The South’s Best Fragrant Plants for Your Garden
The South's love affair with roses continues to evolve. We prize them for their intoxicating fragrance and the myriad shapes, sizes, and colors of their blossoms. But the ways we use them in our gardens have changed. Gone are the days of lining out scores of roses with name tags at the foot of each one like grave markers in a cemetery. What people want now are roses that solve problems, perform functions, combine well with other plants, and don't demand round-the-clock attention.
One day, this plant just might gobble up the South. Though it's extremely vigorous and some types are invasive, people keep planting it in their gardens. They can't resist its lovely white or purple blooms. Each spring, long clusters of pea-shaped flowers hang from trees, arbors, or anything else the vine can reach. If you must plant wisteria, you may want to purchase American wisteria (W. frutescens). This native is not as aggressive as Chinese wisteria (W. sinensis) or Japanese wisteria (W. floribunda). Fragrant American wisteria is native to the South from Virginia to Florida and Texas.
Sweet Autumn Clematis
Tall and vigorous (some would say rampant), sweet autumn clematis produce billowy masses of 1-in.-wide, fragrant, creamy white flowers in late summer and fall. It can be used as a good privacy screen or arbor cover.
The moonflower of moonvine is fast growing and provides quick shade for an arbor, trellis, or fence. It’s luxuriantly clothed in heart-shaped leaves that grow up to 8 inches long. It blooms from early summer until fall, showing off fragrant, 6-inch, funnel-shaped blossoms after sundown and into the night. Flowers also will open on cloudy or dark days.
This super-fragrant perennial looks more like a shrub; it has a bushy habit and will grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. In the Upper South, it should be treated as an annual. Four o'clocks begin to bloom in midsummer and will flower until the first frost. The trumpet-shaped blooms are fuchsia, yellow, or white with variations of shades in between. They open in mid-afternoon and stay open all night. Plant them close to a patio, where you can enjoy their fragrance in the evening.
Oriental Lilies bloom from midsummer to early fall, with big (up to 9-inches), fragrant flowers of white or pink, often spotted with gold and shaded or banded with red. Grow lilies in containers; while they're blooming, you can bring them close to the house for fragrance where you want it.
This classic Southern shrub looks rather ordinary most of the year, but in early summer its pearly white buds unfurl to resemble twirled seashells. Gardenia buds transform into thick, waxy flowers, and the blooms release an intoxicating aroma that can perfume an entire garden. You might have to work a little to keep gardenias insect free, but their wonderful aroma is worth the fuss.
Arranging Flowers with James Farmer
We went behind the scenes with SL Editor-At-Large James Farmer at his Perry, Georgia cottage to talk about his best tips and tricks for holiday entertaining. These simple flower arranging ideas will bring your Christmas decor to the next level.
This native vine appears everywhere across the South yet remains rather inconspicuous until early spring when it bursts forth with bright yellow blooms. Small funnel-shaped flowers team up to produce a sweet perfume. The state flower of South Carolina, jessamine works well in the home landscape to cover fences and climb arbors or other overhead structures. Don't plant near children's play areas, because all parts of the plant are poisonous. It prefers full sun or partial shade. Those set in dense shade will not bloom well.
This evergreen vine is sometimes referred to as star jasmine because of the shape of its white blooms. In summer, the sweet-smelling flowers can be seen encircling mailboxes, trellises, arbors, and fences. The versatile vine also works well as a ground cover. It will grow in sun or shade and performs best in a moist, well-drained soil. Confederate jasmine is not hardy in the Upper South and parts of the Middle South.
So prized for its pervasive floral perfume that it continues to be widely planted regardless of its unpredictable behavior. It can die despite the most attentive care, or flourish with little attention until you invite all your gardening friends over to admire it, at which point it promptly succumbs without warning, just to show you who's in charge. Winter daphne is characterized by nosegay clusters of charming, intensely fragrant flowers that are pink to deep red on the outside, with creamy pink throats that appear at branch ends in winter.
Colorful spring or summer flowers, sweet fragrance, attractiveness to butterflies, and easy care make these shrubs extremely popular. The vast majority of butterfly bushes sold are selections of B. davidii, but many other species are highly ornamental and deserve their fair share of attention. Most types prefer full sun and fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Not browsed by deer. Removing spent flowers extends bloom.
Winter Honeysuckle is a longtime favorite of Southern gardeners, with arching, rather stiff growth to 8 ft. tall and at least as wide. Creamy white, two-lipped flowers bloom in late winter, early spring and are sweetly fragrant but not showy. It can be used as a clipped hedge or a background plant; bring budded branches indoors to bloom.
Native to India and tropical Asia, these old Southern favorites combine handsome foliage with showy, often deliciously fragrant flowers. Rich green, alternate leaves ascend stems growing from stout rhizomes. In late summer or early fall, blossoms in dense spikes open from cones of overlapping bracts at the ends of stalks. Ginger Lilies are evergreen in the Tropical South, deciduous elsewhere. Use them in borders or grow in containers. Southern specialty growers offer dozens of species and selections in heights from 29 ft., in colors ranging from white and cream through pink to red and a host of yellow, orange, and salmon shades.
Southern Magnolias are a characterized by pure white blooms that age to buff. The flowers are large (8 – 10 inches across) and powerfully fragrant. Southern magnolias attract birds. Choose the selection carefully; some classic Southern magnolias may reach 80 feet tall when mature. But others, such as 'Little Gem,' slowly climb to a petite 20 feet. A named selection ensures the characteristics you require.
This evergreen shrub has a rather rigid, sprawling, angular habit. Long, naked shoots, some of them 56 ft. long, tend to skyrocket off in all directions, creating a Medusa-like appearance. Fortunately, these shoots can be pruned away (flower arrangers prize them) to give the shrub a neater look; it also can be sheared into a nice hedge. Small, fragrant, cream-colored blossoms appear in fall.
Wintersweet's spicy-scented blossoms appear on leafless branches in winter or early spring and may last for more than a month if not hit by hard frost. In the Upper South, plant in a sheltered site to prevent frost damage. In all areas, locate plant where its winter fragrance can be enjoyed, such as near an entrance or path or under a bedroom window.