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Natural fragrances keep the nose in touch with the outdoors. The artificial smells of plug-ins and sprays are no match for the scents found right in the backyard.

What are the best of the fragrant plants? That’s certainly open to debate, from the flower family to the herb family. Even citrus trees could claim the throne for best fragrance. But, there are three specific scent champions that draw humans, mammals, and insects alike. They enrapture the nose, and can fill a home with fragrance quicker than any scented candle.

Frost Proof Gardenias

The history of gardenias go back over a thousand years to its native China. Its heavy fragrances were world renowned, and they made their way to America in 1761. John Ellis, a Charleston native, first cultivated the plant for the cut flower industry. Its main attribute being a heavy fragrance corsage.

The gardenia is still in high demand for both its looks and smells. But, it is temperamental by nature, and it can claim a lot of gardening time due to upkeep. That’s where the Frost Proof Gardenia stands out from the pack. Unlike its brethren, which loses blooms if the soil is too moist or too dry (not an easy feat to maintain even for the professional), this Gardenia deals with drought, insects, and disease as if they didn’t exist.

Furthermore, it works wonderfully as an evergreen privacy hedge. Try a row of hedges along a walkway, or right outside your window. Plant in a bed or a planter with other sweet smelling plants like Lavender or Sage. Plant in the full sun or partial shade. Prune if you want or leave it be. It doesn’t really care, except for showing off.

No wonder it took home the “2007 Garden Writers Best Plants Award”.

Fragrant Tea Olive

Legend has it that the Fragrant Tea Olive carries a fragrance from over a 100 feet away. Whatever the real story, it’s guaranteed that an up close smell will win the heart and nose. The fragrance is described as a mix between roses, gardenias, and apricots.

The small white blooms first appear as winter is just beginning to slouch away. The blooms become slightly sporadic by mid-summer, but return with a flourish in fall. You, the neighbors, the butterflies, and hummingbirds will all jockey for space next to this hedge/tree.

The maintenance? Easy does it. Follow a regular watering regimen, and feed the Fragrant Tea Olive with an all purpose organic fertilizer (5-5-5) in the spring. Pruning is up to you. If you want a formal appearance, break out the shears.

Plus, any work you do on the Tea Olive means you get to enjoy the fragrance. You win. The tree wins. Birds and bees win.

Purple Wisteria

The Wisteria is a legendary vine/tree with clusters of flowers that can soften the most granite of hearts. It’s beloved in Asian culture, and it is seen as a symbol of the graceful gardens of the South.

It’s also criticized in certain circles for being hard to manage with some vines (mainly Asian varieties) growing over 70 feet. But, the Purple Wisteria is easy to maintain (growing 30 feet max), and its smell will butter up the soul in seconds.

What’s also great about this plant is that it can turn even the most depressing wall or fence into a natural work of art. Its trellis tendencies will work on any standing structure, and the bees and butterflies will do their dance amidst the blooms that last from spring into summer. Every inch of your acreage will fill up with the strong sublime scent of the Purple Wisteria.

And don’t be afraid to prune this fast grower back. It’s nearly impossible to kill this plant by over shearing. Early spring and after the first bloom is the best time to give this vine a haircut. The blooms and the fragrance will be stronger for it.