Wild Things…
Planting with Fragrance
By Karen Vizzi
    Gardening for wildlife doesn’t mean that you can’t plant things for people to enjoy as well. In fact, a wild garden planted with fragrance in mind is one that can be enjoyed by all visitors…people, birds, insects or otherwise. Let’s look at some plants and plantings that can serve this dual role. 
     Consider a mass planting of fragrant blooming shrubs. Summer Sweet (clethra) is a hummingbird favorite and Oregon Grape Holly (mahonia) has an intensely sweet fragrance that is pleasant to both people and bees. Butterfly bush (buddleia) can’t be beat as a nectar favorite for butterflies and Viburnum, with an almost overwhelming fragrance, is the larval (caterpillar) food for some of the small butterflies in the blue family. The selection of fragrant flowering plants is endless, but some that are also wildlife friendly include phlox, bee balm (monarda), petunias and pincushion flower (scabiosa)…all of which are good butterfly and hummingbird nectar sources. 
     A fragrant vine like honeysuckle can be trained around a window or entryway, and will attract hummingbirds as well as delight the noses of people. Be sure to select from the honeysuckle hybrids that are non-invasive.
     Of course, the most versatile plants for this dual role are probably herbs. The aroma of almost all herbs will fill the air when brushed against or walked upon, so they make perfect path liners in the wild garden. Chive blossoms are a favorite of bees and I love the savory smell of the leaves in a summer salad. Parsley and fennel leaves are the larval food for the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly and a tasty garnish on many dinner tables.  The flowers of these plants also attract beneficial wasps. The flowers of anise hyssop are another butterfly favorite, and the leaves make a delicious and fragrant tea.
     Finally, don’t forget about the night garden. Evening is a popular time for strolling or just sitting in the garden, so be sure to make fragrance part of that experience. Moths are some of the most beautiful creatures that will visit in the evening and can be lured by planting flowering tobacco (nicotiana), which releases its fragrance only after the sun has faded. Another moth and people favorite is moonflower (ipomoea), which also opens only at night and fills the air with a beautiful perfume.
    Bird Brainers: Occasionally birds like to take a bath in a pile of dust instead of water. It’s thought that this unusual behavior helps to control feather mites.
    Butterfly Bullets: Not all butterflies feed on flower nectar. Some species prefer to drink the juices of rotting fruit.
    Plant Pointers: If you must prune your lilacs, do so immediately after flowering. Lilacs bloom on old wood and next year’s flowers form on this year’s growth. Late pruning will disturb this cycle.

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