All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

Bookmark this page or add it to your favorites now!
(Reload or refresh each time you visit to get the current week's columns.)

 Tell a friend about Pernell Gerver's Official Web Site 

"Growing Fragrant Plants"

One of the joys of gardening is growing fragrant plants. Of the five senses, the sense of smell is one of the most often used senses in the garden. Click on a plant name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Perhaps the most fragrant plant is the rose. After all, it was Shakespeare who said, "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

One of the most fragrant of all roses is miniature rose 'Seattle Scentsation.' This miniature rose is quite possibly the most fragrant miniature rose there is. Its mauve-pink, hybrid-tea-shaped blossoms have a strong, classic rose fragrance, even when in tight bud. The fragrance lingers once the blooms have faded, making the spent petals good candidates for potpourri. Because it's a miniature rose, it's growing on its own roots, making it inherently hardier than hybrid tea roses. They don't have a bud union which is the most vulnerable part of a rose bush.

The rose may be the most famous fragrant plant, but by choosing a variety of bulbs, perennials, annuals, herbs, shrubs, and house plants noted for their fragrance, it's possible to have fragrance in the garden, both indoors and out, all year long.

A bulb grown for fragrance is lily, which has beautiful flowers. Not all lilies are fragrant, but those that are can knock your socks off. In early spring, many are familiar with the heady fragrance of potted Easter lilies, but there are many other hardy lilies that are grown in the ground and are perennial. Oriental lilies have the most fragrant flowers. They have large flowers that bloom in summer. Oriental lily 'Stargazer' is my favorite . It bears six-inch-wide, rosy-red flowers speckled with dark maroon freckles.

Hosta is a shade-loving perennial mainly grown for its attractive foliage, but one species in particular, Hosta plantaginea 'Grandiflora,' also known as August lily, has delightfully fragrant, long, white, waxy, tubular flowers that bloom in late summer. The fragrance resembles freesia and carries on the breeze. The foliage of this hosta is light green and in addition to shade, it also grows well in sun.


In the annuals category there are many choices. Two of my favorites are white heliotrope and Heliotrope 'Fragrant Delight.'

White heliotrope bears large umbels of fragrant, pure-white flowers atop medium green foliage. The fragrance is sweet and really resembles baby powder! This is the very-fragrant, old-fashioned form I have kept going for years. Use it as bedding plant, in containers, or as a house plant. Heliotrope 'Fragrant Delight' bears large umbels of fragrant, deep purple flowers atop medium green foliage. The fragrance resembles cherry pie on this heliotrope!



When it comes to the home landscape, there are many fragrant shrubs lesser known than lilac which are also fragrant. For summertime fragrance, the shrub called summersweet is one of the top choices. It bears spikes of creamy-white flowers with a wonderful sweet fragrance that really perfumes the garden. The flowers appear in midsummer and continue blooming for up to six weeks. The compact variety 'Hummingbird' fits well in any garden or landscape. The deep, glossy-green foliage turns a brilliant golden yellow in autumn. It grows well in a shady spot in the garden.


Winter-blooming jasmine flowersThere are also many fragrant house plants that add their sweet scents to the indoor garden and there's nothing nicer than enjoying the fragrance of a flower during the dead of winter. One of the most fragrant house plants is winter blooming jasmine. It's a climbing, vining house plant that bears large clusters of very-fragrant flowers. The flowers are pink in bud and open pure white. The fragrant flowers bloom from mid winter to mid spring and their scent really perfumes the air.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Grow asparagus from crowns for earlier harvests"

Q. How do I grow asparagus in my garden? Which is better, seeds or plants? Any information would be very helpful.

A. Asparagus "crowns" (roots of young plants one to two years old) are available in early spring. You can grow asparagus from seed, but it will take a minimum of three years before the first harvest. With crowns, you can begin harvesting the second year. About 10 asparagus crowns produces enough stalks for the average asparagus eater, so plant accordingly.

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that will remain in the garden for years, so it's important to do good soil prep before planting. Work in as much organic matter as possible. The time to plant asparagus is as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Dig a trench a foot wide by about 15 inches deep. Set the excavated soil aside nearby. Fill the trench with about four in