As I look at one section of my “fragrance garden” it occurs to me that this one area is a good example of maintaining a garden so that you have something going on in all four seasons. Full disclosure: I put “fragrance garden” in quotes because although that’s what I call this part of my landscape, not all of the plants here are sweet smelling. Many of the shrubs and perennials in this area are indeed fragrant, but others have been chosen for color or texture.
Here is about half of the “fragrance garden” – but it probably should be renamed the four-seasons garden.
Let’s start from left to right, looking at the various plants that are in this garden.
The large shrub on the left is an ‘Arnold’s Promise’ witch hazel. This shrub blooms in February and March.
A low winter-flowering plant is also just visible on the far right of this photo. This is dwarf sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) another winter bloomer that is also fragrant. This plant is evergreen, spreading and weed smothering. It loves part or full shade. Why aren’t people planting this more often?
In early spring the Viburnum comes into flower and it too is fragrant.
This area shows how one space in the garden can be used for several seasons of interest by switching out and layering plants. In this section are three peonies with several clumps of daffodils in between. So the bulbs poke up and flower in April and May. The peonies are in bloom in June and they fill this area with foliage until September. But in late summer or early fall I cut the peony foliage to the ground and plant something for fall into winter – this year it was white peacock kale. In previous years I have planted Snow Princess Lobularia.
All of the places in this garden where Sunpatiens, Victoria Salvia, Goldilocks Rocks Bidens and Frosty Knight Lobularia flower now were filled with corn poppies in May and June. Those annual poppies grow over and around the annuals early in the summer. Once the poppies have gone to seed in late-June I pull them out in order to allow the annuals to get more sun.
Actea ‘Brunette’ (aka Cimicifuga ‘Brunette’) has purple foliage from May into August and pinkish-white flowers in late summer and September (also highly fragrant). But it’s also a valuable plant now, in mid-October as the birds are all over the seed-heads every day. This morning I watched several cardinals pick at the seeds. You can’t beat red birds for color in the garden!
This Clethera is a variety called ‘September Beauty.’ I have found that it actually comes into flower in August, but a bit later than most varieties of Clethera. I love this shrub more for the fall color, however, and it’s just starting to show golden hues in mid-October.
There are many other plants in this area as well, but beyond specific varieties what I want to convey is this: a four-seasons garden is made of a combination of plants and the on-going involvements of the gardener. In other words, just planting a wide selection isn’t enough. You need to be willing to cut, cull, trim and plant on an ongoing basis.
Too much work? Let’s think about it. There are few areas of life where you can do something once and have it remain beautiful and functional without your involvement or intervention. Have you ever had a job that you didn’t have to work at after landing the position? Did you have a house that you didn’t have to periodically paint, fix the plumbing, or replace the carpeting? Even in a condo or apartment you need to take notice of what’s going on and call the appropriate people when you need assistance making repairs and changes.
Life takes effort, but the four-season beauty we can create with our labors is worth it.