Fragrance in the California Garden

First some basics:

Fragrance will vary by season, air temperature and moisture content of the plants

Experiment – create blends. It is generally better to have a dominant fragrance and many supportive fragrances

Some plants that don’t smell powerful by themselves combine with others to make a great fragrance

In our workshops, we snip and snip and store plants overnight out of the refrigerator in plastic sandwich bags, sniffing the scent upon opening the bag in the morning.

Here are some suggestions. Of course, you will probably have other plants in your planting area: for height, seasonal highlight variation, etc. These lists are NOT arranged by cultural needs of the plants – you will still want to pay attention to sun/shade, water needs and soil type.

Fragrance Combinations for the California Garden

Bayberry/Woodland all of these work under or with oak or other large or medium trees with supplemental water in the summer.  I’ve grown them under valley, blue and live oaks here in the valley.

California Bay (Umbellaria californica)

Western Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis)

California Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

California Wax Myrtle (Mryica californica)

Sage Blend – most of these are full sun and low water once established. A few prefer shade and more water so look them up and design accordingly. You can do a sage blend that starts under trees and heads out into full sun, for instance.

Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)

Desert Sage (Salvia dorrii)

Pitcher Sage (Lepechina fragrans)

Bees’ Bliss Sage (Salvia ‘Bees’ Bliss) or other similar ground cover sage

*Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

*Summer Sage (Salvia microphylla)

*Grape Sage (Salvia muelleri)

Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)

White Sage (Salvia apiana)

Wide Open Spaces Blend

Desert Sage (Salvia dorrii)

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

            Really, any of the buckwheats will work in this blend.

*Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

Blue Curls (Trichostema spp)

Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea)

Big Basin Sagebrush (Artemesia tridentate) or any Artemesia if you can’t find or grow this one.

Traditional Mediterranean

*Lavender – I find that French lavender, Lavandula x intermedia is the easiest, but try others if you like

*Rosemary – Rosmarinus – ground cover or large shrub—any of them work here and have slightly               different fragrances

*Oregano – Origanum laevigatum or O. vulgare hirtum

*Chaste Tree – Vitex agnus-castus

*Olive Tree – Olea europaea

Very California. Especially nice in hot, hot summer when plant resins are released. Crowd these together for the best effect. I suggest these all could be in the background, with flowering perennials up front. These have different shade/sun/water requirements, so choose the ones that will work in your garden.

Mulefat (Baccharis salicifolia)

Mugwort (Artemesia douglassiana)

Any ONE of the California sages in the sage blend

Ceanothus – any variety

Buckwheat – any variety

Western Blue Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. Caerulea)

Saltbush and related species like quailbush etc – Atriplex

Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) or other pine native to California

Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)

Juniper (Juniperus spp)

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

Desert Blend – well draining soil and a bunch of sun.

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea)

Desert Sage (Salvia dorrii)

Quailbush aka Big Saltbush (Atriplex lentiformis)

Wright’s Buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii)

California Juniper (Juniperus californica)

Silver Bush Lupin (Lupinus albifrons)

Grinnell’s Beardtongue (Penstemon grinnellii)

Rock Penstemon (Penstemon baccharifolius)

Show Stoppers – use one of these or in a mass of several plants. Good along a walkway. They all attract pollinating insects including bees. Use them all in the same planting area only if you like chaos. Which you might. I won’t judge. It’s your garden.

*Lemon Marigold aka Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemonii)

Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)

*French Lavender (Lavendula x intermedia ‘Provence’ or ‘Grosso’)

Southwest Blend

*Lemon Marigold (Tagetes lemonii)

*Mexican Bush Sage (Saliva leucantha)

*Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

These are just some ideas…experiment and see what new blends you can come up with. Fragrances always vary depending on soil and microclimate and water, so what works on paper may not work for you. Don’t be afraid to move plants around in the first year or two of growth.

* = not native to California

Prepared by Peyton Ellas

Quercus Landscape Design

Feb. 6, 2020