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Top 7 Fragrant Flowers for a Sensory Garden

Gardens delight our senses in many ways – with colors, textures, sounds, and fragrance. But if your garden lacks strong, lovely scents, you’re truly missing out! Adding fragrant flowers instantly elevates the sensory experience.

The sweet perfumes of certain flowers have the power to trigger cherished memories, soothe the soul, and please the nose. Plant a few key blooms, and every gentle breeze will refresh you with nature’s beautiful aromas.

From climbers to perennials, annuals to bulbs, let’s explore the top 7 must-have flowers for a magnificently fragrant and unforgettable sensory garden.

1. Roses

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No fragrant flower list would be complete without roses! These garden queens define floral perfume for many of us. Each rose variety offers its own unique and intoxicating scent profile.

For sensory gardens, choose old garden rose varieties which tend to be the most fragrant. ‘Peggy Martin’ and ‘Heritage’ impart strong rose perfumes with fruity undertones. ‘Jude the Obscure’ is another heavily scented favorite.

You can’t go wrong with classics like ‘Mr. Lincoln’ red roses either. Their strong, traditional rose fragrance is unmistakable.

2. Lilies

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Fragrant flower arrangers covet Oriental, Trumpet and Stargazer lilies specifically for their potent, sweet aromas. These big, showy flowers emit irresistible scents that can positively fill the air.

Plant Oriental lilies like ‘Stargazer’ or ‘Casa Blanca’ for their famously strong, spicy-floral perfumes that many liken to citrus. Trumpet lilies have a musky, lush floral aroma, equally intoxicating.

Just take care when cutting and arranging all lilies, as their pollen can stain. But their fragrance more than makes up for the fuss!

3. Jasmine

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For sheer romance and luxury, few flowers match the intoxicating, rich aroma of Jasmine in bloom. Jasmine vines are a must for sensory gardens!

Grow hardy varieties like Winter Jasmine with its delicate, sweet perfume in very early spring. Confederate Jasmine (“Star Jasmine”) with its strong, addictive aroma performs best in the south.

But for northern gardeners, the prized Poet’s Jasmine, with its lush, intense, spellbinding scent is well worth growing in containers and overwintering indoors.

4. Gardenia

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Prized as a classic florist bloom, gardenias also belong in sensory gardens. Their lush, creamy white blooms emit the most heavenly, dreamy floral fragrance imaginable.

While a challenge in cold climates, heat-loving gardenia shrubs blossom exceptionally well in hot subtropical regions. Keep them in containers in cool northern areas, and bring indoors when flowers appear.

For maximum fragrance, grow highly-scented cultivars like ‘Daisy,’ ‘Mystery,’ or the prolific ‘Veitchii.’ Simply brush the large blossoms to release intoxicating wafts of perfume.

5. Dianthus

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Commonly called “pinks,” fragrant Dianthus flowers have graced cottage gardens for centuries. Low-growing and covered in fringed blossoms of many colors, these plants carry a delightful spicy-floral scent.

For sensory gardens, opt for heirloom Dianthus varieties like Cheddar Pinks, the ruffled English ‘Laced’ pinks, or the clove-scented ‘Crimson Velvet.’

These evergreen perennials bloom for weeks upon weeks, increasing in fragrance and flower power with each passing year. Their spicy tang is endlessly appealing.

6. Hyacinth

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While daffodils hog the spring bloom spotlight, don’t overlook fragrant hyacinths! Easy to grow from bulbs, the hyacinth’s thick, bright flower spikes pack a fragrant punch like few other flowers can.

Plant heirloom varieties like plush ‘Woodstock’ for a rich violet fragrance that scents rooms entirely. Dense, orchid-toned ‘Delft Blue’ hyacinths have a softer scent, but it’s still intoxicating.

For maximum bulb fragrance outdoors, mass hyacinths in an area where breezes will waft the delicious scents around the garden. Intersperse with colorful spring bulbs for an aromatic taste of beauty to come.

7. Sweet Peas

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A true treat for any sensory garden, old-fashioned sweet peas perfume the air with their nostalgic, utterly romantic fragrances. Plus, the more you cut sweet pea bouquets, the more prolifically they bloom and fill your garden with addictive scents.

For serious fragrance, select heirloom sweet pea cultivars like the incredibly potent ‘Matucana’ or bi-colored ‘April in Paris.’ Other Spencers like ‘Mrs. Bernard Jones’ and ‘Almost Black’ also have that classic sweet pea perfume.

Sweet peas need cool spring temps to thrive. Sow seeds in very early spring while the ground is still cool, and treat yourself to one of nature’s most enchanting, memorable botanical perfumes all season long.

Creating a Sensory Garden Oasis

With just a few key plantings of the most fragrant flowers out there, you can transform an ordinary garden into a truly multi-sensory outdoor experience!

Here are some tips for designing and enjoying the ultimate sensory garden oasis:

  • Design drifts and masses of each major fragrant flower, rather than scattering them randomly. Groups create stronger fragrance clouds.
  • Use hardscaping like paths, arbors, and walls that carry and focus scents through your garden.
  • Position fragrant plants near outdoor relaxation areas like benches, decks or patios where they can be savored.
  • On still mornings or evenings, wander slowly through your sensory garden, taking in each distinctive floral perfume.
  • Cut and display highly scented blooms like lilies, gardenia, hyacinth and sweet peas indoors for extra enjoyment.
  • For full immersion, plant each season’s most fragrant offerings so you have floral scents year-round.
  • Engage your other senses fully too – listen to birds, feel flower textures, look at colors and creatures.

Follow your nose to the simple joys only a highly fragrant, sensory flower garden can provide. Sweetly scented blossoms will delight you in purely magical ways.

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