Scented flowers for evening bowers
by Drucilla James
During the working week, many of us only get to enjoy our gardens in the evenings, so why not create a place to make the most of this time?
All you need is a seat facing west to capture the last rays of the setting sun and flowers that release their fragrance as darkness falls.
Flowers that produce scent during the day are a big attraction to bees, butterflies and other insects; evening-scented plants, on the other hand, are highly attractive to moths which are suffering a serious decline in numbers in the UK. They are also a big draw for us – their sweet perfume, delicate silhouettes and magical luminescence are some of the greatest delights in a garden.
Where to create your bower
As well as picking a west-facing spot if possible, it helps if the area is sheltered, paved or close to a brick or stone wall. Hard materials absorb and then release the heat of the day which helps to intensify and diffuse the plants’ fragrance.
What to plant
Evening-scented plants tend to have white, blue or other pale-coloured flowers which give them a softer outline and increased visibility as the light fades.
When using a combination of scented plants, the mix needs to be carefully planned as one fragrance can compete or clash with another and subtler scents can be lost. It’s also worth using plants that flower at different times of year to get the maximum value from your containers. You can also mix plants that are fragrant during the day with those that release their scent in the evening and through the night.
Recommended plants to use
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’
Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’
Jasminum officinale ‘Clotted Cream’
Perennials and Annuals
Nicotiana alata and N. sylvestris
Petunia (the old white variety)
Phlox (smaller border varieties)
Things you’ll need
1. Two large deep containers
2. Pieces of broken clay pot
4. Polystyrene pieces (optional)
5. Potting compost
6. 20 willow sticks (10 per pot), each about 2m long, cut to the same length (if you’re using climbers)
7. Bunch of thin flexible willow wands (these will need to be fresh or they will not bend without snapping) or shorter, straight lengths (if you’re using climbers)
9. Jute garden twine or plastic covered wire
Step by step
1) Water all the plants you are going to use and place your containers in their final position.
2) Place some pieces of broken clay pot in the base of the container and cover with a layer of grit.
3) If you’re using very large containers, you can put pieces of polystyrene in the base to reduce weight and the amount of compost you need to use.
4) If you’re using clay pots, line them with wet newspaper to reduce evaporation.
5) Mix the potting compost with grit to improve drainage and fill the containers, firming in each layer as you go.
6) If you’re including climbers in your scheme, twist pairs of willow sticks together and tie at the top. Then tie five pairs together at one end to create a wigwam shape. Push the wigwam down the inside edges of the container. Next, ease each pair of sticks apart, pushing a short length of willow between them and again between the sticks of the neighbouring rod. Work your way around until you have built a ring. Tie these lengths in and then repeat the process to form a second ring higher up the wigwam. Trim off hanging threads and any protruding bits of willow.
Alternatively, push a willow stick down the side of the container until it reaches the bottom. Repeat with four more sticks, equally spaced around the circumference of the container, trimming them all to the same height. Bend their tops over and tie them together with jute garden twine to form a wigwam shape. Strengthen the structure by weaving thin flexible wands of willow or hazel around the poles to form two rings. Trim as needed.
7) Plant up the containers starting with the climbers, followed by the taller plants and finishing with any shorter perennials and annuals around the edge. Water regularly but don’t allow the compost to become waterlogged and feed approximately every two to three weeks.
8) Next year you could add an arch of willow poles to grow the maturing climbers along.
Trachelospermum jasminoides (early to mid-summer), Nicotiana sylvestris (mid-summer to autumn), Dianthus ‘Candy Floss’ (early to mid-summer), Zaluzianskya ‘Orange Eye’ and Zaluzianskya ovata (spring to summer), mixed scented sweet peas (mid-summer to autumn).
Jasminum officinale ‘Clotted Cream’ (mid to late summer), Dianthus ‘Sugar Plum’ and the rest of the planting as pot 1.
At the front edge of each pot we planted some Matthiola bicornis (night-scented stock) as a filler to flower through the summer.
Then all you have to do is sit, relax and drink in those heady scents each summer evening and into the autumn.