Perfume in the Garden

Nick Bailey, a familiar face on Gardener’s World, attracted a sell-out attendance at Ticknall Garden Club’s March meeting. He came to talk about the place of perfumed plants in the garden.

His first task was to explain why plants might have a scent at all. Mainly it is there to attract insects for pollination purposes. However, some plants have scents that can deter insects such as thyme which can even be deadly to humans in large quantities. Leaves on plants in hot countries exude oils that act as sunblock. A breakdown of their chemical compounds can be so complex it would not look out of place on a shampoo label. The leaves of nepeta or catmint reveal sex pheromones attractive to cats.

The variety of scents found in roses illustrated the complexity of the range. Old Rose; traditional Gallicas, Damasks and Albas, single flowering with intense scent. Tea; Graham Thomas bred by David Austin is a typical example. Myrrh; some newer English shrub roses such as Boscobel. Fruit; these have chinensis parentage such as Lady Emma Hamilton. Musk; the smell comes from the stamens not petals as in Rambling Rector.

Interbreeding of these scents has produced a wide range to choose from but these were Nick Bailey’s favourites:-

Desdemona David Austin English Rose A white with pinkish hue and old rose fragrance. Rosa Madame Isaac Pereire A large Bourbon Old Rose, fuschia coloured cup shaped flowers. Lady Hamilton A David Austin English Shrub Rose with orange petals and a fruit scent Chandos Beauty A hybrid Tea repeat flowering with large fragrant peachy, apricot blooms. If one wanted year-round scent with just a few plants, he maintained it was possible with his FAB FOUR!

Sarcococca; an evergreen shrub flowering January to March with tiny intensely fragrant flowers. Can be pruned lightly. Narcissus poeticus recurvus; has flowers from April to May with stems good for cutting. Daphne Eternal Fragrance; a compact new variety flowering May to October suitable for containers. Nemesia confetti; flowers freely from May to December and can be treated as a perennial. However he also had a wider range to offer when he described his selection of ten easy plants for scent as follows:- Daphne odora Jaqui Postill; mainly hardy, upright evergreen tall shrub with pink flowers. Minimal pruning advised. Smell likened to Imperial Leather soap. Lilium regale; very tall lily with white heavily scented trumpet shaped flowers. Protect from slugs until established. The pollen stains and whole plant is poisonous to cats. Lathyrus odoratus matucana; old fashioned highly scented variety with red and purple blooms. Sow early and pinch out three times to bush out. Short stems. Oenothera biennis; free flowering and self-seeding with yellow flowers. Cosmos atrosanguineus; smells of chocolate but some plants not reliable. Nicotiana sylvestris; tall annual with sweet trumpet shaped flowers. Convallaris majalis; a sweet-smelling favourite which he recommended planting with cyclamen hederofolium in dappled shade. Dianthus Bailey’s Celebration; many to choose from but this celebrated his name! Easy to propagate from cuttings. Jasminium Bambara; one of his favourite jasmines but needed protection in winter. Gardenia jasminoides Kleim’s Hoody; not such an overpowering scent as the traditional gardenia and compact and suitable for containers.

With his passion for South Africa, he could not resist adding four of his favourites from the region. All bloomed at night and were white to show up in moonlight. They were fragrant with trumpet shaped blooms to suit the long tongues of moths. They were:- Cestrum nocturnum, Brugmansia suaveolens, Mirabilis jalapa and Zaluzianskya capensis which is a half hardy annual that can easily be grown from seed.

Nick Bailey had proved to be a genuine enthusiast for finding a place for plants with perfume growing in the garden. His practical advice showed it was possible to enjoy their scent the whole year round

The next meeting on April 12th will be Malcolm Dickson from Hooksgreen Herbs talking about Growing and Showing Herbs – and he will be bringing plants to sell..

Pamela Adams
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Pamela Adams

In addition to her many other interests, Pam keeps us up to speed on the activities of the Ticknall Garden Club.

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