Spring is a glory of scents about to fill our worlds: daphne, sweet jasmine, the overpowering florals of hyacinth, or honeyed perfume of wisteria. In spring you become slightly drunk on scent, as well as possibly clogged up with sinus or hay fever.
Having scented plants around you is simple in spring. Summer scents need planning. My favourites are the hybrid musk roses - an old Buff Beauty bush grows on the bank just above our living room. On a warm day you can catch a whiff of it over about a hectare, as the heat draws out the perfume.
If you are looking for a gift for a friend, the pure white hybrid musk Prosperity would be delightfully symbolic and as gloriously scented, hardy, and almost constantly blooming through summer. Ditto 'Pax', in case you need to give a peace offering.
Other scented summer marvels include heliotrope, a low-growing bush or groundcover which needs dappled shade and a warm spot by a wall. It is also stunning in a large hanging basket. Heliotrope's common name is "Cherry Pie", and it's strongly fruit-and-spice scent is irresistible. Gardenias deserve their reputation as a deeply sensuous scent. They do best locally in a courtyard garden, or in pots by the front steps. Gardenias grow to about 1-1.5 metres, in sun or dappled shade, but do need feeding. If you're a gardenia novice, go for "gardenia food" at the garden centre and follow instructions.
Then there is lavender, lavender and even more lavender: lavender blue, dilly dilly, lavender green (there really is a green flowered lavender), lavender rich purple and even white lavender. There are at least 25 lavender species available to gardeners, and far more cultivars, some with scented leaves as well as flowers. Sniff several before you buy. With good planning you can plant lavender varieties that will give you flowers - and perfume - almost all year.
My favourite places to grow lavender are along the garden path, so you release the scent as you brush past, or near the clothesline or some other discrete place where you can lay your underclothes and night dress/bedtime T-shirt over the lavender bush to dry. The scent of lavender on dried clothes is delicate and delicious. I also fill bowls indoors with lavender flowers and scented rose leaves.
But if you want scent this year, and lots of it, you need annuals. Annuals give you a quick result, especially if you feed them twice a week, water every day that it doesn't rain, and guard them from slugs, snails, possums and wallabies.
One of the world's best scented annuals has to be stocks, not the simmering soup bones that are giving up their goodness in my kitchen as I write, but the clove-scented biennials (i.e. they take two years to set seed then die) that are usually grown as annuals. Stock flowers come in white, red, pink, yellow or blue, and make fabulous cut flowers for indoor or bouquets. Stocks are hardy, too - give them sun or dappled shade, but do feed and water them if you want the maximum number and size of flowers.
Old-fashioned ubiquitous alyssum has a gentle honey scent. Sadly, mostly alyssum is mostly grown at ground level, edging your garden bed or sprawling over the rockery.
Counter this by growing hanging baskets of alyssums by the front door, so they waft perfume inside every time anyone goes in and out. Plant alyssum thickly, so they sprawl out over the edges and make a thick, fragrant mound. They are also excellent grown around the edge of pots of fuchsias, aloe vera, or anything else you have decided to grow in a hanging basket. I sometimes grow alyssum between the seedlings in the vegetable garden. Alyssum aren't demanding feeders, but they do attract bees to pollinate your melons and predators to control your pests, as well as being a "live mulch" to inhibit weeds from germinating.
Even the much-maligned petunia comes in perfumed varieties. Sadly, I have absolutely no idea where you can buy the scented kind as seedlings, but hunt the web for seed suppliers and you'll find them.
A glorious show of annuals may need at least a day's gardening work each year: finding them, preparing the bed, planting them, watering and feeding them so they grow fast to give maximum glory. But annuals have evolved and been bred to give one stunning summer of glory - and my word, they make the most of it.
This week I am:
- Discovering that kale eaten only in cold weather and when the leaves are small and tender, not giant and fibrous, tastes delicate and delicious and I have been ignoring a tasty, easily grown winter veg for far too long. But I'm still not going to eat kale in summer.
- Lifting the guards on the young trees so the wallabies can't nibble the newly sprouting tops. We guard our trees till out of wallaby reach, then use the tree guards elsewhere. Easier than fencing - you can never permanently fence out a wallaby.
- Picking the last of the red-stemmed winter rhubarb as the first of the thick green-stemmed rhubarb emerges.
- Turning garden scraps into soup: the last of winter's pumpkin and carrots puréed with broccoli leaves, or going-to-seed parsley leaves or bok choi and similar green veg that are deciding to leap up into bloom.
- Glorying in the first of the yellow daffodils, first the singles and now the fat, globulous doubles that have so many petals the stem can bend or break with the extra weight of water after a rainstorm.
- Pulling out the weeds that only emerge in spring just after you think you have the "ready for summer planting" beds weed-free. Spring weeds are sneaky.
- Putting out traps for European wasps. Ours is a hospitable garden, but these visitors are decidedly unwelcome.