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Fill your life with delicious scents

Explore the allure of fragrant flowers, from Port Wine Magnolia to Roses, discover the serenity scents bring to your garden & life.

Delicious scents make life happy, even if you don’t realise their subliminal power. The smell of fresh bread, soup simmering on the stove, that joyful smell of a baby’s head, the aroma of trees growing and bark and leaves turning back into the soil in the bush … they can revive you, heal you and add a sense of quiet joy.

The best way to surround yourself with good scents is to grow them in your garden, at least one strong fragrance for each season, with others to add subtlety and background. The choice of plants will depend on your climate, space and sinuses.

Port wine magnolia

This is an insignificant shrub with almost unnoticeable bloom until spring arrives and you suddenly meet their scent. Plant it in full sun or dappled shade where it doesn’t matter if it’s not flagrantly beautiful, but where the perfume will delight you.


Gardenia needs exactly the right spot. Feed your gardenias well. In cold climates grow them in a warm sheltered courtyard and they will be stunning, giving scent and bright white blooms all summer.

Oriental lilies

Choose the most perfumed varieties you can find. Look for “strongly scented” on the label or catalogue. In case you want see more on catalogues, check that page. Be sure to feed at least twice a year or give slow-release fertiliser every spring. They love moist soil, so some watering is essential. Their perfume in a vase is too strong for some people, but beautifully diluted outdoors.


Frangipani are happiest as subtropical plants but will thrive in cooler sheltered spots out of strong wind. Make sure your frangipani gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.

Frangipani grow superbly in large containers, though they will slowly grow to about six metres wide in the garden. Don’t over-water or over-feed; they can tolerate a lot of neglect. If a frangipani branch looks spongy in cold weather, it’s beginning to rot. Prune it off fast to save the rest of the tree.


Common jasmine ( Jasminum officinale) is a weed, so try Chinese star jasmine instead or a tree jasmine bush for an almost equal scent.


Grow the rose you fall in love with. Spend an hour or two sniffing in the garden centre. Any hybrid musk, like Buff Beauty will be wonderful, but my favourites are Papa Meilland, Souvenir de la Malmaison and Mr Lincoln. You may prefer fruitier scents, and you will find roses that have exactly the one you want from the thousands available.

Chocolate cosmos

Chocolate cosmos is a perennial, unlike the common fast-growing cosmos. It will die in heavy frost. Try
a patio pot as it releases its delicious perfume at dusk, just when you are coming home from work.

Ginger lilies

These need good soil and plenty of water. In return you have a lush scent so thick you can almost float on it all through late summer.

Freshly cut grass

Freshly mown lawn is one of the world’s best scents, beaten only by the smell of a hot garden after
a rainstorm.

Gaze around your garden to see where you can add scents: plant a hedge of rosemary, line the garden path with neat English lavender, fill crevices with low- growing honey-scented alyssum, plant daphne on well-drained slopes so you can give away nosegays. Look for scented varieties of camellia — they do exist. Learn the honey scent of bottlebrushes, loved by humans as well as birds and bees. Fill moist spots with miniature-leaved Corsican mint, a total joy to sit on, and refresh yourself on a hot day while drinking something cool like iced mint tea.

So much of our modern-day life smells of air- air-conditioning, concrete, bitumen and cars. Fill your garden with scents and enjoy the sense of tranquillity and quiet joy that comes with them.

Article featured in WellBeing 208

Jackie French

Jackie French

Jackie French is a gardener, ecologist, honorary wombat, 2014-2015 Australian Children's laureate, 2015 Senior Australian of the year and passionate believer in the need for all humans to feel part of the earth around them, by understanding the plants that sustain us.

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