Working in the garden or just walking through it, your head sometimes pops up to catch the fragrance of a plant in the garden. Gardeners are always aware of how their plants look, but sometimes the fragrance is a surprise.

But if you plan well, your flowering plantings will perfume part of your days when you’re in your garden.

It makes sense, for example, to have fragrant flowers near the door you use most often. A sweet fragrance can greet you as you come home from work or bid you farewell as you leave for work in the morning.

And if you spend a lot of time on a patio or deck outdoors, you should plant several fragrant plants that bloom at different times to add some nice aroma to go along with the barbecued burgers or to provide an extra sensory sensation to go along with your summer reading.

Many fragrant blossoms also work well as cut flowers, so you bring the aroma in as well as the color.

But fragrant blooms do not have to be strikingly beautiful. Lily of the valley, with the botanical name convallaria, gives off a heady, sweet aroma from bell-shaped flowers that are only about a quarter-inch in diameter. It is a superb ground cover that does well in shade, and while most of the blossoms are white, you can find pink varieties here and there.

The common violas (known as johnny-jump-ups) are also lightly fragrant — and they pretty much pop up without any help from us gardeners.

Lilacs are another fragrant flower for early in the season. Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac, is especially fragrant, but all lilacs have a certain amount of fragrance.

Magnolias, especially the stellata varieties such as “Merrill” and “Leonard Messel,” also have a wonderful aroma in the spring.

Most fruit trees have fragrant blossoms. That includes apple, peach, plum, cherry and pear. Some of the crabapple varieties have an especially heady fragrance.

Many viburnums, including some native varieties, are highly fragrant. “Winterthur” is a fragrant native with large white blossoms and is resistant to viburnum leaf beetle. “Mohawk” has wonderful balls of fragrant white flowers and is also VLB resistant. Mayflower viburnum may not be native, but it is fragrant and VLB resistant.

Mock orange, with the botanical name Philadelphus, is one of the most highly fragrant shrubs, with white flowers that — as the name would make you think — smell like orange blossoms.

Another wonderfully fragrant shrub is clethra, also called summersweet or pepperbush. This shrub can put up with a lot of shade, but it does have a few problems. First, it is one of the last plants to leaf out in the spring and people often think it is dead or dying when there is no foliage in mid- to late May. And it is a little bit twiggy. But the fragrance in late August and September offsets those drawbacks.

Roses are known for their fragrance, but not all roses are fragrant. Rugosa roses have a wonderfully sweet fragrance, and they are a tough plant. But they can overtake a garden if you do not keep them in check. 

if you want to go with the disease-resistant Knockout series or roses, the ones with the most fragrance apparently are the original Knockout and the yellow Sunny Knockout. Tea roses are noted for their fragrance, but they also are noted for being a lot of work. But they are beautiful.

Many Oriental lilies are wonderfully fragrant — but not all of them. One of the most fragrant is “Stargazer,” but many others come close. They also are statement plants in the garden. But for the last 10 years or so they have been under attack from the lily leaf beetle. If you are willing to battle the beetle — either chemically or by hand — you should give these a try.

A lot of daylilies are fragrant, but in a lot of the newer hybrids the fragrance has been bred out of them. But the old fashioned orange and lemon lilies have a great fragrance. And many of the daylilies developed by the Barth family in Alna and the Sheepscot Valley have a variety of great fragrances.

And then there are Dame’s Rocket, Monarda (Beebalm), peonies, phlox and so on — follow your nose around your garden but if there isn’t enough fragrance for you, now is the time to add some fragrant plants.

I KEEP GETTING notices about garden tours, and you should try to take in one or two this summer.

The Belfast Garden Club has a summerlong tour, covering one garden most Fridays. The events began last week and continue through Aug. 24, and the first Friday of September and October. The cost is $4 a week and benefits the club’s civic projects. 

For more information call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105 or visit www.belfastgarden

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]