Award Winning Aromatic Plants


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I recently was involved in the exhibition of a show garden at the 2006 “Garden Heaven” exhibition. I worked along with Terra Garden Ireland based in Claregalway on the bronze medal winning Malaysian themed garden “Neo Nusantara”. The garden combined wood, stone, earth and planting with two unique water features. The design aimed to appease and rejuvenate the five senses. Sight, touch, sound, smell and taste. Beautiful dark woods and running water used in the construction were a delight to the senses of sight, touch and sound. I used carefully selected planting to arouse the sense of smell. Here are two of the plants I used to add scent to the garden. Use them to add scent to your garden as well.

Sage, for scent and flower

Salvia x sylvestris “Mainacht” commonly known as May night sage is a hardy perennial native to Western Asia and Europe. This sage is a colourful plant with indigo-blue flower spikes throughout June and July. In order to achieve this prolonged flowering you must remove the flower spikes as soon they start to fade. The striking flowers are held above the plants wrinkled and aromatic grey-green leaves. As well as exciting the gardener’s sense of smell, this plant will also excite and attract plenty of butterflies and bees. These visitors will add an extra and welcome visual element to your garden. You need not worry that Salvia x sylvestris “Mainacht” is going to engulf or overpower you planting areas. It only grows at a moderate pace to height of 60cm (2ft), with a similar spread. Position this reliable perennial in the front or middle of a well-drained border. It does really well in sun or dappled shade where the bright blue flowers will add a colour boost to green leaved plants.

English lavender for scent and butterflies

The second scented plant is Lavandula angustifolia “Hidcote” commonly known as English lavender. This small evergreen shrub (some people say herb) originated in Europe and Asia and grows to a height of 0.6 metres (2ft); with a similar spread. Growing in many gardens throughout the country, its long stalked deep purple flower spikes wave gently above narrow grey-green aromatic leaves. These blooms will last for many weeks to come whilst on the plant, when cut for indoor display these flowers will last up to 10 days. I suggest you cut back the flower stalks after flowering to maintain the plant's compact shape. Care must be taken not to cut into old wood as this can cause large areas of the plant to die back. The oil of lavender extracted from this frost hardy shrub is used to this day in the production of soaps, scented candles, perfumes and making potpourri. Lavender copes well with free draining or sandy soils and is an ideal container plant in full sun due to its drought resistance. I would recommend this scented plant for edging walkways or simply if you want to attract some butterflies into your garden space. Another great lavender for this purpose is Lavandula angustifolia “Munstead”

James Kilkelly is a freelance horticulturalist and garden writer for four Irish regional newspapers. His forum, offers you free access to an incredible wealth of horticultural information specific to Ireland. He also regularly posts his expert advice to a gardening community at


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