Month: February 2015

A New Year, A New Challenge

Fragrance is my primary goal in the garden this year. Last year I’d show someone a flower and they would always try to smell it. With zinnias and dahlias, there is no scent. Unfortunately scent has been bred out of many flowers over the years. Plant breeders have decided the ability to ship long distances and last weeks in a vase are more important than scent.  I disagree. Local, slow flowers allow for fragrance AND freshness. Not being shipped long distances mean we’ll still get a decent vase life.

My goal this year is to have at least one type of flower with noticeable scent blooming throughout the season.


  • Tulips and Daffodils: I spent a good deal of time seeking out varieties that mentioned fragrance in their description. A few pots are in windows in my living room. This morning I saw two buds! I started them in the pots around Halloween and kept them in our attic which has been between 40-50F. Many many others are outside buried under 3-4″ of snow at the moment. Source:, Big Box Stores on Sale
  • Dianthus ‘Inchmery’: Usually called carnations at the florist, also known as pinks with gardeners. I have a rare one ordered that says it is their most fragrant antique pink. Blooms into summer. Source:
  • Mignonette ‘Machet’: Flowers don’t look gorgeous but are supposed to smell amazing. Good thing I’m selecting for scent. I know I will be able to mix them with other flowers that won’t have a scent to make a perfect arrangement. Blooms into summer. Source:
  • Icelandic Poppy ‘Champagne bubbles’: Bought a start last year from a local nursery and it was beautiful — don’t recall a scent. Going to try again. Source:
  • Sweet Pea ‘Mollie Rilestone’ and ‘Spring Sunshine’: Attempted this last year but started them too late. Going to give it one last shot. The few that bloomed last year smelled fantastic. Blooms into summer. Source:


  • Heliotrope ‘Sweet Heaven’: I’m not sure how this will hold up in our hot Chicago summers. Selected this variety because of the comment on that it held up well over a hot summer. Source:
  • Nasturtium ‘Golden Gleam’: Hope to use this as a foliage more than a cut flower. This variety said it had a pleasant scent.
  • Red Swallowwort: One word – vanilla. If this one smells like vanilla then the room it takes in the garden will be well worth it. Supposed to be a big plant at 4′ height x 3′ width. Great for butterflies! Source:
  • Tobacco ‘Cranberry Isles’: This one says it is scented at night. If I cut it at night will it retain its fragrance? Not sure but willing to find out. Source:

2014, Assorted Flowers


Zinnias, yellow Stamens – Or as I like to think of them flowers within the flower


Zinnias, Looks and feels just like velvet!


Peony Bud

Peony bloom




2014, Benary Salmon Zinnia


My passion for gardening started with a wild idea that I could grow flowers for my wedding. Zinnias were a mainstay of this fantasy. I love that they were cheap to start from seed, would be blooming when I needed them and sounded fairly easy.

The Benary Salmon Zinnia pictured above was the one I fell in love with online. I loved the soft salmon rose color. The touch of coral.

Benary Salmon Zinnia

Benary Salmon Zinnia

I sowed seed a little late, mid May. They were just starting by my wedding date of August 1st. There weren’t a ton, maybe a dozen from my 10 plants. I had already known I would need to supplement so it wasn’t a huge disappointment. They kept going into November. Their show was amazing, I particularly loved the little yellow stamens that would peak out from the center, you can see what I’m talking about in the photo above. The ones I left to produce seed for next year developed beautiful variation in their petals.


Benary Salmon Zinnia left to go to seed

For reference, I don’t know how to edit photos. This is a raw image taken with a fancy borrowed camera (thanks Mom!).

Mixed Benary Salmon and Liliput White Zinnias

Mixed Benary Salmon and Liliput White Zinnias

In the photo above you can see some BRIGHT orange zinnias peaking out. All of the seed for this area came out of the same packet. These were the first ones to flower. So imagine me, checking the flowers every morning, poking around for buds. Waiting for that first bloom and BAM — orange. Halloween orange. At the time it was not at all funny. I gave up on thinking I could ever use my flowers for the big day.


When I was planning my garden and first started looking at zinnias, the dahlia types with a multitude of tightly packed petals were what appealed most to me. Some of the ones I loved the most didn’t look like that one bit. The one above would never end up on a seed suppliers website trying to sell you Benary zinnia seeds. But here it is — light, airy with a certain carefree quality to it. Perhaps even more beautiful than the “perfect” ones I had envisioned as I was sowing seed in the spring.

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