Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

The Best Smell in the World?

No, I don’t think it’s one of these…

Angel Face Rose

What I think has the best scent in the world is something nothing like as showy as a rose. And if you happen to read on, bear with me, because it’s not a cow either.

When I first moved to Gippsland from Melbourne I lived in an old farmhouse on the edge of a dairy farm.

I remember a few shocks that first night in the farmhouse. One was the fact that when you turned out the lights it was dark. A silent blanket of velvety darkness without the noise of streetlights or the noise of…noise.

The other shock was hearing the unnerving sounds that cows make in the still of night. I had grown up (like many people in Melbourne who learnt about farm animals as a toddler from Play School) with the expectation that cows said ‘Moo’. It was quite a revelation to discover that they don’t. Cows can make some downright creepy noises at 3am.

Apart from those learning experiences, one of my strongest memories of living in that little house  is the scent of the Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora) growing by the front door. It was one of the biggest Lemon Verbenas I’ve ever seen and on warm days its delicious scent greeted me as I arrived home.

Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena

A couple of years ago I finally planted one in my own garden ( a town garden a little further away from the cows, but still in Gippsland)  and really wonder what took me so long. So far it’s still quite small and nothing much to look at, but I love it to bits just the same.

I think Lemon Verbena has one of the most delicious scents in the world. I really wish I could crush up some leaves for you so you could enjoy it too. It has a much subtler and ‘cleaner’ scent than Lemon Balm and is nowhere near so sharp as the tang of a real lemon.

For those who might not know it, the Lemon Verbena plant is not very showy. You wouldn’t buy it for its looks. It has tiny flowers and narrow lime green leaves that have a rough texture. It can also and get scraggly, and if you have a cat that is anything like my dear Possum, it can be completely flattened out from being sat upon when young.

Starting to take off with support (to avoid being sat on)

A couple of weeks ago a found a very similar plant labelled as Lime Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) while wandering through a nursery.   I don’t like the smell half as much as I like the lemon scented variety, as I find the lime version a little more ‘perfumy’ and sappy. But it certainly has a limey note and was pleasant enough for me to want to have it for my garden.

But Lemon Verbena still has my heart. And my nose.

Oh, and before I forget – they are from South America and like a warm well drained spot in the garden. They cope with light frosts.

I’m sure it has all been done before, but I would love to know  – which plant or flower do you think has the best scent? For an added challenge, can you describe it?

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Comments on: "The Best Smell in the World?" (42)

  1. Over here, the best scent as far as I remember comes from a tree called tembusu when it is flowering. The flowers are tiny, but at night, soft wind will bring the lovely scent to you 100 meters away…. In the middle of the night, lovely scent coming from no where near must be very scary !! ~bangchik

  2. The best ever smell in the world is the smell of the first rains of summer … it’s an earthy, heady, fresh smell that instantly lifts your spirit!

    Well that’s for people like me who wait nine months for rain!

    After that, the next best smell is the smell of my jasmine wafting through the air on a balmy summer’s night … that is a light, heavenly, sensual perfume.

  3. We don’t have to wait anywhere near as long Bernie, but I do understand the appeal – when we’ve had a hot dry spell there’s nothing better than the smell of rain 🙂

    Jasmine is a classic warm night perfume too isn’t it? Makes me think of far away places!

  4. I could almost smell it from here. I will have to remember that one for my garden. Gardenias have to be on the top of my list for smell. I had one in my garden last spring and it just didn’t do well here in Austin. I also love walking past my rosemary after I water it.

    • Hi Amy! Mmmm real gardenias! For a long time the only ‘gardenia’ smell I had know was the synthetic version, so I mistakenly thought I didn’t like the smell of gardenia – that was until I found a real one!

  5. Oh, I don’t think I could pick a plant with the best scent. There are so many wonderfully fragranced plants. Rosemary would certainly have to be on my list…and hyacinth…and lavender…too many choices!

    • OK, so it’s probably not a very fair question 😀 I have lots of other favourites too…but finding out what everyone else likes is giving me more great ideas for the garden!

  6. Gardenia is wonderful, and I love dianthus ‘Bath’s pink’. But the best fragrance of all comes from viburnum cariesii, Korean spice viburnum. It really does remind me of the spice cake my aunt used to bake.

  7. Oh, I love the smell of freshly cut lawn. It reminds me of being at home on a weekend and looking out to see my Dad pushing the lawnmover around the garden. Oh, and I love to crush a lemon leaf in my fingers, the smell lingers forever. Oh, and rosemary, and yes Gardenia, and Jasmine… do we have to choose just one?

    • No, you don’t have to choose just one Gillian 😀
      I love the smell of a crushed lemon leaf too. I also have a workmate who will cut a lemon in half and just sit it in a bowl on her desk for the day, which makes the office smell lovely without being too ‘perfumy’.
      I think I have a real leaning towards citrus smells!

  8. wow I am growing aloysia virgata, sweet almond bush and its scent is intoxicating. Although my personal favorite is Murraya eoxtica.

  9. I’ve just looked up aloysia virgata and it looks like this one might need a slightly warmer garden than mine, but I’m going to keep researching as I’d love to add a third member to my little aloysia family!
    I’m off to look up the Murraya now 🙂

  10. Elephant's Eye said:

    I share your love of lemon verbena. And a cat who sits on it, as if it were a cushion. Only discovered they come from South America, when we went to the Eden Project. But it is still a Mediterranean climate plant, so quite happy here. Now it has at last grown too high to SIT on! For scent – the list is endless. Buchu, especially knoffelbuchu, which has an overwhelming scent of garlic (not edible, just the fragrance). And a growing selection of scented Pelargoniums, citrus, mint, and others harder to describe, but delicious in a nosegay.

    • It’s great to find someone who shares both my love of lemon verbena and plant squashing cats Diana!

      You’ve reminded me that I have a couple of scented pelargoniums that are wonderful too – the peppermint one particularly. I was put of growing pelargoniums for ages because I don’t like the smell of the varieties not grown for their scent, but these are lovely and very drought hardy!

      I’m going to have to go and look up knoffelbuchu, it sounds intriguing.

  11. I agree with Bernie that the best scent ever is the scent of the first rain after the scorching heat. THe next best scent for me is the scent of Frangipani from a distance.

  12. I do agree, Frangipani has such a beautiful scent lotusleaf 🙂 Alas, it is not something that will grow in my garden. But I can look forward to drinking in it’s scent if I ever make it North to Queensland again, or even further North!

  13. I love the smell of lemon, it is actually one of the few “perfumes” I wear, as my husband is allergic.
    However, I think that lily of the valley is my favourite. It is such a short season, and I think that makes it all the more precious!
    Deborah

    • Hello kilbournegrove!
      Now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve actually had the pleasure of smelling a real lily of the valley. I’ll have to go and see if I can find one!

  14. Enjoyed your post on the lemon verbena. Wish I could smell it. I have memories of my grandmothers lilac bush and just love that scent. I planted a few bushes just last spring so I shall see if they’ve survived this winter…hopefully soon!

    • Hi Jan! Yes, I agree that lilac is yummy too 🙂 Which reminds me, I have a couple of them in my garden that are not doing so well, so I’ve got to go and read up on them. I hope yours come through the winter in flying colours!

  15. Hi, I stumbled upon you today in the back up and working blotanical, which we all apparently love!

    Nice blog and writing style.

    • Hello Jess and nice to meet you 🙂 Thank you for your lovely comment. I’m going to wander on over to your blog after work for a proper look as I haven’t seen yours before either!

  16. I love the smell of orange blossoms. They bloom in late winter and early spring and are intoxicating. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to enjoy the same scents that you did as a child? Now, your post makes me want to smell some Lemon Verbena ;^)

  17. Heidi, now you’ve made me want to try out lemon verbena. I have a lemon thyme that is growing in a pot where the cats brush it as they slink past, releasing a lovely burst of scent. I’m typically a huge fan of the herbal fragrances, especially basil, lavender, dill, cilantro, spearmint, and low-growing thyme crushed underfoot. (When I come in smelling of basil and lavender, F. says he has flashbacks of his grandmother, LOL.)

    The scent of tomato plant is rather intoxicating, but more for the excitement of *what is coming*. (Hope yours are flowering and doing well, btw.)

    But the best scent ever, to my way of thinking, is Magnolia grandiflora, the classic southern magnolia tree. We had one in our front yard when I was growing up (unfortunately brought down a few years ago by a tornado :() and the blooms are nearly the size of an adult’s head. One of them, set in a bowl of water, could perfume several rooms. It is a lush, sweet, nearly tropical scent, reminiscent of gardenias but with a tangy, high, bright note like sunlight reflecting off water which gardenia lacks (although a southern garden without gardenia feels naked to me).

  18. I love many of those herby smells too Meredith and you’ve just reminded my that I need to get some thyme again – a lemon one of course! I hope you do get to try lemon verbena one day and tell me what you think (it would be funny if you detested the smell!)

    We can grow some Magnolias in our area, but I don’t think I’ve seen one like the Magnolia Grandiflora you are describing. I just don’t think I’ve ever seen a magnolia flower that big! You make it sound so enticing that I almost imagine I can smell it from here!

    PS: A couple of the tomato buds have opened into lovely little flowers now 🙂 I’m so excited!

  19. Hi i am new here just followed you from Meredith’s. Your scent challenge has been drawing in lots of visitors, ha! i dont know that lemon verbena you have there because i am from the tropics, but the scent of crushed lemon leaves seem like a stress decipator. However, for sweet smell i think i like our Jasminum sambac (sampagita). It could be good also for food as the Thais encorporate the smell in many of their desserts. I also like the rosemary, which i cannot describe, just soothing. Maybe if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then scent is in the nose of the beholder too. hehe! God bless.

  20. Hi Andrea and thanks for popping in 🙂
    I love your way of putting it and agree 100% that a beautiful scent is ‘in the nose of the beholder’! Still, it has been wonderful to have everyone share their favourite smells here as it has given me some great ideas for tracking down some lovely scented plants!

  21. Anything with a lemon-like fragrance: tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans), Lemon grass (cymbopogon), Magnolia grandiflora and the others mentioned before, is my fav.

    Gardenias are wonderful too for that sweetness.

    The resinous fragrance of herbs is something to which that I like to introduce visitors to the garden. They know flowers — herbs are not as familiar.

    • Thanks for another great tip Nell Jean! I’ve just been looking up the tea olive and it sounds like it would have a delicious smell (many compared it to a cross between jasmine and ripe apricots!) From what I’ve read it seems like it might be quite well suited to my garden too, so I’m going to be on the lookout.
      Sadly the only thing I seem to be able to do with Gardenias is kill them 😦

  22. I absolutely adore Lemon Verbena and it is probably my favourite scented plant too. Some of the other Aloysia’s sound very interesting and I may have to look in to that.

    I regularly use Lemon Verbena in baths and infuse in boiling water as room fresheners. There are a few articles on my blog regarding this.

    Great post!

    Ryan (Ryans Garden)

  23. Hello Ryan and thanks for visiting!
    It’s great to find another person who puts Lemon Verbena at the top of their scented plants list 🙂
    I did pop in to your lovely blog and have a look at your scented bath post. I could almost smell those yummy scented plants. Hopefully my lemon verbena will be big enough soon so I can take some sprigs for the same purpose!

  24. There are just too many wonderful smelling plants to pick one, but lemon verbena is on the top of my list. I have a lemon verbena that is several years old now that I faithfully bring inside every winter where it loses all its leaves (that I haven’t picked off) and looks very bare and forlorn. But this is the time of year where it starts to come back to life. It currently has green sprouts all over and several well formed leaves. By the time it is warm enough to put it out in a month or two, it will be well on its way to its full, lush size.

    I grew holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) last year for the first time and that was my favorite scented plant last summer. I’ve always enjoyed Tulsi tea (another name for holy basil) but making the tea with fresh leaves was amazing. It was sweet, roselike, exotic, all at once… It will definitely have a place in the garden this year.

  25. Hello Linda and thanks for popping in 🙂

    I’m lucky that the weather here is generally mild enough for the lemon verbena to stay outside in the ground (we don’t tend to get really bad frosts). It did look a bit forlorn after winter, but it didn’t lose it’s leaves and has really bounced back this summer giving me hope that it will eventually grow into a big fragrant shrub 🙂 I’m pleased to hear yours is well under way again!

    I’ve not come across Ocimum sanctum before but it sounds wonderful, I’m off to look it up and find out if it will grow here!

  26. The best smell for me would be of the earth/ mud just after the rains…when everything looks sparkling fresh, washed green, pearly drops on the leaves n flowers and mebbe the dstant smell of feshly brewed Tea n Pakora’s (indian snacks) n yes JASMINe’s.

    Lovely post and thought :):)

  27. Hello Radhika and thanks for your lovely comments 🙂
    I think I just metioned on your blog that I would love to visit India. Your comments on the smell of fresh washed earth, tea and Pakoras only made me want to visit more!

  28. Heliotrope smells like licorice, my kids say it smells like M&M’s candy. I have to have it every summer!

    Christine in Alaska

  29. I’m torn between Salvia clevlandii (a California native Cleveland sage with smallish, grayish leaves and light purple flowers) and Salvia spatacea (Hummingbird Sage) with largish green leaves and red flowers.

    The Cleveland sage smells very sagy, the Hummingbird sage more a marriage of sagy and minty smells. Hard to decide.

  30. Hello Town Mouse and thanks for dropping by 🙂 I do like the sound of the of the Hummingbird sage with the combination of mint and sage!

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