The Scented Garden, Part Three: Autumn

Pink rose fades in autumn

As summer drifts into autumn, the garden is magically imbued with a soft, golden light and a sense of winding down after summer’s excess. Leaves scrunch under foot, while cobwebs, embellished with sparkling dew, dance over fruit trees laden with sweet harvest. Although there may not be the summer abundance of rich scent in the garden, there is still subtle fragrance to be found, made more precious by its scarcity.

The perennials take a back seat during autumn, so it is time for the shrubs to shine. Daphne Eternal Fragrance is the classic go-to for heavenly scent, flowering on new growth over an exceptionally long period - almost three seasons. It bears a strong and heady perfume, best carried on the breeze or captured as a cut flower posy on the windowsill.  Another long flowerer, abelias are favoured for their fragrant, tubular flowers, their form contrasting nicely with the panicles of sweetly scented pink flowers held by Syringa Boomerang Pink Perfume. Although most lilacs are spring flowering, this variety flowers twice (hence boomerang), continuing into October and thus providing a valuable, late season nectar source for pollinators.

Not all fragrance needs to emanate from flowers however, as this can prove a transitory pleasure. The aromatic foliage of the eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Gunnii Azure) is a constant feature year-round; the ornamental tree captivating all with its pale blue grey foliage, peeling bark and small fluffy flowers. The shrub Caryopteris Hint of Gold bears bright blue flowers into early autumn, providing a burst of colour in the border, but it is in its glorious, golden foliage that the scent lies. Similarly, Santolina chamaecypanssus Pretty Caroll waves its yellow pom pom flowers for effect, but it is the leaves that hold a gentle scent. Summer favourite, lavender, is coming to the end of its flowering season yet retains its aromatic foliage, and bay, rosemary and lemon verbena all emit strong scents when their leaves are crushed.

In the border, herbaceous perennials are shrouded in rest but there are still latecomers in the guise of delicately fragranced phlox and liquorice fragranced agastache. While drawing to a close, many of the scented roses still manage a final bloom. David Austin's Harlow Carr is particularly alluring, embracing us with the soft, powdery scent of summer; fending off the change of season for as long as possible.