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Brugmansia Scent: A favourite of Alan Titchmarsh's?

Alan Titchmarsh discusses a selection of his preferred perfumed flowers for the garden, of which Brugmansia is highly ranked. Read the article below for more information.

"With roses at the peak of their seasonal crescendo and summer flowers, tubs and hanging baskets poised to take over the starring roles, everything in the garden looks wonderful at the moment. But is it all just eye candy? Summer gardens need scent and if your garden is a tad lacking in the sensory department, there’s still time to do something about it this season.

The “big three” of perfumed gardens are roses, lavender and jasmine. They are the drop-dead gorgeous fragrances that sweep you off your feet – so powerful that you simply can’t miss them. But don’t go for overkill. If they’re all in one spot, you’ll move from fresh air to olfactory overload in the space of just a few steps, so spread them out all round the garden for a gentle transition from one easily recognisable scent to the next.

If you’re a real fragrance fancier, you should also have some pinks in your perfume portfolio – ideally the old-fashioned, clove-scented sort. They can be very hefty en masse, but a few plants in a tub or a well-drained raised bed are enough to spice up your tour of the garden. These elusive collectors’ plants only flower for about six weeks in summer, so make the most of them.

Modern pinks flower all through the summer, but while they certainly have some scent, they don’t have quite the same wow factor. The secret of growing any pinks is to back off on the organic matter, go heavy on the grit and give them all the full sun they can get. 

Don’t turn your nose up at night-scented flowers. If you spend time sitting out in the garden on warm summer evenings after work, it’s well worth growing species that are at their muskiest at dusk. Old-fashioned Nicotiana (tobacco flower) is the classic favourite, but some of the newer varieties have been bred for scent and you may still find trays of plants on sale at the garden centre. If not, try sowing the old faithful, night-scented stocks.

They are very fast growing. Scatter the seeds now into well-prepared soil, where you want them to flower, and you’ll be enjoying the results in about six to eight weeks’ time. You can even sprinkle the seeds in gaps between other plants in containers and they’ll lend their fragrance to un-perfumed flowers.

Out on a warm sheltered patio, Brugmansia (alias datura) is a great plant for evening scent. Not all of them are strongly scented – the orange Brugmansia sanguinea isn’t – but most flowered varieties guarantee a good, haunting waft of aniseed. The scent is strongest in the evenings to attract moths and hummingbirds!

But for a real treat, try night-scented jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum). “What?” I can hear you say. Well, yes, it’s a plant you are more likely to smell than see. It’s the plant that perfumes those magical, hot, still midsummer nights when you’re holidaying round the Mediterranean.

In daylight, it’s on the dull side of disappointing – a fairly uninteresting shrub with ordinary leaves and tubular leaf-green flowers – so grow it just for the fragrance. Stand it under your bedroom window in summer and – like Brugmansia – keep it frost free in winter. 

For more everyday perfume, grow scented-leaf herbs such as rosemary and thyme or eau de cologne mint either side of a sunny path, so that whenever you walk along it, you crush a few leaves and release the fragrant oils. Scented-leaved pelargoniums are also good for pots on your patio, especially if you are the sort to fondle furry leaves as you’re toying with your drink. It’s very therapeutic and won’t do the plants any harm either as long as you don’t overdo it.

You can’t have too much of a good thing, so stock up on scented plants while the going’s good. They’re not to be sniffed at." 

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