Open a Window and Let the Flowery Fragrance Fly In

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


Close-up of flower

Gardening offers something for all of our senses. We touch the soil and textured plants. We thrill to the sight of varied shapes, colors and forms. We savor delicious foods fresh from the ground. We listen to rustling leaves, buzzing bees and twittering birds. And, of course, we breathe in the fragrance of fresh earth, rotting compost and the captivating scent of aromatic flowers.

Cutting a bouquet is one way to bring that delicious flower perfume indoors – unless you have a cat like mine.  Better yet, delight your olfactory senses by designing your garden so flower essences will simply waft through open windows on warm days and nights. This way you will enjoy your flowers whether indoors or out, and their forage will be available to pollinators for the entire bloom period.


Flowering bush


Choosing which scented plants to position near windows is relatively simple.  Begin by considering function challenges that may not relate to fragrance at all, like  maximizing light in winter, determining whether your site is soggy or dry, and other basic placement concerns. Once these questions are answered, you’re ready to start choosing the right smell for the right window.

When selecting these fragrant plants, be sure to match bloom time to “open window season”. While placing a heavenly-scented winter Daphne outside a bedroom window might sound like a nice idea, it is unlikely that you’ll open your window to smell its February perfume on a snowy day. However, planting an antique, climbing rose like ‘New Dawn Pink’ out that same window may mean continuous rosy fragrance floats through your open bedroom window from late spring until autumn returns and you begin to close your windows against the encroaching cold.

If a shrub is more your style, try planting a fragrant Viburnum near a high window. Viburnum x burkwoodii and V. carlesii, or ‘Korean Spice’, are fantastic choices to place outside the first windows you crack in spring. Their blossoms appear relatively early in the season, but if you’re known to air out the house on a crisp spring day, their highly fragrant flowers will reward you with spicy rich scents. And, of course, there’s lovely lavender, which emits its distinctive fragrance all year ‘round – particularly on warm summer days when our windows are wide open.


Close-up of white flowers


Looking for perennial options? Consider mixing fragrant bulbs like Casablanca lilies with tall Phlox paniculata ‘David’ into your beds with that lavender. Each grows to heights of three to five feet tall and flower in gorgeous whites. The lilies will scent the air from mid-to-late summer, and by leaving them in the garden instead of cutting them for arrangements, you’ll leave that staining orange pollen far from fingers, furniture and favorite clothes.  Later, ‘David’ will bloom prolifically with butterfly-attracting, spicy-sweet aromas from late summer to fall, rarely succumbing to powdery mildews, which often blight other Phlox.

Looking for the perfect plant to amaze your nose once the sun goes down? Try potting up an Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia) to plant near your doorway or on your screened porch. Although this tender shrub is highly toxic, its nocturnal essence is equally intoxicating. A bit less lethal is night-scented tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris). This tall annual brightens the night garden with luminous white flowers and a superb nocturnal bouquet that will gently float through windows and wind its way into your dreams.


Flowering plant


And a final note: avoid planting plants with stinky scents near your windows. While Dracunculus may be stunning to the eye, its carrion odor is best kept near a compost bin or other less-traveled corner of the garden.