Pretty flowers and bright foliage are nice. They add colour and contrast to any garden. Many folks, in their haste to create the picture perfect view, forget about our other sense, that being the one of smell. If you are going to put shrubs in your garden, why stop at flowers and foliage? Go for the scent. Scents have a calming effect on the human brain, ok, nice scents do anyways. I, for one, wouldn't be very calm catching the scent of, say, a skunk, while relaxing in my garden. Let us talk about just a few of the hardy scented shrubs available to us today.
Mock Orange(pictured above). This wonderfully scented shrub is hardy to Zone 4a. Blooming for me in Zone 5a early to mid July. Mine is growing in full sun, yet there is one on the other side of the village growing in almost full shade. Occasionally, after an unseasonably severe winter, I get a bit of die back, never more than a few branches, which I cut out at ground level.
Lilac. I can't write an article on scented shrubs without including the lilac. Some varieties are hardy to zone 2a. Lilacs prefer full sun and hate wet feet. They bloom on old wood so pruning should be kept to a minimum, or, better yet, not at all. They do tend to send up shoots from the base but these can be easily cut off. My biggest problem with Lilacs is that they bloom so early, end of May-ish, that we have lost the blooms to our last frost, which can be the first week of June. I now throw a sheet over them at night if a frost is being called for.
Clethra alnifolia. Also known as Sweet Pepperbush or Summersweet. Hardy to Zone 4. This native of eastern North America will grow in full sun to partial shade and prefers a rich, moist location. Flowering from mid August onwards, it is showy and highly scented so should be placed in an area where it will be fully appreciated. This shrub blooms on new growth and can be prone to suckering. If planted in hot, dry locations it can be prone to spider mites.
Koreanspice Viburnum(Viburnum carlesii). Hardy to Zone 4a, the scent of this shrub can be detected up to 30 feet away. Adaptable to poor soil and some drought, this viburnum is happeir in moist, well drained soils, full sun or partial shade. In the fall the leaves turn a beautiful deep wine-red. The flowers attract butterflies and later in the season the deep red berries are a favourite of many birds.
Winter Honeysuckle(Lonicera fragrantissima). Hardy to Zone 4a, this fragrant, fast growing shrub will grow in full sun or partial shade. Prefers damp, well drained soil. Unlike it's invasive cousins, this gem is very well behaved, although a bit untidy. Can be pruned in the summer, but looks best with that "wild" hairdo. I have 3 of these along my back fenceline. Although the scent is not overpowering it does make you stop, sniff, and take notice. The birds love the red berries it produces. A word of warning, parts of this plant are poisonous, so best planted out of the way of children and pets.
Burkwood Daphne Although Daphnes have an annoying habit of suddenly dieing, this is one of the easiest of the Daphnes to grow. Full sun or part shade and the root system needs to be mulched well to keep cool. Needs well draining soil. Unfortunately, all parts of this plant are poisonous, so keep well away from curious children and pets. Hardy to Zone 4a, the lovely pink flowers appear in early spring.
The next time you are shopping for shrubs, consider the scent as well as flowers and foliage. Plant them under windows that will be open regularly. Let them grow around your gazebo, porch or deck. Anywhere that you will be, have them there. After a long day of working or weeding, there is nothing more soothing to the human spirit than a nicely scented shrub.
Photo credits go out to bootandall, lantana, growin, equilibrium and Todd_boland.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 15, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)