The other day, my mom told me that when she bought her first house, she immediately planted hyacinth bulbs so she would know when winter was over. That got me thinking about how the plants in her garden became a prominent part of the backdrop at home, the way that gardens sometimes seem like their own characters in literature. My memories of spring and summer growing up are embellished with the scents and colors of the flowers around the house.

There are so many scented flowers and herbs that can liven up a garden. These are just three of many plants that will have your outdoor space smelling like a perfumer’s atelier, along with several ideas for putting these blooms to use outside of the garden.


Anyone who has been to New Orleans in the spring knows the sweet and pungent scent of jasmine. The little white flowers speckle green vines that pour out over garden gates and courtyard walls, making whatever they spill onto look and smell picturesque.

That particular variety is called star jasmine. The vine can grow up to 30 feet tall, so it needs training to attach in the beginning.

Another popular variety is Arabic jasmine or jasmine sambac. Arabic jasmine is a shrub variety, and it can be planted in the ground or as part of a container garden that’s brought inside during the winter. This is the jasmine used for tea, so you take dried blossoms and enjoy tea with the same sweet, floral scent.


Roses are an obvious yet classic addition to any garden or bouquet. There are so many different kinds, ranging in color, size, and scent. Your local greenhouse can help you pick out the best kind from their selection, but your senses will guide you just as well. Just be sure to come prepared with any questions about growing conditions. If you choose the right type for your garden, roses can be hearty and easy to work with.

No room for roses in your garden plan? No problem. Roses can be grown in containers as well, so they’re a great option for adding a sweet scent and a beautiful blossom to a patio or sunroom.

Fertilizing rose plants often will help them bloom big, beautiful flowers. This step will be necessary if you plan to use some of your roses for DIY projects like rosewater or rose-infused oil, both of which allow you to bottle the scent from your own garden.


Once you know the scent of a lilac, you might find yourself crossing the street during your afternoon walks just to get a whiff of the shrub up close. I know I do. Our neighbors growing up had a great wall of tall lilac bushes at the edge of their yard, serving as a well-scented privacy fence. You could smell them from our front porch, but it was even richer when we planted our own on either side of our walkway.

You can find lilacs in up to seven different colors, but the most common is the Syringa vulgaris, which produces the lilac-purple flowers. Lilac shrubs are easy to grow and won’t require much work.

If you want, you can even harvest your lilac blooms for culinary purposes. The flowers are edible and make a beautiful topper for cakes, or you can submerge the entire stem in honey for a month and enjoy your very own lilac-infused honey. Just be sure to leave plenty of blossoms on the bush for bees and butterflies.

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