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For The Garden

The Scented Garden

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: September, 2013, Page 136
Photo courtesy of Monrovia

Aromatic plants for the garden include star jasmine (above)

Desert Gardening 101

When listing characteristics that you want from your next batch of plants, be sure to include fragrance. Many plant options have a floral, fruity or sage aroma that adds a pleasing sensory experience to outdoor living. Desert gardeners can spice things up even more with selections from an eclectic roster of well-adapted plants offering such scents as chocolate, grape bubblegum or popcorn. And all landscapes can benefit from creosote bush’s (Larrea tridentate) refreshing “signature scent,” which permeates the Sonoran Desert after it rains.

With any plant, keep in mind the horticultural maxim of “The Right Plant for the Right Place.” Provide each plant with its preferred sun exposure and soil type. Allow sufficient space vertically and horizontally for plants to reach mature size without unnecessary pruning. Then mix and match from the following options to your heart’s content and your nose’s delight.

Ideas for Siting Fragrant Plants
• Place plants where scents can be enjoyed daily, such as near paths, doors or seating areas. Aromatic foliage releases fragrance each time you brush past it or gently rub it between your fingers. Use options near walkways with “soft” foliage, rather than brittle, to avoid stems that snap off or catch on clothing. Consider damianita, Mexican bush sage, Mexican tarragon, Mt. Lemmon marigold and scented geranium.

• Envelop an outdoor area in fragrance with scented vines clamoring over a ramada. Although most vines that thrive in the low desert have short bloom seasons, they still offer brief periods where you can relax amid a soothing aromatherapy retreat. Try lilac vine (Hardenbergia violacea), jasmine, star jasmine or fragrant climbing roses, such as ‘Don Juan’ (dark-red blooms), ‘The Impressionist’ (orange) and ‘Sombreuil’ (white).

• Add night-blooming cacti, either in the landscape or containers with well-draining potting mix. Their flowers emit intense scents to attract night-time pollinators. Arizona queen of the night (Peniocereus greggii) is especially fragrant. If near an open window, its aroma will carry indoors. However, the plant itself resembles a bland stick. For more attractive choices when not in bloom, consider Argentine giant or Easter lily cacti.

Other Favorites
Chaste (Vitex agnus-castus)
Deciduous fruit (apple, apricot, pear, peach)
Sweet acacia (Acacia farnesiana; syn. A. smallii)
Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundi flora); its wisteria-like flowers smell like grape bubblegum
Shrubs and Perennials
Artemisia (varied options)
Bee brush (Aloysia gratissima)
Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata)
Chaparral sage (Salvia clevelandii)
Desert lavender (Hyptis emoryi)
Mexican blue sage (Salvia chamaedryoides)
Popcorn cassia (Senna didymobotrya)
Tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

Flowers and Herbs for Amended Garden Soil and Pots
Grape hyacinth
Lemon balm
Lemon grass
Lemon verbena
Sweet alyssum
Sweet pea
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