This time of year in the morning, things in the garden are still a little more leisurely; I usually wait until the sun has peaked through the clouds before I venture out into the misty landscape. In years past there used to be many rainy days in April, which significantly enhances fragrant flowers.

I still have memories from my childhood where a Lilac shrub was grown at my grandmother’s house next to the kitchen window.  As Spring approached the fresh scent blew into the kitchen during Spring cleaning.  It was probably the Syringa vulgaris Common Lilac.  I remember her doing very little maintenance, although it does benefit from regular pruning.  For a different style try the ‘Sensation’ variety has purple blooms with white tips.

Of course, your garden wouldn’t be complete without Lavender!  There are over 450 Lavender varieties and it might seem like a daunting task to choose one but it’s not as complicated as it seems because they all are wonderful.  Lavender is drought tolerant which makes it easy for any landscape and all types do well in full sun.  These shrubs (including dwarf varieties) are a huge attraction for pollinators, butterflies and bees!

English Lavender produces a high-quality oil that is most closely associated with true “lavender” fragrance and used for culinary purposes.  English Lavender is the hardiest (in terms of cold) and can live up to 15 years, whereas French lavender reaches about 5 years.   It is also the most common variety of lavender used for culinary purposes.  English Lavenders have the strongest fragrance, like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ both grow roughly 18-24 inches height.

French Lavender also known as Fringed Lavender, this is most often grown in containers and pruned into topiary shapes.  Lavandula intermedia ‘Provence’ is anintensely fragrant lavender, which makes wonderful cut flowers with long stems. This variety can also be used in cooking to flavor breads, teas or lemonade.

 The English and French are the most common types of lavender homeowners and landscapers’ plant in gardens.  However, Spanish is also an option.  Spanish Lavender is distinguished from other lavenders by its unusual flower blossoms. It produces a rich dark purple pine-cone shaped flowers that have bracts commonly referred to as “rabbit ears.”  It is a great choice for hedging, topiary work and for training as a standard.   Its essential oils can also be harvested for soaps, perfumes and lotions, also used in cooking. ‘Major Avonview’ is a popular variety of Spanish Lavender.

Lilacs and Lavender are two of the most popular fragrances found in a garden, nevertheless, there are more plants to choose from.  Lilacs don’t have much interest year-round but put on a great display in the spring with the big bountiful blooms.  Both of these plants require very little maintenance, so you can enjoy the fragrance without a lot of hassle.

Written by Karen Smith, Lane Forest Products Plant Specialist