Celebrate Your Senses: An Evening Scented Garden
by Carolyn Beale
For those who are new to the pleasure of growing, welcome. My fellow Northern-hemisphere gardeners are celebrating the promise of spring on our doorsteps...
"Before me, may it be delightful.
Behind me, may it be delightful.
Around me, may it be delightful.
Below me, may it be delightful.
Above me, may it be delightful.
All, may it be delightful."
-- Navajo prayer
This is an ideal time to curl up with some full-color seed catalogues (virtual or real) and create your "ideal garden" plan for the year. And don't let small spaces constrict you - there are abundant options for container gardeners as well!
If you're someone who's most often home in the evenings, why wait until the weekend to enjoy a fragrant garden? Consider planting evening scented blossoms to enhance your personal space.
This spring I intend to reinvent my evening scented garden. I'm primarily a container gardener, so I know that the following plants can be grown small-scale on a balcony or patio.
Gardening is quite simple; all it requires is awareness of the plant's soil, temperature, moisture, and light preferences, and then providing as close to ideal conditions as possible. Different varieties of the same plant may have unique preferences, so be sure to double check this information which is readily found on most seed packets (or plant ID tags if you're purchasing plants from a retail nursery.)
Imagine returning home in early evening, relaxing on the deck with a cool drink after an energetic, serendipitously productive day, putting your feet up and inhaling intense, lovely floral notes from your evening scented blooms. It's wonderful!
Here are my "tried and true" picks:
1. Summer Phlox (Phlox peniculate)
Regular watering in a sunny location suits this plant, though it will also tolerate light shade. Prefers northern over southern climes. White, lavender, pink, rose, and red 2-5" blooms, some with a contrasting eye. Plants can grow 3-5' tall and 2' wide, with leaves tapering to a slender point.
Plants do not come true to seed, in other words, when germinating from seed you'll likely end up with a mixed pink/purple combination. Be sure to pinch stem tips to encourage branching, and mulch to keep roots cool. Summer phlox can be susceptible to mildew at the end of bloom season, so check for the mildew-resistant varieties that are available.
2. Common Heliotrope (Heliotrope arborenscens)
This plant, while not specifically an evening scented variety, has a permeating yet very delicate, honey-like fragrance that's often compared to the scent of baby power. White, violet, dark purple or blue flowers grow curved in spikes forming 3 - 4" clusters.
Heliotrope grows wonderfully in containers and can overwinter if moved to a frost-free spot. Plant prefers regular water and full sun in cooler climates, but requires partial shade in warmer areas. Grows 1.5 - 2' high, 1 - 1.5' wide.
3. Evening Scented Stock (Matthiola longipetula bicornis)
This plant grows in erect, neat clumps to approximately one foot high and 9" wide, bearing lance shaped leaves about 3.5" long and lots of small, purplish flowers up to 1" across, powerfully scented with a spicy-sweet perfume. Pick off dead flowers to increase blooms.
Prefers well drained, moist soil and requires at least half the day in sun to thrive. In hot summers and mild winters Evening Scented Stock can be grown as a winter annual.
4. Tobacco Plant (Nicotiana noctiflora)
Though all nicotiana blooms carry a mild scent, this variety is particularly fragrant in the evening, featuring tubular 5-lobed white flowers shaded with purple on the outside, up to 2 " wide and 3-4" long. Plants grow 1 to 2' high.
Prefers a light, rich soil soil kept moist and well-drained. Pinch off dead blooms to encourage regrowth (note that this plant is fuzzy and somewhat clammy when handled, and it self-seeds prolifically when planted in the garden.)
I invite you to let yourself dream. Gather your ideas, plan away, and enjoy both the growing season and the eventual fruits of your labor. An evening scented garden is truly a little piece of heaven on earth!
Bring Spring In!
Fresh, Frugal Ideas! Here are some great ideas for bringing the freshness of spring into your home.