Fragrant and aromatic plants: Better living through chemistry
by High Country Gardens
What makes some plants fragrant, and others not?
Instinctively, when we see a beautiful flower, we lean over to sniff it hoping for a sweet scent. The natural perfume of plants is an attribute we gardeners are always searching for.
There are two types of scents to be found in plants;
Fragrant flowers and plants are ones that release a scent into the air
Aromatic plants release their scented oils when brushed, bent or crushed
Flowers that release scent often do so to attract pollinators. Many nocturnal blooming plants have strongly scented flowers that attract moths and other night-flying insects. A flower’s color is of no use to pollinators in the dark of night.
Aromatic plants are those that have volatile oils in their leaves and stems. When brushed against or their foliage is bent or crushed, the scents are released. These types of plants are often cultivated for their essential oils. Culinary herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary and lavender are aromatic plants long associated with mankind. These and other aromatic plants use their aromatic oils as a defense against browsing animals, like deer and rabbits. Since plants are rooted in place and can’t run away for protection, they have enlisted the help of chemicals to provide them with some defense. These plants are a great choice for areas where deer and rabbits are a problem.
I've long had a great fondness for fragrant and aromatic plants. Salvia (Sage), Agastache (Hummingbird Mint), Lavandula (Lavender), Berlandiera (Chocolate Flower), Garden Phlox (Phlox), Pansies (Viola) and many others are planted in my gardens to enjoy their scents.
'Blut' is one of the very best cold hardy Ice Plants. With its vigorous growth habit, durable evergreen foliage and summer-long display of deep magenta-red flowers, it is an invaluable groundcover. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Commonly known as Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups, Callirhoe involucrata is a native wildflower that decorates the garden with a summer-long display of bright magenta-pink flowers. A sprawling grower, Callirhoe involucrata's long branches spread out across the ground to create a colorful mat of flowers and foliage. Drought resistant perennial plant (xeric).
Yellow Flowering Texas Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow') is a beautiful, uncommon yellow-flowered form of Texas Red Yucca, a low-water garden favorite. Plant it with other Hesperaloes to create superb bi-colored combinations that are sure to draw hummingbirds to your garden.
Powis Castle is a superb foliage plant with finely textured silver-gray foliage and an attractive mounding habit. Use this plant to accentuate ornamental grasses and other perennials with differently colored foliage. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires (Blue Spires Russian Sage) is the best large growing Russian Sage selection blooming with dark blue flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. Thought to be a hybrid of two species, this plant has amazing vigor and blooms for many months.
Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and tolerance of heavy clay soils. Blooming in late spring with a profusion of flower spikes, it reblooms later in the summer when deadheaded.
Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-behaved variety, meaning it won't reseed and spread.