Sunday, February 1, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Garden Designer / Phil Wood

Restaurant's neighbor needs some outdoor air fresheners

Phil Wood at the show

Phil Wood will speak at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show at 11:15 a.m. Thursday. In his talk, "The Mediterranean Garden in the Northwest," he will show slides of garden-design ideas for stone and sun-loving low-water-use plants. He also will be at The Seattle Times booth from 12:30-3 p.m. Thursday, at the Association of Professional Landscape Designers booth from 1-3 p.m. Saturday and at the garden sponsored by the Garden Writers Association, "Welcome to the Garden of Eatin'" from 3-5 p.m. Saturday.
Q: I live across an alleyway from the garbage area of a restaurant and bar and would like suggestions for plants that would have a masking fragrance in different seasons. The alley runs north/south, the fence is on the east side and the plants would be on the west side of the fence. I'd appreciate any suggestions you might offer.

A: There are plants that smell good when you put your nose close, and there are fragrant plants that let their scents loose on the breeze so you can smell them from many feet away. The latter are the plants you want.

The larger the mass of flowers, the stronger the fragrance will be. A single large tree or shrub might produce enough scent to overwhelm bad odors from your neighbor, while it might take a group of several smaller shrubs of one kind to reach a critical mass.

Your warm, west-facing fence will make a good home for the following plants:

• A good candidate for your garden, one that I wrote about recently as one of my favorites, is wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox). Blooming now, in midwinter, the waxy yellow flowers release their sweetness in the cool air, on a drought-tolerant deciduous shrub taking full sun. Another fragrant winter-blooming shrub with long-ranging scent is Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis). The yellow flowers with ribbonlike petals appear in February.

• The genus Daphne brings us many scented species. Winter daphne (Daphne odora) is early-blooming, often in late January. The evergreen leaves are glossy green. A variegated form has leaves edged in yellow. February daphne (Daphne mezereum) blooms on bare stems in late winter, bearing reddish-purple flowers followed by red fruit. There also is a variety with white flowers. Extend the season with Burkwood's daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii), which blooms twice in my garden, in late spring and again in late summer. It's a sprawling shrub, so give it room in the garden. 'Carol Mackie' is a cultivar with gold edges on green leaves.

• You might choose from many climbers with wonderful scent. Evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii) smothers itself with strongly scented white flowers in April. Anemone clematis (Clematis montana) will climb the fence, run along its top, then cascade over both sides, flowering in early May. Hall's Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica 'Halliana') is another vine that will fill your garden with sweetness. This is a rampant vine, to 50 feet if not pruned. Less vigorous is late Dutch honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum 'Serotina').

• Loderi rhododendrons are groups of hybrid rhododendrons whose flowers have a scent of watermelon. They grow 12 to 15 feet in height with glorious blooms in late spring. King George is the best known variety, with light pink flowers fading to white.

• Lindens (Tilia species) are some of the most fragrant trees available. I don't need to plant one in my garden because in June, the north wind brings me the scent from a line of them on the next block up. The British call them lime trees. They often are planted in double rows, pruning them into square shapes to make lime walks, creating a pleasant place for rambling. You will need to give them room, or hedge them, because they can reach to 80 feet in time.

• Angels trumpets (Brugmansia) scented my garden this year from late summer right up to the hard freeze in December. The fragrance that the long-blooming, hanging flowers bring makes it worth the effort to grow them. Although mine wintered over three years in the ground during the mild winters of the last few years, angels trumpets are best grown in pots. Protect them from the winter by taking them into a garage or other cool space. The larger the pot, the larger the plant you will get. A 24-inch pot and plenty of fertilizer will give you a 6-foot-tall plant.

Phil Wood has a degree in landscape architecture and designs and builds gardens. Call 206-464-8533 or e-mail with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


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