Hardy fragrant perennials for zone 4
Hello everyone. If you hate the winter here, you might as well make as much of the growing season as you can. I do this by having lots of fragrant plants in my yard. So I'm sharing what I've learned so far about fragrant perennials that you can grow here in Minnesota (USDA zone 4) with little worries. First, I think every home gardener in Minnesota should have this link:
Check it out and you'll know what I mean. I learned a lot from it.
I learned that by "fragrant", many authorities mean simply having a smell that is not repulsive, but not necessarily good. For example, flowers that smell "nectary" or "polleny" are considered fragrant by many. This post is about the fragrant ones that you would turn into perfume and wear if you could.
Also be sure to always judge the fragrance for yourself. I've done the mistake of buying plants based on the reputation of their smell, only to find out they smell like a combination of tire rubber and bad breath, while my wife says she loves the smell.. It's very individual.
Here are some fragrant perennials that have survived through Minnesota winter in my yard:
1- Hall's Honeysuckle: the honeysuckle vine with white flowers. Some branches above snow level may die so I grow HH as ground cover and trim anything taller than a foot above ground, then mulch it for the winter. It has a jasmine-like happy quality to its scent and when it's big, it will waft noticeably, especially in the early morning.
2- Fragrant hostas: most notably the Fragrant Blue and Fragrant Gold cultivars. They tend to bloom late in the season (August). Pick some of these flowers and put them in your living room and you'll realize that some hostas aren't all that generic.
3- Mockorange: nice fragrant white flowers on a shrub. Unfortunately these bloom only for about 3 weeks but you can trim them to look like hedge plants. The smell reminds me of sambac jasmine.
4- Rugosa roses: very cold hardy. Extremely thorny. Grows big and fast. Up close the flower smells like incense but the wafting smell is a light, pleasant rose. Bees love it. Comes in many colors.
5- Zone 4 roses: some cultivars found at local nurseries say their shrubs are hardy for zone 4. I found that if you get a zone 4 rose in Minnesota, you will need to cover it with mulch through the winter orelse it will grow from the ground every season. The soft, passionate, relaxing smell of some kinds is definitely worth the work.
6- Oriental lilies: from Trumpet Lilies to Tiger Lilies to the many other different kinds you see in catalogs. In this zone, you would probably get the strongest smell from a Regal Lily.
7- Daffodils: Whatever happened to the Pheasant's Eye daffodil?? This classic spring bloomer smells so strong that it is not recommended to pick it and put it in a vase at home because you might get a headache. The Old House company has a few other hardy daffodil cultivars that are richly fragrant. The smell is incomparable.
8- Magnolia: This tree has a special place in my heart because it blooms quite early in the spring when I'm dying for a blossom. Leonard Missel smells to me like the old candy Pez. Not particularly strong but when a tree has tens of flowers at one time, it will waft a few feet away.
9- Daylilies: There are some fragrant varieties you can seek out at nurseries, but you probably won't smell anything unless you're quite close to the flowers, or if they are numerous enough. They still smell pretty good, though.
10- Lily of The Valley: The one we all know and love. Great for shady areas and likes to be moist for most of the time. Best grown as a patch in order to get the maximum smell effect.
11- Hyacinth: Another spring bloomer with a heady smell (like carnations). Very much worth buying.
12- Border carnations are cold hardy here. The flowers are not impressively large but definitely fragrant.
13- Carol Macke Daphne: this is the one I totally hate the smell of but I'm putting out there because my wife says it smells fantastic and many other people agree. Nevertheless, I do like the appearance of the shrub.
14- Summersweet (Sweet Pepperbush): Has a heady yet sweet quality to its fragrance. Takes its sweet time to make leaves and even more time to bloom. Likes acidic soil and moderate shade.
15- Lilacs of most kinds. A Dwarf Korean lilac performs well in my backyard but doesn't bloom for long.
There. Please share your fragrant perennials and let's show these zone 9+ dwellers that tropicals flowers aren't the only nice smelling ones!