When my eldest daughter was 5, she handed my husband her life savings—plus an IOU scribbled on a torn piece of pink construction paper—in exchange for his help to buy me a lilac for Mother’s Day. Not just any lilac—she wanted the superbly old-fashioned, fragrant ‘Miss Ellen Willmott’, a variety she had heard me describe with nearly misty eyes one evening at dinner. When Mother’s Day arrived, she struggled to lift the heavy container into my hands, gifting me with a plant, a brilliant smile and a thousand emotions beside. Happily, I relive the gesture each Mother’s Day when ‘Miss Ellen Willmott’ explodes with fragrant panicles of double pure-white flowers and I breathe in that sweet memory once again.
If your mom is one who prefers her Mother’s Day flowers with roots, here are four additional fragrant choices for the garden:
David Austin English Rose ‘Heritage’ is ideal for the Midwest and offers a strong fruit-and-honey fragrance, excellent repeat flowering and perfectly shaped blooms. Plus, it’s nearly thornless. And if you forget to deadhead, or if you have no time for such nonsense, it’ll reward you with a lovely crop of rose hips later in the season.
Two new fragrant clematis from the Super-Sweet series have the garden world abuzz. I'm not sure whether to be more excited by the fact that they're wilt resistant and hardy to Zone 4 or that both have unbelievable fragrance. Regardless, we can thank Dan Long of Brushwood Nursery (gardenvines.com) for making them available after his friend Ton Hannink developed them in the Netherlands. Dan says Sugar-Sweet Lilac has a honeysuckle or orange blossom perfume; Sugar-Sweet Blue carries a sweet gardenia fragrance.
Numerous highly fragrant dianthus are now on the market, so take a sniff test to find the one you think Mom will most enjoy. This cottage charmer with fringed blooms may be relatively short in stature, but it has a long list of attributes. Mom will appreciate its low maintenance, resistance to deer and sweetly spicy scent.
Heliotrope is one of the most intriguingly fragrant plants, with some likening its scent to cherry pie or a grape Popsicle. Either way, this low-maintenance tropical makes a nice annual for the garden or container plantings.