When I open my patio doors and breathe in the delicious scent of my neighbour’s mock orange, with its pretty white flowers cascading conveniently over my garden fence, I know that summer is really here.
The delicious smell of this flowering shrub may only last a couple of weeks but for me it’s one of the most memorable events of summer and there are varieties to suit most gardens, from the golden mock orange Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’, which can be used to light up the back of a mixed border, to the more compact P. ‘Manteau d’Hermine’, which grows to just 75cm (30in), bearing masses of heady cream flowers and ideally planted next to a seating area in a sheltered spot where people can enjoy its scent to the full.
Of course, on the patio you are spoiled for choice with scented plants. Those which will grow happily in containers include night-scented stocks, clove-scented pinks and scented pelargoniums in the Fragrans Group, which have leaves with the aroma of lemon, orange and mint.
Herbs too will provide you with scent as well as flavour, including lemon verbena, Eau de Cologne mint (Mentha x piperita f. citrata), lemon thyme and fragrant rosemary. All these need to be touched to release their fragrance.
Sweet peas will also grow happily in a pot, trained up a wigwam, to give you not only fragrance but plenty of colour as well. Cut the flowers regularly and put a bunch on your patio table or even indoors if you want the scent inside as well. Cutting is essential with sweet peas if you want more flowers to appear throughout the season, as, if you don’t cut them, the flowers will form bean-like pods, which send a message to the plant that flowering is over.
If you’re after low-maintenance scent, pots of lavender will provide you with plenty of fragrance as well as attracting bees, and just need shearing to keep neat immediately after flowering. However, keep heavier scents such as lavender separate from other scented plants as otherwise it will dominate the group.
Plants whose scents will blend together beautifully in the border include lilies, phlox, sweet Williams, nicotiana (tobacco plant), sweet peas and nepeta (catmint).
For optimum fragrance, go for old-fashioned varieties of nicotiana, such as N. alata, which folds up its petals during the day and comes to life only at night. Modern dwarf varieties may look better but they don’t have as much scent.
Similarly, I prefer old-fashioned roses which are in a bed, as I’ve never found that patio roses give as much scent-wise. Among my favourite roses for the border is the David Austin English shrub rose, Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, which bears stunning large, rosette-shaped pink flowers and has an outstanding perfume, as well as strong stems and a neat, compact shape with flowers produced throughout summer. It can be grown as a climber, reaching a height of around 8ft, and will do well combined with clematis.
Of course, there’s also a plethora of scented climbers which are ideal for positioning near a door or pathway, or close to opening windows where their fragrance can be enjoyed from inside too.
Obvious choices include scented honeysuckles, climbing roses and common white jasmine (Jasminum officinale), which can reach 8m (26ft) and produces clusters of simple, white trumpet-shaped flowers from early summer to autumn if planted in well-drained soil in a warm, sheltered spot, ideally on a south-facing wall.