Planting the scents of summer

I surprised a gardener friend the other day with my comment, "I love the fragrance of bearded iris." Although she has grown many perennials, she hadn't spent much time with iris and didn't realize they had a fragrance.

This is probably because you have to get very close to iris to smell them. After lilac, mock orange, and roses, iris are one of my favorite plants for scent.

Did you go out when the apples, cherries, and other fruit trees were in bloom and take a big whiff? Or, when the native bitterbrush or desert peach were blooming, did you stick your nose in and capture their fragrance?

These have a delicate scent that you might miss, if you don't make an effort to notice it.

I only plant roses with a strong fragrance, rather than those that are known for color alone. To me, the perfume of flowers is a critical. I like to cut fresh flowers in spring and early summer so I can bring the color and beauty in and fill our home with the smells of the garden.

Heady colognes can be added to any floral display, inside or out, not only with flowers, but also with leaves, twigs and branches. Geraniums come in many fragrances - lemon, cinnamon, and rose to name a few. There is also a broad selection of scented thyme varieties that release fragrance as they are brushed against, crushed in the hand, or walked on. Dill and other herbs have spicy smells. And of course, there is the wonderful smell of Nevada after a rain - sagebrush and piñon.

However, smells are very subjective. A scent that appeals to one person may repel another. Mums or marigolds are good examples. Some folks can't stand either one. I have to admit, the aromas that skunkbush, sumac and rabbitbrush give off when their stems are broken are not my favorite! But, what about the great scent of cedar leaves and stems?

We gardeners are always improving our landscapes. As you add new plants to your yard, think about adding perfumed plants. Think about smells for the day and the night. Honeysuckle fills the night air with a marvelous fragrance. Plant it near your bedroom window. Try a hardy daphne for a lovely foliage display and fine scent.

Floral scents can be spicy or peppery, sweet, citrusy, aromatic, heavy or exotic. Do some research online, at the library, or at nurseries with your nose and surround your home with the perfumes of nature.

For information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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