Flowering Shrubs with Great Scent

Clive Mellor, of Charleshurst Farm Nursery in Sussex, with his selection of choice and interesting shrubs that have great scent, including his speciality, Daphne. - 07 March 2020

Shrubs have much to offer in the garden in terms of structure, permanence, foliage and flower. Adding in the benefit of delightful scent makes these plants even more garden worthy. Here are a few of our favourites that we have been growing on our small nursery.

Abelias are quite well know for the evergreen varieties that flower late Summer to Autumn but the lovely deciduous form Abelia monsaniensis 'Bridal Bouquet' flowers perhaps from the end of April to June with rounded heads of pink budded white flowers that are beautifully scented. |This shrub tends to arch and spread, so needs a bit of space to develop.


Abelia monsaniensis 'Bridal Bouquet'

Another group of shrubs well known for scent are Philadelphus ('Mock Orange') and in our own garden we have huge specimens of Philadelphus coronarius that fill the garden with rich orange blossom scent in June. Tthese shrubs are too big for most gardens though, and there are smaller varieties that also offer that delicious scent. One that we grow is called Philadelphus maculatus 'Mexican Jewel' and just one open flower gives enough scent to be noticed from several yards away. The flowers appear from the end of May perhaps through to July, making it longer flowering than most Philadelphus. The growth is long and arching. making an attractive free-standing shrub or this growth can be trained through trellis or a pergola to make the flower even more noticeable.

Coronilla glauca 'Citrina' is more widely grown and rightly so, as the clear yellow pea flowers can be present on the plant for as long as nine months of the year. For me, it is most noticeable in winter and early spring when the flower shows up well when there is little else to compete and the scent is wonderful.This can be quite an untidy shrub if left free standing so loosely trained on a sunny south or west facing wall or fence is ideal.


Coronilla glauca 'Citrina'

We have in our garden a Viburnum x juddii that fills the whole garden with scent in April; also to be recommended are Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora' and Viburnum carlesii 'Diana' (which is red in bud opening soft pink). These scented Viburnum are easy to grow in the garden, thriving even on our heavy clay soil. They are trickier to propagate though, and are normally grafted to achieve strong growing specimens, which does make them more expensive than other Viburnums ( which are easily rooted from cuttings) but they are well deserving of a position in the garden.


Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora'

Heptacodium miconoides ('Seven Son,Star Of Zianzing) is a much more recent introduction to this country, and is quite a vigorous shrub, late flowering between August and October. The panicles of white flowers are profusely borne and carry a delicate scent


Heptacodium miconioides

From a large,deciduous shrub in Heptacodium to a neat,compact,glossy leaved evergreen. Gardenia 'Kleims Hardy' carries the richly scented white flowers of the well known houseplant but with garden suitable hardiness. Grow this plant at the front of a border,in a raised bed or it makes a great plant for pot culture. When grown outside the flowers will start to show quite late, perhaps July, but then will continue to be produced well into late Autumn.


Gardenia 'Kleims Hardy'

Perhaps most spectacularly fragrant of all shrubs are the Daphnes. Daphne bholua starts the Daphne flowering year in January and the scent is truly wonderful. The best known of these is the variety 'Jacqueline Postill' which despite propagation difficulties is becoming much more readily available, but look out for Daphne bholua 'Limpsfield'(which has a deeper purple/pink bud colour and is possibly even better scented) and I am very impressed with newly introduced Daphne bholua 'Mary Rose' which has rich crimson buds opening pink and incidentally we had this variety in flower from the end of January to April last year, much longer than other Daphne bholua varieties. Daphnes do have a reputation of being quite fickle subjects to grow but Daphne bholua and its varieties do have excellent vigour and once established in the ground will normally grow away strongly and last for many years.


Daphne bholua 'Mary Rose'


Daphne bholua 'Limpsfield'

Whilst Daphne bholua and well-known Daphne odora are winter and early spring flowering, there are many Daphnes that start  flowering much later in Spring often with a profuse flowering period in April and May but then repeating in flower later in the growing season. The best of the repeat flowerers is Daphne 'Eternal Fragrance' which is a great plant, strong and easy to grow I would only say that for me this Daphne doesn't have the best fragrance. One that is very eye-catching for both flower and foliage and which also carries a delectable scent is Daphne x burkwoodii 'Somerset Variegated', fairly upright in growth in its early years but becoming more spreading as it matures.


Daphne x burkwoodii 'Somerset Variegated'

Another Daphne that caught my eye and nose last year was Daphne 'Rosy Wave'. This is another Daphne that has Daphne x burkwoodii in its parentage, so has a similar habit, and the soft pink flowers appeared in April/May but then repeated again during the Summer.


Daphne 'Rosy Wave'

There are also many smaller growing Daphne species and varieties that thrive in rock gardens and raised beds. Oone of my favourites is Daphne x rolsdorfii 'Arnold Cilharz', which makes a neat, rounded evergreen shrub maybe eventually eighteen inches in height and spread. It will flower profusely in April/May but repeats well during the Summer too and of course has a great scent.


Daphne x rolsdorfii 'Arnold Cilharz'

Of necessity we grow Daphnes in pots on the nursery but don't be fooled into thinking that Daphnes like being grown in pots; find the right position in the garden and plant out. They like their roots to spread and it can be surprising how quickly they grow once established in the open ground.

One last scented delight I came across when we visited Trellisick garden in Cornwall last September; the path we were on was full of scent and we eventually tracked it down to what might be described as rather an ugly or perhaps bizarre shrub called Colletia paradoxa. The stems of this shrub are covered in very strong thorns in which the heavily scented white flowers are protected, not the most beautiful of plants but if there were a space in the garden the Autumn scent is amazing.

Clive Mellor owns Charleshurst Farm Nursery in West Sussex, specialising in unusual shrubs, small trees and herbaceous plants. Please visit www.charleshurstplants.co.uk for descriptions, pictures and prices of all the plants they grow