Fragrant Perfume for Fall

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


Fragrant Perfume for Fall

This article is the fourth in a series about creating a garden that offers scents for every season.

Fall in my part of the world, Zone 7 in Georgia, is a time to get back to the garden.

Now that the dog days of summer have passed, it’s an ideal time to add new plants to the garden and enjoy the scents and colors of autumn. 

One fall fragrance that I always look forward to is tea olive, Osmanthus fragrans.  This large evergreen shrub, almost a small tree, pumps out sweetly scented flowers for weeks in the autumn and then on and off during spring and summer.  Perfect for an evergreen screen or hedge, it will easily reach heights of  ten to fifteen ft. or even  higher in warmer Zones.

The cultivar ‘Aurantiacus’ has orange flowers and the leaves may be a darker green. There are also other species of Osmanthus with fragrant flowers including O. heterophyllus and O. serrulatus. 

Cercidiphyllum japonicum foliage in late October

A deciduous tree that I appreciate in other people’s gardens and one that I have seen growing in the northeast, Seattle and Atlanta, is katsura,Cercidiphyllum japonicum.

In my experience, you notice the scent, similar to burning sugar or cotton candy, wafting through the air before you actually notice where it is generated from.  I remember arriving at a nursery in Griffin, GA and almost immediately I knew there had to be a katsura close by because of the delicious perfume.  Looking around I realized that all the leaves had already fallen off the tree, and the fragrance was being generated from the carpet of foliage surrounding the tree. There are also dwarf and weeping selections of this elegant tree.  One thing this tree does not like is drought; a moist, well-drained soil is best.   

Hedychium coronarium, butterfly ginger

Hedychium coronarium, butterfly ginger, is a robust plant that fills the air with fragrance when it flowers in early autumn.  With large leaves this exotic looking perennial quickly form large clumps and in no time it can reach heights of 4 to 6 ft. Easy to grow, it will tolerate full sun or part shade.  Site it at the back of the flower border. 

Hamamelis virginiana close up in November

Hamamelis virginiana, common witchhazel, is a native that offers both fragrant flowers and colorful foliage in the autumn, from October to December.  Although the small spidery flowers may be hidden by the foliage, you can still appreciate their perfume. 

For a colorful combination, pair it with Callicarpa americana, beautyberry, which displays masses of striking violet to magenta fruits, making for a striking fall scene. 

Other fall aromas, some more subtle than others, include roses that rebloom and selections of Camellia sasanqua.

When you add fragrant plants to your garden, take time for your own personal sniff test and decide which plants please you with their scents in each season.  When you purchase plants noted for their fragrant flowers make sure you like their perfume before you add them to your landscape.  Think about siting them where you will be best able to appreciate their intoxicating qualities.