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 gardenvines.com–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 RobinHoodRadio.com 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.)

  1. Robin Cooper says:

    I love the smell of roses in the morning, and all other of God’s beauty flowing through the winds of the afternoon. I am in zone 6

  2. mary says:

    Honeysuckle, and wild Rose are two of my favorite so far, in my Eastern Kentucky Garden. In Zone 6b , looking forward to alot of new things like sweet pea , for one!

  3. Christina Ricketts says:

    Our favorite from our own garden has always been our small lavender hedge near the front door. My husband loves to run his hands through it and he even likes the scent of the Russian sage. One shrub I hope to have one day soon is the mock orange. The fragrance of that while in bloom is intoxicating, although I do wish it had a longer bloom time. I am also very excited to try the new, fragrant clematis hybrids! Thanks for doing a show on clematis, Margaret. :) #greenthumbhighfive

  4. Anita Loving says:

    Just the smell of nature itself is intoxicating. There is no favorite season for me- When I walk outside, feel the breeze on my skin — the sun on my face or the droplets of rain as they fall to the earth, dig my toes in the dirt or walking barefoot in mud — every scent mingle with everything to provide a heady feeling of being at one with creation

  5. Elena says:

    My favorite fragrances are: Gardenia, Tuberose, Sweet Autumn Clematis and Jasmine.
    I tried some Gardenia seed to sprang, it grew about two inches and died due to transportation.
    I have a wonderful Sweet Autumn Clematis in bloom and I love it.

  6. Jessie Gee says:

    I am in Zone 6 cold and windy. I love the scent of Lily of the Valley and Lilac. Allysum and lavender are also pleasant. I am currently working on designing my very balcony garden and I love the information on this page. Thank you!

  7. P. Bedford says:

    I have gardened in New Hampshire and California. I love the smell of Plumeria when you get off the plane in Hawaii (Maui)

  8. C. Page says:

    I garden in zone 6 and my favorite garden scents are Peonies, Lily of the Valley, Lilacs, Sweet Woodruff and Lobularia. I also love the smell of Hay Scented Ferns!

  9. Deej Baker says:

    I am now in zone 7a it was just changed due to climate warming. I love roses, lavender, mints, rosemary, thyme, basil, our weedy honeysuckle and lonicera fragrantissima, any gardenia or jasmine, lilacs, fragrant lilies, daffodils, violets. Pretty much everything. All of the lemon scented herbs, pines, peonies.

  10. Connie says:

    Live in Tennessee and love the fragrance of gardenia, magnolia, and wisteria. Also love Carolina allspice, honeysuckle and fragrant herbs. Have been considering buying one of the new fragrant clematis plants

  11. Tom & Jonanne says:

    Favorite scents:

    Native Azaleas
    Oriental Lilies
    Apple Blossoms
    A Ripe Peach

    Fresh tilled garden soil

    We are zone 8A in middle Georgia

  12. Heather says:

    My favorite garden scent is from Lilies of the Valley, and Hyacinth bulbs. Their scents are so sweet and fill me with joy in spring. They bring back so masny wonderful memories. I garden in CT zone 6.

  13. Annette martinez says:

    I am in Texas and love having my plants in bloom for almost theee seasons every year.I have theee favorites in my garden right now. I have a night blooming Jasmine which fills the night air with its wonderful fragrance that I can’t wait for it to bloom every year. The second are my angel trumpet trees that started blooming for the first time last year but my sweet autumn clematis stole the number one spot when it finally bloomed for the first time this year. It took me four years, since I started it by seed, to get it to bloom. Did I tell you how wonderful it’s fresh scent is. It’s such a good scent I am trying to get a plant started for every side of my house.I keep bring in small cuttings just so I have the scent in the house.

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