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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - May 04, 2012

From: Kennewick, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Creating a garden based on fragrance
Answered by: Anne Ruggles

QUESTION:

I would like to know which Fragrant Flowers are easy to grow and hearty for the climate i live in. Eastern part of washington state. Desert like in summer, warm summers.

ANSWER:

Understanding why plants produce fragrance will help you to select the right ones. Scent is a signal used by plants to advertise to pollinators (primarily insects) that they have pollen or nectar available. The smell of the flower alerts pollinators that the plant is ready to be pollinated, and when the animals arrive to collect pollen and/or nectar, pollen gets transferred, facilitating plant reproduction. The scent (an energetically expensive compound for the plant to make) functions as both a long-and short-distance attractant. The type of pollinator (bee, beetle, fly, butterfly or moth) that it wants to attract will determine the time of day and year the plant is most fragrant and the type of fragrance that it will produce.  Scientific American has a very nice article about fragrance in plants.

We are going to direct you to several sources for determining what plants to choose.

The Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS) is an excellent place to start. They have developed plant lists by county.

The Columbia Basin Chapter of the WNPS has developed a brochure describing growing native plants in Washington. This brochure includes plant descriptions - including those that are fragrant: "The Natural Way to Grow: Gardening with Native Plants of Eastern Washington."  The Columbia Basin Chapter of the Native Plant Society serves both the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla areas and should be a good source of information for you. In addition to their web site you can contact them (Marita Lih mplih@charter.net) and ask for their recommendations for plants that are fragrant and will grow well there.

The Fragrance Garden is adjacent to the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center in Ferndale, WA. This is an award winning Fragrance Garden with over 200 plants. It is located in the Whatcom Wildlife Area - Tennant Lake Park in western Washington, but they may have information about fragrant plants in your part of the state. Contact them at:    (360) 384-4723

The Seattle Garden Club has a fragrance garden that is a part of the University of Washington Botanical Gardens. They, too, may have information about fragrant species in your part of Washington.

 Main Phone: 206-543-8616
Email: uwbg@u.washington.edu
Facebook: www.facebook.com/UWBotanicGardens


The Xerces Society is also a good source of information about managing your yard for butterflies and flies (insects that are attracted to fragrant plants). They produce several publications that you can download that may be useful in your planning.

Sources of native seed for your area are:

BFI Native Seeds in Moses Lake, WA

Derby Canyon Natives, Peshastin, WA   The folks at Derby Canyon Natives have compiled plant lists for attractingh butterflies and hummingbirds. These consist of plants that should do well where you live.

For most plants, you can go to the Wildflower Center website to find out more information about the plant. Click on the "Explore Plants" tab then enter either the scientific or common name of the plant in which you are interested and click "go." You will be taken to a page that gives you a description, habitat requirements, value to wildlife, links to images, etc. For instance, click here to find out more about Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa).

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Purple sage
Salvia dorrii

Purple sage
Salvia dorrii

Lewis' mock orange
Philadelphus lewisii

Lewis' mock orange
Philadelphus lewisii

Alpine mountainbalm
Monardella odoratissima

Showy milkweed
Asclepias speciosa

Orange honeysuckle
Lonicera ciliosa

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