Fragrant Favorites for Summer

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Fragrant Favorites for Summer

This article is the third in a series about fragrant plants for each season.

When I think about plant combinations for each season, I consider not only texture, foliage and blossoms, but scent, too. If a flower is beautiful and it smells good, it gets extra points in my book.  As a young child, I remember the gardenia my grandmother grew in her backyard in South Florida.  Since that time, I have expanded my palette of fragrant plants to include a wide range of types that delight with their intoxicating scents. In my garden today, I grow Gardenia ‘Jubilation,’ in a container, close to my front door so I can appreciate its perfume. This compact selection grows 3 to 4’ tall and wide and offers blooms in spring, summer and fall. At the Atlanta Botanical Garden they have this gardenia trained as a hedge. Beyond its fragrant flowers, it provides an evergreen anchor for the ever changing seasonal display in the same area. 


gardenia hedge jubliation


Several years ago, I sent my brother and his wife some ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies (they were dormant bulbs) for their small city garden in Washington, DC. He planted them in a mixed border next to the steps that lead to their front door, and now when they bloom in July, he gets a whiff of their perfume every time he walks in or out of the house. I grow these lovely white lilies in combination with Phlox paniculata ‘David,’ a mildew resistant variety with large white flowers which are lightly scented, and the fragrant perennial Calamintha nepeta nepeta.  Calamintha is great where you need a filler or transition from one group of colors to another. It looks like a froth of delicate lace, and its strong minty scented white blooms (which take on tints of lavender as they age) attract bees and humans alike.  This carefree beauty thrives in full sun and hot humid weather, flowering from summer until frost. 


Calamintha, lilies and phlox


Even the smallest gardens have space to include at least one nose pleaser such as moonvine, Ipomoea alba. All you need is a vertical structure to train it on, either in the ground or a large pot, and this annual will delight you with its large flowers (up to six inches in diameter) that open at dusk and continue through the night, closing the next day. It also attracts night-flying moths. 

Summer blooming shrubs with fragrant flowers include the popular butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii and its many selections. While the species can easily grow into a large shrub (almost like a small tree at 8 to 10’ tall ) newer introductions offer the same fragrant rewards on plants that are much more manageable (especially where space is limited). Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ (also called Lo & Behold)  is a prolific bloomer with pale blue flowers and reaches 3 to 4’ tall at maturity. 




Among the native shrubs with sweetly scented blooms, Clethra alnifolia, also known as Summersweet  is a good choice for sunny gardens with soils that are moist or even swampy. The selection ‘Ruby Spice’ grows 5’ tall and 3’ wide with flowers that start out ruby-red in bud and open to dark pink. 


clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’