The Q&A Archives: Fragrant Poolside Plants

Question: I would like to have fragrant, tropical, specimen plants around my veranda and pool to last through most of the year. I am in zone 9. The exposure would be North however with mostly full sun. The summers in Sacramento are hot and dry (100 degrees days, 60 degrees nights about 35% humidity). The winters can get down to the high 20s, although this winter in did not even hit 32 degrees more than once. My veranda is not covered however it is fairly protected from the wind since my home is an

Answer: Your growing season is basically from April through October which is probably when you'll spend the most time out of doors. Not many tropical plants will tolerate the hot summers in Sacramento, even when protected from afternoon sunshine, but you can plant Musa (banana), Bird-of-Paradise and palms for that tropical look. Smaller shrubs that are hardy to our area can bring you much more aromatic bang for your buck. The gas plant ? an unfortunate name ? also known as dictamnus albus ?Purpureus?, produces aromatic oils are very fragrant on a hot summer night. The foliage is lemon-scented, but often irritating to the skin, so take care in selecting its location. This shrub grows up to 3 feet tall, blooms in early summer, and will tolerate sun and part shade, making it an excellent plant for next to the patio, along with Queen of the Prairie (filipendula rubra). Plant these next to ?white forsythia? (abeliophyllum distichum) that blooms in early spring for continuous fragrance. In early summer, some mock orange (philadelphus) shrubs are so heavy-laden with perfumed white flowers, that the branches will droop gracefully.

Along a flagstone path, or in areas that get just a little foot traffic, consider planting the spaces between the stone with ?walk-upon? plants. Many of these sturdy little plants are quite fragrant when you step on them. Nepeta, or catmint, is a particular favorite. Plants that release a scent when you brush by them, such as lavender, are also good for edging a pathway.

Lavender and rosemary are great in the garden but also perform well in urns or planters on a patio. Planting aromatic plants in large pots and grouping them in accordance with their bloom time will provide fragrance throughout the whole summer. Oregano and mint are very fragrant, but hard to eradicate once they get into the garden, so pots are an excellent option for them.

Create a display of plants that are either continuous bloom, or bloom at different times, provide you with color and an ever-changing fragrance mix. Dianthus (mid-summer), dwarf marigold, and nicotiana, form a steady scented source of colur, and aromatic artemisia, with its pretty silver-grey color, creates a striking contrast.

Vines in your lounging area are another great way to surround yourself with scent. Consider a trellis against the wall, or an arbor over the seating area, planted with several fragrant clematis. Different varieties bloom beginning in late spring through to fall, to provide constant color and a lovely bouquet. Several honeysuckle varieties are also deliciously scented, but need a bit of support.

Hope these suggestions help you plan your scented garden.

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