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A gravel pathway leading down between two large full garden beds
Take your garden to new heights by transforming it into a paradise of colour and fragrance.

Nurture by nature

Gardening is more than just a way to grow. It can be a sensory delight, with the mix of sights, sounds and aromas creating an immersive experience. It can include elements to engage all senses, or you can simply focus on, say, sight and smell. By choosing plants with one or more of these characteristics, you will create a wonderfully stimulating and mindful experience.

Moderate the fragrance

The sense of smell is powerful and extremely evocative, but this doesn’t mean every plant in the garden has to be fragrant. “Allow strongly fragranced flowers like gardenias to stand alone as a specimen planting,” suggests horticulturist Chloe Thomson (@beantheredugthat). “This way you can fully enjoy and appreciate the individual fragrance, without bias.”

Lavender growing in a stone wall garden bed

Plant position is key

“Spaces that are confined can help capture and strengthen floral scent, so include fragrant plants in walled areas such as courtyards,” says Sue Edwards of Seasol. While some plants naturally release scent into the air, others need a little encouragement. “Position plants with scented leaves, like lemon-scented geraniums or rosemary, near pathways where they can be brushed to release their fragrance,” adds Sue.

It’s also a good idea to include scents where they can be regularly enjoyed. “Under windows, along paths or surrounding outdoor seating areas are a few spots to consider,” says Sue.

White flowers growing along a front porch

Time your plantings

Lavender, roses, camellias, frangipani, magnolia, daphne, osmanthus, brown boronia and star jasmine are perennial performers. They flower at different times of the year, too, allowing you to make the most of different scents. But if you run into a time of year when there’s no fragrance in the garden, “Go on a hunt in store to find a suitable plant,” suggests Chloe. Flowering annuals like sweet alyssum, stock and some petunias can fill the gap. Think beyond flowers – aromatic herbs, foliage plants and even fruit trees can take you through the seasons. For foliage, look to natives: aniseed myrtle (Backhousia anisata), tea trees, melaleucas and various eucalypts are ideal – check their mature height is suitable for the size of your block.

Colour therapy

Colour can greatly influence the mood of a space. “Look to the colour wheel for inspiration and use it as a guide for your planting,” says horticulturist Sharon Fairbairn of Oasis Horticulture. “Hot colours, such as red, yellow and orange, are bold and energising; when mixed together they are absolute show-stoppers.” For a more muted palette, go for cool tones. “Blue, purples, soft pinks and whites are easy on the eye and are soothing to look at,” she says.

To strike the right balance in your planting scheme, Sharon suggests using three colours that border each other on the colour wheel. “Repeating those colours in similar shades gives a sense of harmony to your display.”

Use contrasting colours to create drama and impact; this can highlight features or punctuate a space. The arrangement of plants should be considered, too. “Colour schemes can also be more effective when you plant large blocks of a single colour,” suggests Sharon.

Orange flowers blooming along a gravel pathway

A riot of colour

It is possible to have year-round floral colour, but only if you plan for it. Spring bulbs like jonquils, daffodils and hyacinths offer colour and fragrance; zinnias, roses, dahlias, frangipanis and hydrangeas provide interest in summer and autumn; while hellebores, camellias, magnolias and wattles shine in winter. Potted annuals, such as snapdragon, vinca, marigold and cosmos, can add extra colour throughout the year.

Tip: Colour isn’t limited to flowers. Foliage, bark, sculptures and hardscaping features should play a part, too.

A plant with yellow flowers growing along a timber outdoor staircase

Cultivate & care

To help plants come into their own, put them in the right spot and prepare the soil well for planting. “Before planting, apply well-rotted manure and compost to the soil,” says Sue. “For a no-dig option, try a liquid fertiliser.” This will help improve soil structure and moisture retention, and give plants a solid foundation. During the flowering season, water and feed plants regularly. Deadhead or remove spent flowers often to prompt new growth.

Tip: Your flower plantings will only be as good as your soil preparation, so remember to use appropriate compost or fertiliser.

Keep in mind...

  • Take care when selecting your plants, as some fragrant and colourful varieties can be toxic to children and pets.
  • When using fertiliser products, ensure the safety of your children and pets. Always read the instructions on the packaging.

Working with a small space backyard?

Housing your fragrant plants in pots may be a better option for you. Check out the top 10 scented plants to grow in pots.

Photo Credit: GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley, Anna Robinson & John Downs

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.