus Chocolate cosmos
  • Gladiolus acidanthera Star gladiolus
  • Oriental lilies, pink mixed

  • Mirabilis jalapa Four O'Clocks 'Marbles Mix'
  • Zaluzianskya capensis Night Phlox 'Midnight Candy'
  • Petunia 'Old Fashioned Climbing' (so incredibly fragrant!)
  • Antirrhinum Snapdragons 'Royal Bride' (a white, scented variety)
  • Matthiola longipetala Evening Scented Stocks
  • Malcomia maritima Virginia Stocks 'Spring Sparkle'
  • Sweet Pea 'Cupani's Original'
  • Sweet Pea 'More Scent' (the name doesn't lie!)
  • Centaurea moschata Sweet Sultan 'Imperialis Mix' (sowed directly -- I don't think these ever came up; I'll try them again next year)
  • Nicotiana alata flowering tobacco 'Jasmine' (these were lovely and fragrant at night)
  • Nicotiana sylvestris flowering woodland tobacco (these were humungous plants -- 5 feet tall)
  • Heliotrope 'Fragrant Delight'
  • Basil
  • Lemon basil
  • Helichrysum italicum Curry plant
  • Wave petunias (I've noticed that the dark purple ones are highly scented, while other colors barely have any scent)

Potted tender plants:
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides Star jasmine (I've had this plant for nearly a decade and it's wonderful every summer)
  • Jasminum sambac 'Maid of Orleans' (this everbloomer was in my sunroom all winter and is one of my favorite plants)
  • Mandevilla laxa -- Chilean Jasmine (this was disappointing, as it bloomed only briefly and I could barely smell any scent -- I'll overwinter it in the basement and give it one more try next year)
  • A large orange tree of unknown variety that someone was getting rid of  (it was decadently fragrant in my sunroom in early spring, but has not borne fruit)
  • Calamondin orange tree (I just bought this, and it hasn't bloomed or flowered)
  • Gardenia (a swooningly heavy scent -- acceptable outdoors, but it would be overpowering inside)
  • Lemon verbena (I've had this shrub in a pot for almost five years, and its leaves are strongly lemon-scented when rubbed)

By the end of June, the Scented Garden has begun to fully bloom.

Another view from the opposite corner of the garden.

Sweet peas 'More Scent,' Snapdragon 'Royal Bride' and Old Fashioned Petunias growing on
a thrift store obelisk with Rosa 'Jude the Obscure'.

Ten-week stocks (Matthiola) that I started from seeds inside.

Potted Lemon Verbena, Jasmine sambac and Star Jasmine, all overwintered indoors. All smelled wonderful in July.

Flowering tobacco 'Jasmine' started from seed and planted along the fence. Fragrant at night

Polyanthes tuberosa Mexican tuberoses, dianthus, heliotrope, Curry plant, lavender and snapdragons.

Cosmos atrosanguineus Chocolate cosmos.

Four O'Clocks 'Marbles Mix'
Some leftover 'Naked Ladies' Lycoris squamigera sprouted up among the petunias, Four O'Clocks and patio peach tree.

Not everything that I planted in the Scented Garden grew well or has flowered, but most of the plants have done better than I hoped. My biggest complaint has been the unusual number of Japanese beetles that have devoured most of the rose flowers (but they seem to be fewer in number now, so perhaps I will be able to smell the roses if they bloom in autumn).

I was a bit worried about planting too many different scented plants in one area, that perhaps the scents would clash or be overpowering. But that hasn't been an issue, as they've largely bloomed over different periods or were most highly scented at different times of day or evening.

The overall effect of the garden has been delightful! There have been times when I could smell an intoxicating wave of scent from the old-fashioned vining petunias as I walked across my driveway toward my house. Late in the evening, the Nicotiana flowering tobacco opens its intoxicatingly scented flowers. And the 'More Scent' sweet peas have an innocent, lovely scent and have continued blooming even through the heat of summer here, aided by nightly watering and twice-weekly cutting for scented bouquets. My husband and I have enjoyed drinking our afternoon tea surrounded by scented plants this summer, and we occasionally sit outside here in late evening, especially when friends join us.

I've greatly enjoyed experimenting with growing new kinds of scented plants, and plan to continue trying still more plants and scents next year. I think my Scented Garden has been a wonderful success.

Thanks for reading! I promise I will try to post -- and read your posts -- more regularly as we go into autumn.... -Beth