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.
Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is a European hybrid hyssop known for is vigor, cold hardiness, and adaptability to grow across much of the US. Blue Fortune Hybrid Hyssop's powder blue flower spikes are highly attractive to bees and butterflies.
Flower Kisser™ Coral-Pink Salvia (Sage) has eye-catching non-stop coral-pink flowers, starting in late spring and continuing into the fall. A medium sized woody shrublet that loves poor soils and hot, dry growing conditions.
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).
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.
Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green foliage. A 1999 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Exclusive. Santa Fe is a selected form of Maximilian's Sunflower chosen for its huge, bright yellow daisies that tightly pack the 6 foot tall flowering spike. A tough perennial for difficult growing conditions, it blooms in mid-September. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). A High Country Gardens introduction.
Nepeta 'Select Blue' (Select Blue Catmint) is a fantastic xeric perennial with dramatic lavender-blue flowers and handsome gray-green foliage. A recurrent bloomer, the first flush of flowers comes in late spring, and again later in summer. A long-lived, easily grown perennial, this is an excellent plant for beginners.