As soon as "Bobbie James" came into her own, our hens knew they had met their match.
Well, I'm not sure our flock of 16 chickens knew any different, but the big rambling rose planted alongside the chicken coop has effectively masked their odor with its strongly fragrant, big white blooms. The hybrid multiflora rose is a rambler, bred in 1961 and named after somebody's true love, no doubt. And she is a sweetheart, with minimal thorns and a heady scent that I swear wafts across our yard on a breezy afternoon. "Bobbie James" just might be the hardest working rose on our farm, capable of dressing up a Saturday night dinner table, placed in a vase between two candlesticks. She does just as well by growing into the coop, bobbing in the breeze, emitting her scent and staying just out of range of the hens below, who try their mightiest to jump up and peck her.
You might not need a fragrant plant to work as hard as our "Bobbie James." It might be the case that you want herbs to brush up against while you're on your hands and knees weeding, such as sages that spill out of their beds, or a mint to crush between your fingers or in your mojito cocktail after the garden work is done. It's nice to include fragrant plants in a landscape where you can sit and enjoy a view. Flowering tobaccos provide pockets of scent that float through the garden on a breeze.
Fragrant shrubs can be the background of a garden. Daphne and fothergilla come to mind. Vines do the trick too, including Clematis montana. Lilacs and lilies bring their own good aroma to the garden.
If you prefer your sweet-scented flowers to bloom at night, you are in luck. Because many night-blooming flowers are white, they can make a garden glow when the sun goes down. Not only are they attractive to humans, but also the night-flying moths that feed on their nectar and pollen. Here are some good candidates:
Nicotiana - A fragrant annual whose scent is more intense at night. It has pink, red, green or white flowers. My favorite variety is N. sylvestris, a three- to four-foot bloomer that nods over the border and fills the night air with a sweet perfume.
Evening primrose - A weedy-looking plant by day, evening primroses are an olfactory spectacle at night, when the large yellow flowers give off a sweet aroma.
Evening-scented stock - This small plant opens after sunset to reveal purple flowers and a wonderful spicy scent. It blooms over much of the summer. Stock is easy to grow from seed, and sometimes will overwinter if placed in a sheltered spot.
Four o'clocks - Like its namesake, these flowers open in the late afternoon of late summer.
Garden heliotrope - A perennial that grows up to five feet tall, with tiny pink blossoms. Exudes fragrance after dark. Its Latin name is Valeriana officinalis. It can self-sow and be a bit invasive, so don't let it get out of hand if you're not willing to weed it back out. This is a very powerfully scented plant.
Moonflower - A relative of the morning glory, climbing moonflower plants produce fragrant, white, four- to six-inch flowers that unfurl after dark.
Brugmansia (formerly known as Datura) - A bushy plant with huge, white, trumpet-shaped, fragrant flowers, commonly called Angel's trumpet. It's poisonous, so don't plant it if you have children or pets.
Ann Lovejoy's book, "Fragrance in Bloom: Cultivating the Scented Garden Throughout the Year" (Sasquatch Books) is a great guide to fragrant blooms. Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose holds a class Sunday called "Fragrance in the Garden." Learn how to make the most of the scented plants in your garden by creating enclosures, to enhance the fragrance experience. The 1 p.m. session is free and the nursery is located at 20300 N.W. Watson Road. For more information, call (503) 543-7474.
Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" runs weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org