Popular Flower Types
Seeds, fertilizer, varieties, spring, fall
Daisy-like daffodils symbolize new beginnings and are a perfect addition to your garden. Teleflora offers the Dancing in Daisies bouquet and the Sunny Day Pitcher of Cheer arrangement that showcase these yellow and bi-color daffodils alongside tulips, alstroemeria, and hyacinths.
Today’s photo gallery features images related to the column’s main topic, the fragrance of flowers. The photos show a few of the favored fragrant plants in my garden without listing them as “must-have” fragrant plants.
We often see lists of plants with appealing aromas. Such could provide ideas for planning additions to your garden, but there exists a great range of floral fragrances, so each gardener can have his or her own list of most liked fragrant plants, based on individual experiences. Your experiences might be memories from past years, recent visits to other gardens, or, ideally, contacts with plants in your own garden.
Let’s explore how and why flowers are fragrant.
Flowering plants rely on pollinators for their propagation, so the first priority for floral fragrance is to attract bees, butterflies, moths, or birds to transfer pollen from one flower’s anthers (the male part of the plant) to another flower’s stigma (the female part), for fertilization. This transfer usually occurs between plants of the same species; when it occurs between different but compatible species, it could initiate a natural hybrid plant.
To attract pollinators, the blossoms produce volatile organic compounds with scents that are characteristic of the particular plant. The scents are released into the air as signals to attract pollinators.
This process has interesting variations to attract pollinators of a particular species. Numerous symbiotic relationships exist between flowering plants and their pollinators. Entomologist Doyle Tallamy has addressed the link between native plant species and native wildlife, emphasizing that native insects cannot, or will not, eat alien plants. For more on this topic, read his book, “Bringing Nature “ or “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to ConservationThat Starts in Your Yard.”
Some plants emit fragrances designed for pollinators that feed on pollen at specific times of day or a specific season of the year. For example, Yucca spp. blossoms have a nocturnal fragrance that attracts the California Yucca Moth (Tageticula maculata). Night-blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) has a strong fragrance that attracts moths, which are nocturnal pollinators.
Many blossoms have a fragrance that is particularly pleasing to humans. Examples are provided by the photos in today’s column.
While this fragrance encourages gardeners to acquire and propagate these plants, the plant does not have a botanical goal for promoting human interest. The fragrance characteristic does encourage plant breeders, particularly hybridizers, to cultivate and market the aesthetic and aromatic qualities of the plant, to encourage purchases by gardeners.
Some plants use their fragrance as a defense mechanism against herbivores, particularly insects. Examples include the Marigold (Tagetes spp.), which has a pungent odor that serves as a pest repellent, and that many gardeners find objectional. Chrysanthemum spp. also has a scent that repels insects, making it a natural pest control in the garden. Gardeners enjoy the appearance of the plant’s blossoms, while not favoring their scent.
Other examples: Wild Tobacco (Nicotiana attenuate) produces a toxic scent and Euphorbia spp. has a milky sap with an unpleasant odor. Both plants’ fragrances deter herbivores. The sap of Euphorbia species, e.g., the Crown of Thorns (E. milii) is also toxic to humans.
Selected fragrant species
Roses are highly regarded for their fragrance. While modern rose hybrids are developed for the color and longevity of their blossoms as well as their scent, and transitional heirloom varieties are favored for their fragrance. The fragrance of roses derives from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including geraniol, citronellol, and phenylethyl. The VOCs generate scents over a wide range: from fruity and citrusy to spicy and even musky. Roses with stronger fragrances have notes of tea, myrrh, or honey.
Common Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) have a nostalgic fragrance that can raise memories of spring. The scent of lilac blossoms comes from compounds like lilac aldehydes and lilac alcohols. The fragrance is affected by weather and growing conditions: it’s best on a spring morning after a cool night. The Syrunga genus has 12 currently recognized species that are uncommon in residential gardens and have fragrances related to that of the Common Lilac. One species, the Himalayan Lilac (S.emodi) reportedly is “unpleasantly scented.”
Lavenders (Lavandula spp.) are widely appreciated for their floral and herbaceous aroma in the garden, and as cut flowers or dried blossoms in various forms. English Lavender (L. angustifolia) is known for its superior fragrance; other species also have pleasing scents although with different profiles. The genus’s fragrance comes from its high content of essential oils, including linalool and linalyl acetate.
Landscaping for fragrance
While some plants could fill the garden with their fragrances and can be detected from afar by pollinators, most are appreciated by gardeners at fairly close distances. As you develop your garden, consider locating your favored fragrant plants in areas that you pass by often.
In my garden, I have a cluster of Common Lilacs flanking my driveway, where I park my car. They support a pleasant experience as I arrive or depart, but only during spring’s bloom season. I matched that landscape design with a cluster of Winter Daphnes (Daphne odora) on the other side of the parking area, but those plants have a relatively short life span. I need to update the design plan.
Include fragrant plants in your garden, for pollinators and yourself!
Mark your garden calendar
The Monterey Bay Area Cactus and Succulent Society is preparing its 2023 Fall Show and Sale, to be held in September on Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th, in Watsonville. This event is a fine opportunity to add cacti and succulents to your garden, and to see dozens of outstanding plants exhibited by members of the Society. Details to follow in a future column.
Tom Karwin is a past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and the Monterey Bay Iris Society, a past president and Lifetime Member of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). He is now a board member of the Santa Cruz Hostel Society, and active with the Pacific Horticultural Society. To view photos from his garden, https://www.facebook.com/ongardeningcom-566511763375123/ . For garden coaching info and an archive of On Gardening columns, visit ongardening.com for earlier columns or visit www.santacruzsentinel.com/ and search for “Karwin” for more recent columns. Email comments or questions to email@example.com.