The ‘Invisible’ Garden of Scent

In places with gentle winters, Zones 7 and warmer, Mr. Druse said, “true jasmines and their impostors would be obvious candidates.” Possibilities include winter jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum), star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides, in Zone 8) and Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens).

Many gardeners grow culinary herbs, some of which — the mints and rosemary, for instance — offer the extra delight of scent when brushed against. A group of pots positioned within reach, somewhere you pass many times a day, is an ideal way to incorporate such touch-me plants, even where there is no garden space.

Mr. Druse makes room, front and center, for some herbal-scented plants aren’t intended for the kitchen — like patchouli, anise hyssop (Agastache) and bee balm (Monarda).

The pelargoniums, or scented geraniums, were his gateway to fragrance. “Scented geraniums helped get me hooked on gardening as a teenager,” he said. As with many of his favorites, their leaves have to be rubbed to release the aromatic oils, which mimic sharp lemon, rose, peppermint, nutmeg and even coconut.

Besides being the best match for native pollinators and other beneficial insects, many native plants offer scent for the gardener to enjoy. A few Mr. Druse suggests considering: the scented foliage of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum); prairie dropseed grass (Sporobolus heterolepis), with late-summer and fall flowers that smell like popcorn or cilantro; and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), whose foliage and fruits bear the scent.

The flowers of perennial black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) are honey-scented; milkweed’s are “thick and syrupy,” he said.

Some of his favorite native shrubs include that Calycanthus of his guessing game; Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), which smells like honey; fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), with a scent of honey and vanilla; various deciduous azaleas (Rhododendron species); and moisture-loving summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), like clove with vanilla.

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