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Michael Perry's Gardening Blog

Michael Perry's Gardening Blog

Exploring fragrance, April 2012


One of the most exciting things I find about plants is fragrance and how different, varied and surprising it can be…

And, how different a scent can be to different noses can also be quite amusing. I once picked a bunch of special flowers from the trials field so some guys in the office could test them, but they simply thought they smelled of dog… hmm, maybe their sense of smell wasn’t as finely tuned as some of their other senses!

Viola 'Allspice'

However, when we launched our fragrant trailing viola mixture 'Allspice', we actually got a wine expert involved and using his keen nose he was able to pick out the difference fragrances for each colour! They ranged from spring flowers to honey to "garden shed chemicals", apparently!

Our begonia breeding programme can be such a treat during June to July, and as the plants are grown in a glasshouse the fragrance is even more pronounced (the heat releases more of the fragrant compounds of the flower). The pastel colours give citrus fragances; lemony, orange even… and the reds tend to give a cinnamon or clove fragrance. If you have never tried a fragrant begonia, you should try it without delay!

Clematis 'Jan Fopma'

Some interesting fragrances that exist in plants; chocolate, and not just in the well-known chocolate cosmos, but did you know that berlandiera lyrata also has a chocolate scent... I love this one! The yellow daisies are so pretty and it makes a good, wiry filler for the border. And another cocoa-fragranced flower is the little-known clematis 'Jan Fopma', a scrambling variety, great for intermingling with perennials in the border. While we’re getting our taste buds stirring, there are also fragrances of vanilla… fun clematis aromatica is another good scrambler, with gorgeous two-tone flowers throughout the summer.

We mustn’t forget roses, with their traditional fragrance, especially with old English type 'Alan Titchmarsh'... but did you know that tree peonies also have a delightful rose-like fragrance, and not to mention the flamboyant blooms on stout shrubs. People don’t grow tree peonies often, they’re still quite undiscovered, but I have no idea why… my favourite is 'Hai Huang' - I cut some blooms of it for my home last year.

Polianthes tuberose

And, let’s not forget one of the most fragrant bulbs ever, polianthes tuberose… which has been said smells of green tea, with jasmine and citrus undertones.. now that’s just like the description from a wine bottle!

Then, of course, there are those indescribable fragrances that only come from that special plant. Sweet peas are a key case in point….. as are sweet Williams… now how would you describe them??? Sugary, musky, spicy…??? Tickle your palate!

Happy gardening,

Michael Perry, New Product Development Manager, Thompson & Morgan
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