Garden Talk: Mark Dwyer

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

On Garden Talk, Larry Meiller finds out what we should focus on in the garden as summer winds down.

Featured in this Show

  • When Planning A Garden, Don’t Forget About Scent

    There are so many dimensions to a great garden. But one that we often don’t plan out as much as others is scent. Of course we think of flowers as having nice aromas, but some plants have scented foliage as well. And where and how you use them can make a big difference in how you enjoy our gardens.

    Mark Dwyer is the Director of Horticulture at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville. He thinks that scent is often overlooked in planning our gardens. “How often, on a spring day …do you catch that scent of lilacs and you’re taken back years, where you remember those in your grandma’s yard. And who doesn’t love those harbingers of spring, those early spring scents of not only lilacs, but fragrant viburnum,” and others. Dwyer encourages gardeners to be as thoughtful about planning for scent as they are for color, bloom time, or height.

    A caller identifying herself as Janet in Madison highly recommends the Sweet Autumn Clematis as an easy-to-grow and very fragrant plant. Dwyer agrees, saying “it’s as sweet as anything you could smell.” He adds that it generally starts blooming in September, and lasts well into October, depending on where in the state you live. You can also prune it down to the ground in late fall or early spring and it will come back nice and full.

    Scent not only comes from blossoms, but can also come from the foliage itself. At Rotary Gardens in the past two years, they had what they called the “Smelly Garden.” It included fragrant annuals and perennials. Many of them actually emit their scent at dusk and in the evening instead of during daylight hours. That’s a real bonus for gardeners who are away from home during the day and only get to enjoy their garden after work or school.

    But then there are plants where the foliage gives off a wonderful aroma when brushed against or rubbed. These include lavender, basil, lemon verbena and lemon balm. Besides those familiar scents, there are others whose foliage smells like orange, vanilla, pine or even chocolate when rubbed. “Those scents are out there, and I think with a little work and a little TLC [tender loving care], those plants can perform for us,” Dwyer says.

    Other favorite scented plants for Dwyer are fragrant tuberoses, which are tropical bulbs. At Rotary Gardens, they pot them in the early spring, and then as they start to sprout, they place them throughout the Gardens. Why these tuberoses? “They emit the sweetest fragrance you can imagine,” Dwyer says. “Just a couple of these would perfume a backyard.” These also tend to be even more aromatic in the evening since they are trying to attract nighttime pollinators like moths.

Episode Credits

  • Mark Dwyer Guest

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