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How to build layers of colour and scent in your garden

Tree heather against blue sky

In my garden I have very few ‘rules’ when it comes to choosing plants, but I do like to be able to smell them, eat them or enjoy their colour. Luckily, that gives me plenty of scope for my beds and borders!

Scented shrubs are sometimes overlooked in garden design, but a delicate play of fragrances remains an important part of my enjoyment. Here are some of the plants and flowers I like to grow for low-maintenance layers of colour or deliciously sweet smell. 

In praise of heather

Pink heather petals in sunlight
Also known as ‘Pink Perfection’ this hardy shrub flowers from late winter to early spring
Image: Heather ‘Darley Dale’ from Suttons

Amongst the more fragrant flowers that I grow are traditional sweet peas, roses, stocks and pinks but one of my favourite scented shrubs has to be tree heather (Erica arborea). When we bought our current house, the owner made us promise to wait until the rather unruly tree heather had flowered before we decided what to do with it. So we dutifully watched and waited as the large green shrub started to sprout white buds. And then it flowered. It looked pretty good, but it was the smell that was truly amazing! A heady mix of almonds and something else that I can’t quite identify.

If you don’t have space for huge specimen plants, there are plenty of smaller (unscented) heathers to fill your garden with a carpet of striking colour. Heather ‘Darley Dale’ is a bushy, evergreen variety that provides excellent ground cover. With pink-tipped new growth in spring, glowing bronze foliage in winter and a blaze of pink flowers from October until May, this easy-to-grow shrub offers sensational colour through the darkest months. Heather ‘White Perfection’ is another beautiful, low-growing option. Its white flowers light up a winter garden and provide valuable nectar for pollinators. I can’t praise heather highly enough!

Three low-maintenance shrubs for beautiful scent

Round daphne shrub with white flowers
Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is an unbeatable shrub for flowers and fragrance
Image: Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ from Suttons

If, like me, you consider scent as an important part of garden design, there are lots of shrubs from which to choose. Plant a selection of these highly-scented shrubs to fill your garden with all-year-round fragrance, even through the coldest months of the year. Try:

Three climbing plants for gorgeous fragrance

Closeup of pink honeysuckle varieties
Honeysuckle ‘Dart’s World’ is a strong growing variety that quickly covers trellis or fences
Image: Honeysuckle ‘Dart’s World’ from Suttons

You can transform the entire feel of a garden by adding climbing flowers. Lending a special sense of intimacy to seating areas and courtyards, adding scent as well as colour is a winning combination. Here are some great options to try:

We hope this has given you plenty of food for thought, and that you’ll add more scented shrubs to your mix of colours, textures, heights and shapes. And heather! Don’t forget this much underrated groundcover shrub for a low maintenance carpet of colour. 

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One thought on “How to build layers of colour and scent in your garden”

  1. Kay Bee says:

    Hello…I have started following your gardening blog because it is very interesting and informative.

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