FRAGRANT PLANTS: Shows for the Nose Around the Year


Looking for a garden show for your nose? There are a wide variety of fragrant plants that do well here in the Central Valley, providing olfactory pleasure at various times of the year. Besides such sensory stalwarts as gardenias and roses, there are many other aromatic perennials and shrubs that can add a welcome scent to your evening stroll through the yard.


* Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa). The blooms of this perennial tuber, a native of Mexico, will fill your backyard with a heady scent during summer evenings. The grass like leaves can get to three feet tall, with white, tubular flowers clustered at the top. A good choice for containers, the tuberose needs regular water to look its best.

* Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). A popular evergreen twining vine. It's most noted for the fragrance of its small, white flowers this time of year. Can be used against a trellis, or as a spreading ground cover. Does well with afternoon shade and regular water. Be aware that the flowers are very attractive to bees.

* White evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa). Grows about a foot tall and wide. This perennial has fragrant, three-inch white flowers that put on their profuse blooming show during summer evenings.

* Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata 'Grandiflora'). Plant this tender perennial once, and it will survive through a mild winter or come back from seed year after year. This strain grows to about three feet tall, producing tubular-shaped white flowers that are especially fragrant in the evening. Nicotiana needs regular watering. A word of warning: all parts of this plant are poisonous if eaten.

* Banana shrub (Michelia figo). This evergreen shrub has small, yet very fragrant pink/cream flowers during April and May. The evening aroma may remind you of Juicy Fruit gum.

* Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans). The scent of the flowers of this evergreen shrub in spring and early summer will conjure up images of apricots.

* Sweetbox (Sarcococca ruscifolia). An evergreen shrub for shady areas, sweetbox is at its most fragrant during late winter and early spring.

* Winter Daphne (Daphne odora). This evergreen shrub solves two vexing garden problems: a plant that thrives in full shade; and, produces fragrant blooms in December and January.

* Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox). This rangy (10-15 feet high) shrub produces spice-like yellow flowers before it leafs out each winter.

* Don't forget the evergreen shrubs and cool season herbs that can provide an enticing aroma when their leaves are crushed: sweet bay, rosemary, cilantro.