Every time I walk by a patch of Garden Phlox, I am brought back to my grandparents backyard, where I am small again and holding an icy glass of milk while swinging my legs on the chair at the little umbrella table on a warm humid summer day, the air perfumed by a massed planting of pink and mauve Phlox. It always makes me a little wistful.
Smell can take you instantly to a time and place more than any other sense. It can cause you to reminisce and create emotions. The smell of Phlox, can take me back in time 40 years and across a continent and it can for a time give me an all too brief visit with my Grandparents.
Here are a few of my favorite fragrant perennials. Place them where you can enjoy them for a spell, close to a window, or a bench or a little umbrella table:
Garden Phlox or Phlox paniculata
There are a number of varieties of this upright perennial. Phlox Davidii is a great one and mildew resistant though I always have a soft spot for the oldfashioned Pink and Mauve varieties of my childhood. Phlox can take full sun to part shade in a moist, humic well drained spot.
They are glorious and exotic and one of my favorites is the tall white Trumpet Lily that always grows too tall in my garden and I always have to stake. But the fragrance is amazing. My Stargazer Lilies are both beautiful and fragrant. Choose your lilies wisely and you`ll have a lovely sweet tropical fragrance as well as a beautifully regal flower. Full sun is best for this perennial. Bulbs and plants can be purchased in Spring and Fall. Plant in well draining soil.
Anise Hyssop – or Agastache varieties
Not only softly fragrant but a favorite of butterflies. Place it where you can brush against it or sit near it. The leaves and flowers smell so wonderfully of licorice. Sun to part shade is best in a very well drained spot.
Cimicifuga varieties - Bugbane
I have Cimicifuga racemosa `Brunette‘ with lovely chocolate burgundy leaves and spikes of white flowers which I`d have to say is the closest I`ve ever come to the Hawaiian Plumeria fragrance in my garden. Part shade is best for this perennial. I have it as a foil to a lovely golden hosta. Well drained, humic soil is best for this perennial.
I have both the Album and the Bevan`s Variety in my garden. This perennial has a lovely warm/sharp/earthy fragrance whenever the leaves are brushed. It is not your typically perfumy smell, but lovely nevertheless. I like to use this mounding evergreen perennial as a kind of living mulch around the feet of my fruit trees. Full sun or part shade is best for this perennial in a well drained, humic soil.
This evergreen perennial likely needs no introduction and is well known for its perfume. Both flowers and leaves are strongly fragrant and the flowers are long lasting and hold their colour when dried. It is a favorite to a large number of native pollinators. It has even been used in recipes. I’ve even tried it in a Lavender Lemonade, it’s not half bad! Lavender needs full sun and very well draining soil.
Beebalm or Monarda
This is the original fragrance and flavoring of Earl Grey tea. Both leaves and blossoms are fragrant, though I find the leaves to be more so. Bees and butterflies love this plant and so do I. A full sun position is best for Beebalm in well drained average soil.
These are a few of my favorite perennials that will always have a place in my garden. If I am outside in my garden in the early evening when the heat is just beginning to lift you may find me somewhere near my favorite perennials and if you do see me lost in thought with a small smile near that patch of Phlox, don’t worry, I’m just visiting with my Grandparents for a tiny bit.