It is hard to imagine a time when taking in the fragrance of spring was more inviting than taking in the latest movie. But, enjoying the heady aromas of flowers bursting forth after a dark and dismal winter used to be high entertainment. Fragrant plants like herbs make gardening a whole lot more exciting.
The herbs chosen for this garden are hardy enough to return each year in Zones 8 through 11 once established giving the garden and the gardener a chance to appreciate the advantage of having aromatic plants in the landscape. Knowing that a plant will return to provide its aromatic essence in the same way year after year is not only comforting but also memorable. These plants all prefer full sun and well drained soil with plenty of moisture through the hot summer months. Water starved plants do not perform well in the garden and their ability to emit fragrance is reduced.
Lemon Verbena is reminiscent of lemon candy, sweet with strong lemon flavor and no sourness. In Zone 8, it looses its leaves each winter and exposes its open airy construction. It is normal for some of the stems to die each winter. New growth both sprouts from the ground and pushes from existing stems.
The small cream colored Lemon Verbena flowers cover the tops of the stems in early autumn. If early winter is mild, the flowers turn a light pink as the days get colder. In warmer zones, Lemon Verbena remains evergreen. In late spring and early summer fresh leaves make a very refreshing iced tea. Leaves can also be dried and stored for winter teas and confections.
Powis Castle Artemisia is fragrant, soft to touch, great to look at and extremely drought tolerant. These clean scented aromatic leaves are perfect for making fresh herbal wreaths. Plants can be left unpruned or shaped to fit most any reasonable space. Because it rarely flowers and, thus, doesn’t need to be dead headed, it stays a tidy bush longer. Plant Powis Castle Artemisia where its silvery luminescence can be enjoyed in the moonlight. Fragrant stems can be brought in the house and used as a natural air freshener.
French Lavender is a unique lavender with a clean fresh scent. Sometimes called everblooming lavender, it is pretty much in bloom from spring until winter. It blooms so much it can be hard to know when to prune it. We prune for shape in the fall. If it is allowed to get too wide the plant looks untidy and grows leggy. Cutting it into a nicely shaped hedge a couple of times a year leaves us with a highly fragrant ornamental landscape lavender. French lavender looks stunning planted near Yellow Lavender, another zone 8 fragrant plant. Rather than tall wispy flower wands, both of these lavenders have short flower stems with thick pineapple shaped flower heads. Each head is adorned with lavender leaves called bracts.
While French Lavender is not usually used in cooking, it is edible and is preferred by some chefs for its unique piney essence.
Few plants are as wonderfully fragrant as scented geraniums. Rober’s Lemon Rose Scented Geranium has a clean fragrance that is a mix between citrus and rose. It grows quite large, about two to three feet tall and three to five feet wide.
Unless you garden in a frost free zone or close to it, Rober’s Lemon Rose Scented Geranium will die back to the ground each year. In our zone 8 it reliably returns each spring and gets wider each year. As the season progresses it becomes a beautiful shrub perfect for lining your driveway or path. Scented Geraniums release their fragrance when rubbed or brushed against. They also release a scent when water splashes on the leaves during a hot day.
Pineapple Sage dies back to the ground each year, but returns larger with more fragrant leaves late in spring, so late that sometimes it is thought lost. Once it breaks dormancy, it grows rapidly and can reach six feet or more depending on conditions. The lipstick red flowers are stunning in early fall and attract hummingbirds. The long tubular flowers can also be used as a fresh garnish in sautés or a colorful confetti-like addition to salads. Even though the leaves have little culinary value, they smell fantastic. Be sure to rub the leaves often to enjoy Pineapple Sage’s unique aroma.
If small little annual bushes come to mind when you hear marigold, you are not alone. That is also not what Tangerine Scented Marigold is. This is a large, perennial southwestern native plant that loves to bloom in the fall and early winter. The fragrant freshness of spring in late autumn is the surprising gift of Tangerine Scented Marigold. This bold bloomer with highly aromatic foliage and hundreds of bright yellow flowers make a stunning display as a stand alone specimen or as a liner for a long garden or driveway.
Additional plants to consider
The plants listed here make excellent additions to this collection. Click through to read more about them or add them to your order.