giveaway: fragrant clematis, and more scented climbers, with dan long

Fragrant vines from Brushwood NurseryHOW DOES A WHIFF of garden fragrance sound right now—a virtual noseful from an unexpected source: vines and climbers? It includes some headlines in the world of plant breeding—new fragrant clematis with colorful, showy flowers. Vine expert Dan Long suggests these, and more, plus a chance to win some for your garden.

Dan Long–proprietor of Brushwood Nursery aka–is celebrating 15 years of selling an impressive assortment of hundreds of vining and climbing plants. He joined me from Athens, Georgia, on the latest radio show and podcast, to give us a tour through some upwardly mobile choices in the world of scented things. (Details on how to listen and subscribe free to the program are at the bottom of the page.)

my fragrant-vine q&a with dan long

Sugar Sweet clematis at Brushwood NurseryQ. I mentioned the recent headlines of new fragrant Clematis–so maybe let’s start there before we talk jasmines and honeysuckles and even some passion flowers and climbing roses, among the many delicious possibilities.

When I think fragrant clematis I think of C. montana with tons of tiny flowers covering a trellis, or maybe the sweet autumn clematis, C. terniflora (again with masses of tiny blooms). But how did these new varieties come to pass?

A. A friend of mine in Netherlands, Ton Hannink, developed them. I hesitate to say he is an amateur breeder–because he is very good at what he does and has been at it for two decades, but it is not his profession.

Ton has been working with his connections around the world and with some really rare and interesting species, and worked with one rare fragrant species to come up with these hybrids that are gorgeous, have a terrific fragrance, and a whole new color range–lavender and blue. And the fragrance is not shy at all.

Sugar-Sweet Blue [above photo, left] has a wonderful like gardenia scent, and Sugar-Sweet Lilac [above right] has been likened to orange blossoms. These two (hardy in Zones 5-9) were the first ones in the new Sugar-Sweet Series that Ton thought were really ready to introduce.

Q. How big are the blooms, and how tall are the plants?

A. The blooms are not as big as the large-flowered Clematis hybrids, but run more like the viticella hybrids size-wise.  All have about the same habit–they’ll grow 6 to 9 feet tall, and they are disease resistant.

Q. What pruning group are they in–anything tricky?

A. They are definitely different in that they bloom in spring, but are classed by the breeder as pruning group 3 (meaning you cut them to the ground late each winter). However, they are quick and aggressive early on to refill a trellis, unlike the typical group 3 types that start flowering in summer or even later. So far, we’ve found them to be very easy to grow. [A how-to with Dan Long on how to prune clematis is here.]

Passiflora Chambord and allardii from BrushwoodQ. Besides the new Clematis, I see there’s a tender Passiflora hybrid I haven’t seen before that’s touting good scent. 

A. Passiflora ‘Chambord’ (Zones 9-10, above left photo) has a lovely flower, and a really clean, sweet fragrance—many passion flowers have more of a musky scent that some people like, and others don’t.  Some other sweetly fragrant ones are Passiflora cyanea and P. x. allardii [above right].

So many of the passion flowers can be grown in a container, and simply brought into a sunny window in the winter. Sometimes you can even get them to perform indoors, not just tolerate it.

Jasmine and Confederate jasmine at BrushwoodQ. So maybe let’s move to a more-expected source of fragrance: Let’s talk about the jasmines, true ones and any cousins commonly called “jasmine.”

 A. Many of the jasmines are hardy up into Zone 7, and a few are hardy up into Zone 6. One of my favorites is a Jasminum officinale with golden-chartreuse foliage and fragrant white flowers—it’s called ‘Fiona Sunrise’ [above left] and is great in combination with a blue or purple Clematis. It takes a couple of years before it blooms, and has been recorded as fully hardy up into Zone 6.

Q. If you wanted to grow one of these vines in a pot, and bring them in for winter protection, how big a pot?

A. My pat answer is: a half-barrel. A lot of room for roots, a lot of buffer for drought so you don’t have to water three times a day in the summer–and when you put vines up on an 8-foot trellis, they become a giant sail. In a barrel, they don’t tip over the way a smaller pot would on a windy day.

Q. Other “jasmines”?

A. For a really powerful fragrance, the Confederate jasmines, in the genus Trachelospermum, are really good. One that’s fairly hardy: the selection T. jasminoides ‘Madison’ [above right] which is hardy to Zone 7, and evergreen. Some Confederate jasmines have very interesting variegated foliage as well.

Lonicera Munstead and Winchester from BrushwoodQ. What about honeysuckles–are some of the good garden Lonicera still really fragrant? 

A. The one people think of right away is Japanese honeysuckle. A lot of people mistakenly believe Japanese honeysuckle is a native, because it is so widespread everywhere, but it’s an invasive plant.

What I like to recommend instead are the Dutch honeysuckles, Lonicera periclymenum, like the great selections ‘Belgica’ and ‘Sweet Sue’ and ‘Munster’ and ‘Winchester’ [last two left and right, respectively, in photo above]. There’s a wonderful compact one, Lonicera periclymenum var. serotina ‘Florida.’ All are selections of the species native to that part of Europe.

Q. Are any American species fragrant, like L. sempervirens?

A. They are not fragrant at all, not even a little bit. They are wonderful plants in their own right, and support hummingbirds and butterflies, and then songbirds that eat their berries, but they sadly have no fragrance.

Q. I guess we have to mention Wisteria, but it’s always been a plant that makes me nervous!

A. Yes, especially the Asian wisteria. There are Wisteria species that are native and they are well behaved in the garden–though they still become large plants. But they don’t eat your oak tree, they don’t send runners under every surface. And they are fragrant–but similar to the passion flowers I talked about earlier, it’s a musky fragrance, which is another reason the Asian ones were so popular, because they had a sweet fragrance.

For wisteria, even the native one, I recommend 4-by-4’s at the minimum for support, or steel pipe. It’s not about the mass of the plant, but a mature plant has the ability to crush the support.

Q. Any other genera that we should touch on?

A. Kiwi, or Actinidia, is only lightly fragrant, and they flower down in the plant, so you won’t catch a whiff of them from 20 feet away. They’re pretty and the fruit is delicious, though.

Compassion and Zephirine Drouhan roses at BrushwoodQ. Let’s talk good fragrant climbing roses.

A. I really like ‘Compassion’ (which is a rich pink, Zones 6-10; photo above left) and ‘Albertine’ (a paler pink for Zones 7-11; bottom right photo in top-of-page collage).

A lot of folks are familiar with ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ [photo above right]—which has a nice pink color and a good fragrance and is known for being nearly thornless and tolerating shadier conditions and poorer soil than many other roses.

I had the good fortune to go to Sissinghurst a few years ago, and I saw ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ (Zone 7-9) on a wall of growing up a building to the second story. We talk about cutting flowers to bring indoors—but all you had to do in that case was open the window. It’s a really tall rose.

Crepuscule rose from Brushwood‘Crepuscule’ [photo left, and detail in top collage] is a recent fragrance of mine—a sort of apricot color. It grows well farther North (at least to Zone 7) and also down here, even in our heat and humidity.

Q. When do I prune my climbing roses?

A. When you feel like it! They don’t the follow the rigid rule like shrubs roses–they’re more forgiving. You just want to basically shape them up.

Late winter’s often a good time, because you can see which stems have died, and uncross crossing ones (if they’re flexible stems), or cut out the crosses (if they’re rigid ones). With the once-bloomers (non-repeaters), you can also do some cleanup after bloom, for instance.

prefer the podcast?

DAN LONG and I talked fragrant climbers on the latest radio podcast. You can listen anywhere, anytime: Locally, in my Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) region, “A Way to Garden” airs on Robin Hood Radio’s three stations on Monday at 8:30 AM Eastern, with a rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. It is available free on iTunes, the Stitcher app, or streaming from or via its RSS feed. The March 3, 2014 show can be streamed here now. Robin Hood is the smallest NPR station in the nation; our garden show marks the start of its fifth year in March, and is syndicated via PRX.

how to win fragrant vines and climbers

I’VE PURCHASED A $25 Brushwood Nursery gift certificate to share with a lucky winner. All you have to to to enter is answer this question in the comments box at the bottom of the page:

What are your favorite garden scents–and where do they come from? (Tell us where you garden–what Zone or region or state.)

Me: I’m crazy about aromatic things such as the foliage of rosemary or mint, but among more perfume-like aromas, the clove currant; early blooming Viburnum carlesii, and of course lilacs are pretty incredible contributors to spring here.

No answer, or feeling shy? Just say “count me in” or something like that, and I will. The winner will be selected after entries close at midnight Sunday, March 10. Good luck to all.

(All photos courtesy of and copyright Brushwood Nursery.)

March 3, 2014


  1. says

    First the viburnum knock me over with their gorgeous scent in early spring followed by the lavender clematis that spring up from the ground to fill the trellis along the sidewalk with their subtle perfume – lovely.

  2. Sharon Gorbacz says

    I have two favorites – artemsia (wormwood) and agastache (hummingbird mint). The lovely smell as you brush against the plants is intoxicating. I grow them in zone 6.

    • Sharon Gorbacz says

      forgot to mention I also love hyacinths – can’t wait for them to come up so I can smell them on the way up my front walk!

    • Elaine Young says

      I’m in zone 7B (it was changed a couple of years ago from 6B although after this winter, maybe it is 6 B!!), NYC, and for me nothing says spring like the fragrance of lilacs. I could sit under the lilac in our yard for the entire time it blooms just breathing in that heady scent ! Of course, I also take some cuttings in the house to enjoy the fragrance indoors, as well :)

  3. Jacqueline says

    I love the smell of Daphne, when I arrived in Portland from Key West, my rental house had this shrub and the fragrance enchanted me. So I tracked it down and planted it in my new home. The amazing fragrance greets me in March letting me know Spring is coming soon. I’m in Zone 8B.

  4. Darlene Eldredge says

    I have just recently moved and had to leave behind all of my flowers at the new house I have a very large fence which I would love to cover with flowers and use as a privacy fence what would be your suggestions

  5. Tannis says

    My favorite has to be Peonies! They are breathtakingly beautiful and the scent is soothing and sweet. They take me back to my youth.

    Blustery Wisconsin – Zone 4

  6. Lynne H says

    One of my favorite garden smells comes from my herb garden, especially the lemon verbena and basil plants. I’m also a huge fan of fragrant lilies. I garden in zone 6 in PA.

  7. Becky Ayars says

    I live in the Upper Great Lakes but not close to the Big lake so I live in Zone4. Lilac,lavender,lillies of the valley ,my old roses and all my wonderful array of herbs have the scents that remind why I love to garden

  8. Christine Keating-Ingelse says

    I live in southern VT (zone 5- but this winter it feels like zone 0!). I love the scent of Stargazer lilies! I bought a couple of overgrown specimens at an after season sale a few years ago and planted the bulbs- they came up beautifully! The following year they grew to about 4 ft tall- amazing!!
    I also love honeysuckly, jasmine, orange blossoms, scented geraniums- I love just about anything with a sweet, clean scent!
    And I’d love to win a gift card- to replace my Stargazer. We moved and I had it planted in a pot but didn’t put the bulbs in the ground before the hard frost hit so I now have bulb mush!

  9. Alice smith says

    Lilacs! Must be the scent of heaven! Tuberoses, although I have to grow them in pots, in my zone 6 garden in Arkansas.

  10. Jeannie says

    Just reading the descriptions of the way the plants smell makes me want to have at least one where I can go and take a sniff and get recharged………I have pretty much been intimated with beautiful flowers and how to grow them. Just want to try. Suggestions for Chicago area……..I have a lot of sun.
    Let’s just grow together a, :). Jeannie

  11. Glynn says

    Cat mint, good ol’ lemon balm & basil. Oh, and tomato leaves. Just walking through the garden brushing up against things is enchanting.

  12. margaret says

    And the winner is….Michael (who has been notified by email).

    Thanks to everyone for participating. What a wide ranging list of fragrant plants!

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