6 of the best fragrant plants to plant this autumn

PUBLISHED: 12:48 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:48 12 November 2018

Narcissus poeticus will be an elegant and welcome arrival in spring (Photo: Bernard Spragg, flickr.com)

Narcissus poeticus will be an elegant and welcome arrival in spring (Photo: Bernard Spragg, flickr.com)

Bernard Spragg, flickr.com

Autumn is a great time for planning ahead. Here Naomi Slade brings you her top picks for fabulous fragrance

Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus

One of the best and the oldest daffodils is Narcissus poeticus, sometimes known as the poet’s narcissus or pheasants eye. It has been cultivated since ancient times and is an elegant garden plant. The pure white petals are swept backwards from a neat yellow trumpet, rimmed with red. It does well in containers but also naturalises prettily in wild areas and grass. Plant as soon as possible, 10-15cm deep in sun or part-shade for flowers in mid- to late-spring. 

David Austin Roses

It’s the season for bare-root roses so why not indulge? There is a list of super-scented varieties at www.davidaustinroses.co.uk. But my favourites include pale blush climber ‘Generous Gardener’; peachy Lady of Shallot; unruly but fabulously fragrant ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ – with honourable mentions for ‘James Austin’, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘Boscobel’! Plant in well-drained soil enriched with organic matter; a sprinkle of mycorrhizal fungi can be beneficial. Spread the roots out, backfill and keep well-watered. 

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ AGM

I love orange blossom. The scent is reliable and glorious and I plant it in every garden I make.

One the best, and most fragrant, is ‘Belle Etoile’. Growing to around 1.5m. A great back-of-the border shrub, it goes well with roses and cottage garden perennials. Plant now and keep well-watered in its first season. Cut a third of the branches back hard, in late spring after flowering. 

Chimonanthus praecox

Make room in your garden for wintersweet and you won’t regret it. The flowers may be small and unassuming, but the fragrance is magnificent. Plant the bushy shrub near doorways so that the scent can be appreciated in the depths of winter (perhaps training a clematis through it for summer interest) or cut the stems for the house. 

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Doctor Alexander Fleming’

In some peonies scent is a secret superpower – not all are fragrant but a surprising number will scent a room with ease.

With fizzy-pink double flowers, ‘Doctor Alexander Fleming’ grows to 90cm and is one of the very best for scent. Other good varieties include ‘Krinkled White’, ‘Clare de Lune’ and ‘Sarah Bernhardt’. If you already have peonies, now is a good time to divide them, lifting the crown and using a sharp knife to create sections, each with at least three buds and several plump roots. And contrary to rumour they can be moved – just replant with the crown at the same level or slightly higher than it originally was!

Plant in a sunny spot in fertile, well-drained soil. Feed in spring with a balanced fertiliser. 


Trained up a pergola or into a tree, honeysuckle creates a wonderful country garden feel.

A good hybrid cultivar is Lonicera x heckrotii ‘Gold Flame’, but best for scent is our native common honeysuckle, L. periclymenum - try yellow-flowered ‘Heaven Scent’, or early flowering ‘Belgica’ or ‘Serotina’. Honeysuckles are fast-growing climbers that prefer moist, humus-rich soil and a spot in sun or part shade. If plants become rampant, cut back a third of the flowering shoots after blooming. Apply organic mulch in spring.


A Berkshire walk through Ashampstead and Yattendon - We’re heading to the west of Reading for a wander through historic Ashampstead and Yattendon, home of the West Berkshire Brewery

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