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Night Scented Plants

Night Scented Plants

Our planting designer Jeremy did a quick Q & A for a local society this week,
focusing on the subject of night scented plants. This is it.

Q: “Why do some flowers smell so good, just in the evenings?”

A: These “night scented” plants know what they’re doing! They produce an
essential oil late in the day that attracts their ideal pollinating partner -
moths. Over thousands of years they’ve worked out that moths hunt at night,
using scent rather than visual cues, to find food. That’s why most night
scented plants have relatively pale flowers - because colour isn’t as
important to them as an attractor - it also makes them stand out better in
moonlight.

Q: “Does the fragrance come from the actual flowers? Please explain.”

A: It’s not just the flower that can produce fragrance. Leaves, roots, buds,
bark, seeds and fruit can also give off scent. Rosemary leaves, ginger roots,
clove buds, cinnamon bark and citrus fruit I guess are the best known
examples I can think of quickly!

Q: “Name 5 varieties that you’d recommend to grow in east London in
Summer? (Thinking of species that look good and give off a lovely aroma in
the evenings)”.

A: Given the number of snails, foxes and cats in east London, I’m going to
give you two top fives - ‘night scented plants’ and ‘best, most snail resistant/
reliable/easy maintenance plants’:

Top Five Night Scented Plants to Grow in East London:
1. Lonicera periclymenum (Honeysuckle)
2. Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine)
3. Zaluzianskya ovata (Night Scented Phlox)
4. Dianthus (Pinks)
5. Matthiola longipetala (Night Scented Stock) - sow seed in July for late
summer flowers.

Top Five ‘All-rounder’ Plants to Grow in East London:
1. Geranium ‘Rozanne’
2. Climbing rose ‘Claire Austin’ (by David Austin)
3. Erigeron karvanskianus
4. Fargesia nitida ‘Black Pearl’ (non-invasive, clump-forming bamboo) -
makes an awesome screen or hedge
5. Agastache ‘Black Adder’

Q: “How do fragrant plants affect hay fever sufferers? Are there any varieties
which are kinder for people with that allergy?”

A: It’s not the pollen, but the petals, and as I mentioned, other parts of the
plant, that produce fragrance. Pollen is a whole other ball game. It’s pretty
difficult to find flowers that don’t have pollen because that, of course, is how
they reproduce. What hay fever sufferers can do, is find the beauty in foliage
plants - plants that reproduce differently. Ferns are great. Ironically, some
ornamental grasses are good. Fatsia japonica is great for an instant tropical
feel. It takes a little research, but lovely outdoor spaces for the pollen-
sensitive can absolutely be done.

Q: “Know any interesting facts about plants that smell in the evening?”

A: A few plants - certain arum lilies and the frost tender Stapelia, for
example, take fragrance in an entirely different direction. They smell like
rotting flesh! It’s actually brilliant because this attracts flies, which then
pollinate the plants.


Jeremy Hindmarsh is our senior planting and garden designer. He also writes
our weekly e-newsletter, offering gardening tips and advice. Subscribe at
https://lancastersonline.com

Email: jeremy@lancastersonline.com