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Front Garden Project, Year 2: The Fragrant Garden

October 22, 2016

fragrant garden bonesMy original plan for year 2 of my front garden project was to design, prepare the soil, and plant both the Side Slope and the Fragrant Garden. (See Update on the Front Garden Project for a diagram of the various planned garden areas.) During the winter, as I worked on the design for the Side Slope and came to terms with just how big that area is and how many months it would take, I scaled back my plans, deciding that I would try to get most of the soil prepared for the Fragrant Garden this fall, but would design the planting over the winter and put plants in next spring.

My plans changed again in late August, when I learned that my favorite nursery would be closing at the end of the season (see Bittersweet Best Wishes). As a result, when I completed the Side Slope at the end of August (see The Side Slope: Mission Accomplished), I went to work double-time not only on  preparing the soil for the Fragrant Garden, but also on designing the planting. The goal was to get as many of the plants as possible in the ground by early October.

The Fragrant Garden is an area roughly 19’ x 10’ at the front of my new addition, sitting under the big master bedroom window. My vision for this garden is that it will be filled from early summer until fall with fragrant flowers whose scent will waft through open windows into my bedroom on summer nights. image

I had been making lists of plant possibilities for months, so I quickly put together a planting design (above) as I worked on preparing the soil in September. This will be a mixed planting of shrubs (mock orange and roses), perennials (lavender, dianthus, peonies, daylilies, oriental lilies, phlox) and annuals (night-scented stock, sweet peas, moonflower).  The lavender here are Lavandula augustifolia  ‘Hidcote,’ which is also growing along the lavender walk to the right of this planting (in front of the deck). As far as I’m concerned, any fragrant garden needs roses and peonies. I have not grown any of the annuals included here before, but they are all highly recommended for fragrant gardens.

Some might be surprised to see daylilies in this planting (except that I love daylilies and  grow them in almost all my garden areas Winking smile ), but the daylilies in this planting are all varieties with wonderful fragrance. They include two clumps of a nocturnal, fragrant pass-along daylily that I’m pretty sure is the fragrant species, Hemerocallis citrina. The other four daylilies are cultivars from the Barth breeding program. The Barths (father Joseph and son Nick) are Maine daylily breeders who were breeding for fragrance during the years that other breeders were working on ruffles, doubling, and picotees. Each grouping of three daylilies will include the midseason-blooming H. citrina, one early-midseason variety, and one late-midseason variety.

I knew that this planting needed some kind of focal point that would work both for those looking out the window from inside and those viewing it from the walkway on the outside. I would have loved one of those big Lunaform  urns, but they are way out of my budget. I considered getting a big pot of some kind from a favorite local potter, but I found nothing there that would work well. There was a big pot that had the mass and the strong colors I wanted for this space, but it would need to be brought inside for the winter and is too heavy for me to lift and carry by myself. I also considered some birdbaths they had that come apart into two pieces and are easier to move, but the only two available were both in colors too muted to work well in this location. I finally decided that a better (and more affordable) option would be a cluster of three bright blue gazing balls set on stands at different heights in the center of the flower bed. I’ve included several divisions of the groundcover geranium G. x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ to go underneath the gazing balls. I have an infinite supply of this geranium, it has wonderfully aromatic foliage, and it will form a dense mat of low-growing foliage that will keep weeds from growing.

Because this garden area is level and consisted mostly of loose, sandy backfill where few plants had seeded themselves since the construction, the process of amending the soil went much more quickly than it had on the Side Slope. Within a month after I began, the soil was ready for plants, and most went in the ground the first week in October. The Casablanca lily bulbs were added last week, after they arrived as part of my bulb order from Fedco. Roses, phlox, annuals, and one daylily that wasn’t available this fall will be added in the spring.

fragrant garden planted

I’m pleased to have made so much progress on my front garden this year. Next year, I hope to add a small rain garden to the left of this planting (where the downspout carries rain down from the roof) and then move on to the lower garden. By this time next year, my new front garden should be more than half done.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen Bear permalink
    October 23, 2016 9:04 am

    Wonderful. It will be fun to see it as it fills in. I love reading your blogs.

    • October 30, 2016 8:42 pm

      Thanks, Ellen. I’m looking forward to seeing how this shapes up in the next year or two. It is exciting to have the upper part of my new front garden pretty much completed.

  2. October 23, 2016 9:31 am

    I can’t wait to see all the blooms next year! I hope your garden lives up to every dream you have for it!

    • October 30, 2016 8:44 pm

      Ann, I think there are always both serendipitous pleasures and some disappointments in any new planting, but the experience of a new garden revealing itself is part of the fun.

  3. October 23, 2016 4:07 pm

    Hello Jean, I can’t wait to see this fragrant fill out. As this border is right under your bedroom window, you can try night-scented plants such as evening primrose and Nicotianas, which start to release their perfume when you appreciate it the most. I drooled over the Lunaform urns but they are way outside my budget also (by a zero). I still have my “one-a-year” allowance for terracotta pots from the local Garden Centre though.

    • October 30, 2016 8:48 pm

      Sunil, That extra zero is what keeps me from considering a Lunaform urn, too. I saw one installed in a grove of pine trees at the edge of a garden and it was stunning. Thanks for the plant suggestions. Most of the daylilies in this planting, along with the night-scented stocks and the moonflower, are nocturnal. I had no idea there were fragrant evening primrose (our native species are not noticeably so).

  4. October 23, 2016 11:08 pm

    I’m impressed by your adaptability and diligence, as well as your skill in locating most of the plants you wanted. I look forward to seeing the results in flower next year. I wish I could smell them too!

    • October 30, 2016 8:51 pm

      Kris, Some of the roses may be a challenge to locate, but most of the other plants were chosen because they are available from local nurseries. It is too bad that there is no way to convent scent via the internet. 😉

  5. October 24, 2016 4:29 am

    Nice to see the planting plan. I am currently doing a design for an area of our garden but it is currently on the drawing board

    • October 30, 2016 8:54 pm

      Steve, I have lousy spatial reasoning, so I never plant anything without first creating a plan. Typically, I make lists of plants and then start trying to imagine a layout for them, and then I get it down to scale on a planting plan. Of course, the plans almost always have to be adjusted to reality on the ground when it’s time to plant.

  6. October 24, 2016 6:21 pm

    coming on my leaps and bounds.
    Jasmine too tender for your climate?

    • October 30, 2016 8:56 pm

      Diana, It is exciting to see this shaping up. Jasmine is definitely too tender for my climate. In the United States, fragrant jasmines are mostly plants for the warm south.

  7. October 25, 2016 8:21 am

    It’s a lot of fun to start a new garden from scratch, and I am impressed by your careful planning and design. It is something I aspire to, but always fall short in the construction. Your garden will will look so wonderful in the spring which is the benefit of starting in the fall. I am very glad to hear there are fragrant daylilies. I had no idea.

    • October 30, 2016 9:00 pm

      Pat, I think all the fragrant daylilies might be descendants of the fragrant species, H. citrina. The most famous of the fragrant cultivars is ‘Hyperion,’ which has been around since the 1920s, but there are many others. Most are yellow, like H. citrina, but the Barth cultivars include some fragrant pinks, oranges, and reds.

  8. October 27, 2016 2:25 pm

    Your fragrant garden sounds like it will be wonderful. If only I could stick my nose in some time! Have you ever considered Clove Currant or Korean Spice Viburnum?

    • October 30, 2016 9:06 pm

      Hi Jason, Thanks for the suggestions. Alas, the genus Ribes is banned in most of Maine, because it is the alternate host for white pine blister rust, and white pines are a critical economic resource in Maine’s forest products industry. I grew one of the fragrant viburnums in my Pennsylvania garden and loved its scent, but they bloom too early to have windows open during the night here. I’m limiting this planting to flowers that bloom during those months of summer and very early fall when overnight temperatures are mostly above 50F.

  9. March 17, 2017 3:29 pm

    Hi Jean,
    I’m so excited to see the result of your garden plans.Daylilies are lovely;)


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