Garden Detective: Choosing scented plants

Catmint (Nepeta). "Walker's Low," a catmint variety, attracts

Catmint (Nepeta). "Walker's Low," a catmint variety, attracts bees and butterflies, but is otherwise pest and disease resistant and doesn't require more than average soil and full sun. It will even tolerate a bit of shade, preferring well-drained soil and neutral pH. (Credit: Steven Still)

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more

bio | email | twitter

What do you love most about your garden? If you're like most people, your instinctual knee-jerk response probably involves the layout, design, drifts of color, curb appeal and the overall happiness it adds to your daily life. But what about fragrance? Research has shown that scent can influence our emotions, stress levels and feelings of well-being. Can you imagine roses or honeysuckle without it? And it's not just flowers that can have us inhaling deeply: Plants with fragrant foliage, like the scented geranium and catmint that line my walkway, also release intoxicating scents when I brush past them as I walk by.

Aromatherapy -- a form of alternative medicine that uses essential oils derived directly from plants -- depends upon the effect that scent has on human physical, emotional and mental health. So instead of using plants you like and enjoying their scents incidentally, why not plant specifically to indulge in their aromas?

The National Garden Bureau suggests using fragrant plants in areas around your home that get frequent foot traffic or those near outdoor seating areas, and recommends planting a south-facing garden because longer, stronger sun exposure can stimulate the release of additional scents from your plants.

Here's the NGB's list of recommended scented garden plants:

Annuals

Heliotrope

Nicotiana

Petunia

Stock

Sweet alyssum

Tuberose

Perennials

Agastache

Autumn snakeroot

Creeping phlox

Daffodils

Hyacinths

Iris

Lavender

Lily-of-the-valley

Phlox

Shrubs

Azaleas

Gardenia

Lilac

Mock orange

Roses

Viburnums

White forsythia

Vines

Honeysuckle

Jasmine

Moonflower

Sweet pPea

Herbs

Basil

Mint

Parsley

Rosemary