It is said that fragrance stirs our ancient reptilian brain, for smell is the deepest, most evocative of all our senses. No wonder a whiff of lilac reminds us of our grandmother's gardens. The spicy scent of basil or the astringent tang of rosemary can send us back decades to a nearly forgotten Italian vacation, or at least a good Italian restaurant.
Remember that the amount of scent a plant carries varies between cultivars and even individual plants. It's always best to buy plants in flower so you can choose those most heavily scented and confirm that you enjoy their fragrance. Individual preference varies greatly -- one person's heady perfume is another's allergen.
With a little planning, you can have a parade of fragrance throughout the season.
Start out the year with Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis), the most fragrant of all these large, winter blooming shrubs.
Follow with mock orange (Philadelphus spp.), which has white flowers in May that cast a heavenly scent throughout the garden on a warm afternoon.
In July, willowy 'Casa Blanca' lilies have huge, white, star-shape flowers that are supremely fragrant.
One of my favorite autumn scents is the black snakeroot or bugbane (Cimicifuga simplex 'Brunette'), a perennial with dark, lacy foliage and tall candles of white flowers that smell like honey.