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Sensual garden including aromas, and taste

Grow a Low Allergy Garden – Scent and Smell

Grow a Low Allergy Garden – Scent and Smell

Hay fever and Asthma attacks can be brought on by Scented Plants as well as pollen or Fungal Spores. Histamin problems can also be exacerbated by scent and smells in the garden.


Tips to cut Spores and Fungus

  • Ferns reproduce by sending out millions of spores from under the leaves. If you suffer then do not grow any ferns.
  • Fungus and mould are common names for a large variety of mycelium like Alternaria that grow on dead and rotting plants. They reproduce by light invisible spores that are distributed in the air usually in late Summer and Autumn.
  • Reduce the concentration of spores by good husbandry, keep rotting plant matter to a minimum, don’t use bark as a mulch, dustbin infected leaves and more drastically remove hedges that collect spores
  • Compost heaps are home to fungus and ideally should be avoided if you are allergic but a closed system rather than an open pile will be better.
  • Spent mushroom compost can be an allergy disaster – don’t use it.
  • Organic compost and mulch may be a problem but coconut shell is probably one of the lower spore hosts. Compost in a closed container.

Scented Plants are generally pollinated by insects feeding on the nectar. This can include wasps and bees so if you are allergic to stings avoid such plants. Some people are sensitive to a range of smells and perfumes or just the scent of one plants such as a lily or honeysuckle and in this case choosing plants for a garden can be an issue.

  • Aromatic leaved plants like many herbs only give off a scent when brushed or crushed so it may be worth growing herbs but take care with Lavender.
  • If you are allergic to Daisies you will also potentially be allergic to Asters, Chrysanthemeum and other members of the same ‘compositae’ family.
  • Don’t sniff individual plants
  • Many double flowered varieties attract pollination by colour and have less scent.
  • Fruit attract wasps so if allergic to stings don’t grow them or have another member of the family grow them well away from windows into the house.
  • Some allergies are related to individual plants like Strawberries and Tomato so watch for individual reactions and root out offenders.
  • Deciduous trees have more pollen than evergreens.

For a short video watch
Read more about pollen in a low allergy garden

Some top tips from the Asthma society of Ireland for creating an allergy friendly garden include;

1. Choose plants that are pollinated by bees, the pollen is heavier and sticky and therefore stays on the bees rather than floating around the garden.
2. Avoid wind pollinated plants which disperse copious amounts of pollen into the air.
3. Avoid plants which are intensely fragrant as they can be a trigger for allergies and asthma.
4. Choose female plants, as they produce no pollen. Sterile male plants are also a good choice.
5. Grass is a major pollen producer so mow your lawn regularly, before it flowers.
6. Wear a mask when mowing lawn or trimming hedge.
7. If possible replace your lawn with gravel
8. Replace organic mulches with inorganic mulches
9. Avoid ornamental grasses in your planting schemes.
10. Remove hedges which harbour dust, pollen grains and mould spores which can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.

Allergic to Scented Plants?

Allergic to Scented Plants?

Allergies can be exacerbated by plants just ask a hayfever sufferer. Pollen and strong scent often combine together and beware of allergic reactions to your garden plants.


Plants to be Wary Of

Asthma sufferers often complain that it is the scented garden plants that bring out the condition.
Generally it is the heavily fragrant flowers but sometimes it is a single species such as Honeysuckle that cause the problem.
Lilies like the Lilium Regale are one of the best scented flowers but one of the worst culprits for allergies.
The Dianthus family of Carnations, Sweet Williams and Pinks with a spicy scent are known to bring on hay fever.
Although generally unscented, many flowers from the Asteraceae or Daisy family seem to be allergenically toxic to many people. If you suffer then it is best to exclude members of this large family including Asters, Chrysanthemums, Marigolds and other similar looking flowers.
Avoid ornamental grasses heavy in pollen.


Top Low Allergy Flowers

  • Aromatic plants which smell due to essential oils are less likely to cause some allergies but if you are very sensitive it is best to avoid Herbs, Lavender and Eucalyptus. Or at least do not inhale bruised leaves.
  • Winter heather Erica Carnea in white and pink can look stunning from Autumn through winter.
  • Geraniums such as the perennial cranesbill, Johnsons Blue is my favourite.
  • Climbing roses can be a problem but Iceberg has a low level of scent and I have seen Handel and Rambling Rector also recommended.
  • Fuchsia magellanica are available in many varieties
  • Hydrangea macrophylla including cultivars  Ayesha, and Madame Emille Mouillere plus Lacecap varieties give you a wide choice of large flowerheads.
  • Orchids as houseplants have cause allergic reaction.

Todmorden 055

Allergic advice from Thompson Morgan
If you have hay fever, asthma or severe allergies, you should avoid eating flowers of the daisy family because they could trigger an allergic reaction. Take care when choosing a location for mushroom growing as some people are allergic to mushrooms or mushroom spores and others may become sensitised by high concentrations of spores.

Evening Fragrance in the Garden

Evening Fragrance in the Garden

If you want to walk around your garden in a summer evening and take in the scent then consider some of the following recommendations.

  • White flowers often smell the best like Nicotiana alata or the taller N. sylvestris
  • Lillium regale can have an almost over powering scent on a still evening
  • Philadelphus ‘Beauclerk’ a large flowered and orange blossom scented.
  • Rose ‘Iceberg’ can come in a climbing form as well as floribunda
  • It may seem obvious but night scented stock Mattihola bicomis are an absolute winner and the seed can be sprinkled freely as the plants are small and unobtrusive. Many plants like this are pollinated by moths and other evening insects
  • A selection recommended by Bob Flowerdew is Zaluzianskya capensis ‘Midnight Candy’ also called night phlox with a marzipan almondy scent an annual grown from seed.
  • Simple jasmine can enhance any scented garden and Hesperis sweet rocket and Reseda odorata Sweet Mignonette can all be added to a list to try. Give each plant an area where its scent isn’t in conflict with another strongly perfumed variety for maximum impact.
Sweet Pea Seeds or Plants

Sweet Pea Seeds or Plants

Sweet Pea Heathcliff

I have had a disaster this year with my sweet peas sown last Autumn. They didn’t fare too well in the cold greenhouse. I gave them a long root run but probably didn’t give them consistent watering and TLC. So by spring they were thin specimens with lacy leaves eventhough I had pinched them out. Because they didn’t look too good I didn’t feed them up and cosset them but just plonked them in the ground. Well it serves me right and I have a very poor showing at the moment.

Next year will be different and I have already made plans and placed an order for 36 plants from Unwins ‘Super Fragrant Collection’. which consists of Heathcliff, Bobby’s Girl, Valentine, Southampton, Scartlett, and Lively Lassie. I will take delivery in March or April 2009 of healthy plants grown by a nursery. As I have paid good money for them I will take great care, prepare the ground and look after them. Hopefully we will get the sun to make them excel.

Unwins are Sweet Pea specialists and the plant collections I could have chosen include Showbench, Cut flower, and Mixed unnamed collections. They also do plentys of seed varieties and mixes. So for me next season it is plants over seeds (but may be I will do some seeds as well). I am not yet ready to join the National Sweet Pea society but if I do well with my plants I may well do so

Scented Plants Not to be Sniffed At

Scented Plants Not to be Sniffed At

Book Cover


Scent and Scented Plant League Tables


What is your favourite smell in the garden? Crushed herbs of Rosemary and Lavender or newly cut grass perhaps. Well by the end of June we will publish a list of the most popular varieties of scented flowers. Here are some of the best plants with scent that we will track down to individual types and varieties in a league table of popularity. What will be in your premiership selection? We will try include your favourite aromatic or powerfully pungent plant in the league tables.


Some Contenders






Night Scented Stock


















Sweet Pea











Quick Tips for a Fragrant Garden


  • Try provide shelter from wind, the stiller the better to appreciate some delicate scents
  • Look for plants with bits of Latin in there names, like Odoratus, Citriodorus, Fragrantis, Moschatus or Suavis, which mean sweet smelling in one way or another
  • Pungens implies a strong scent (but not always pleasant)
  • Use raised beds to be able to smell delicate flowers
  • Sniff out your plants at the nursery or get cuttings from friends who’s plants have impressed you
  • For Roses start with the ‘Old Fashioned’ varieties


Aesthetic Appreciation of White Flowers

Aesthetic Appreciation of White Flowers

Originally entitled ‘Why do white flowers smell best?’ I have revised this article.

Rose for scent

Can you see a smell?

The scent from this rose should be pulsing through the internet in waves of perfume. It certainly pulsed through the RHS garden at Harlow Carr with a far spreading aroma. The light rain (well it is an English rose in an English summer) probably enhanced the sweet scent as the fragrant oil was dissolved and let loose. Moss roses have furry growths which at a glance look like aphids but are in fact oil glands that provide fragrance.

White flowers attract pollinating insects, butterflies and sometimes birds by the scent and source of nectar. They do not use colour for obvious reasons. For this reason white flowers in a species are often far more scented than coloured equivalents. Some of the most scented flowers are white including Philadelphus, Lily of the Valley and members of the Rose family.

Book Cover

Aesthetic Appreciation

Is aesthetics a sixth sense? If so Gertrude Jekyll had it in abundance. Gertrude created over 400 gardens and first published her work on colour schemes over 100 years ago.
If aesthetics are a combination of all the senses including the common one then I would be hard pushed to say which was the more important. Common sense is trumped in the garden by experience but sight and smell are the top drivers of appreciation.

Hyacinth Growing Tips

Hyacinth Growing Tips

hyacinth & primrose

Growing Hyacinths

  • Hyacinths like brilliant drainage
  • Hyacinth need full sun and a good baking during summer
  • Feed with a potash fertilizer in early spring to help roots and bulbs.
  • Plant between September and December. Christmas indoor bulbs need to be ‘prepared’ and planted as soon as available.
  • Put an inch of grit in the bottom of a pot to help drainage and cover the top of the bulb with 3″ of soil.
  • Deadhead and allow leaves to die down naturally.
  • Propagate by dividing clumps in early autumn.

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Thyme and Time Again

Thyme and Time Again

Thyme has over 350 varieties and can make an interesting collection. Thymus is claimed to have volatile oils that have anti-ageing properties and good anti-oxidants to aid health. It retains its flavour after drying and can be stored successfully.

Time for some Growing Tips on Thyme

  • Place container or grow in a sunny position to get stronger flavoured leaves.
  • Use free draining soil or plant through a good layer of gravel
  • Thyme looks good in a pot but avoid using a rich compost or you will get tasteless leaves and no flowers
  • Trim the plant after Thyme has flowered to stop it becoming woody.
  • Propagate from cuttings before flowering in spring or divide in spring.
  • T. vulgaris, T. frgrantissimus and T. Serpyllium can be grown from fine seed which should be sown with sand on top of soil watered from the bottom.
  • Bees are attracted to the pink flowering Pink Ripple.
  • Cooking with Thyme and home grown Tomatoes is a special joy but add Thyme early so it has chance to release its flavours.

Herb Garden Design Using Thyme

  • Create a carpet on a path on banking to display the herbs.
  • For best ornamental effect mix upright varieties and creeping varieties and vary the leaf colour ‘Archers Gold’, ‘Coccineus major’ and ‘Doone Valley’ have a mix of magenta and purple flowers with varigation on leaf colour.
  • A wheel shape or Octagon effect can be created as a garden feature
  • ‘T. Vulgaris Silver Posie’ is reliable in winter weather

Grow Abeliophyllum White Forsythia for Spring Scent

Grow Abeliophyllum White Forsythia for Spring Scent

Abeliophyllum distichum also called White Forsythia is more refined than traditional yellow Forsythia to which it is distantly related, both being part of the Olive family.

Growing White Forsythia

  • Abeliophyllum distichum AGM  is native to Korea and produces clusters of fragrant, creamy white flowers which emerge in late winter or early spring before the leaves.
  • Trained against a sunny wall,  Abeliophyllum distichum will grow 3-6 feet tall. It can be rather untidy and lax if grown in a border
  • Prune after flowering to within 2-5  buds to make a permanent framework and encourage new wood for flowering next year.
  • Grow in full sun or light shade in average soil 3-4ft apart. Feed with a balanced fertiliser once a year in early spring
  • Can be underplanted with Scilla sibirica, Muscari or species Crocus for a lovely early spring display.

Abeliophyllum distichum roseum group is the seldom seen pink form. According to Junker’s nursery ‘It is sometimes called “Pink Forsythia” but this reflects more its time of flowering than either its colour or parentage! A very pretty plant that stays quite small, rarely more than 3 feet tall’.

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Scented Pelargonium (Geraniums)

Scented Pelargonium (Geraniums)

It is the scented leaves of Pelargoniums rather than the flower that attracts growers and collectors. They are often used in scented gardens for the blind but are useful in a normal garden border where they may be brushed or touched. As indoor pot plants they are ideal as living pot-pourri and may be hybrids or species in their own right.

Top 10 Scented leaved Pelargoniums

  1. Pelargonium Fragrans Variegata a small plant with lots of scented green and white leaves with the aroma of spice, pine and lemon.
  2. Mable Grey woody and harder to grow but heavy lemon scented leaves

Book Cover

  1. P. graveolens Lady Plymouth a strong grower favoured for exhibitions with a rose like scent
  2. Prince of Orange is an old variety that as the name implies smells of orange
  3. Little gem is a dwarf grower with a spicy scent that remains fresh until late in the year

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