Gardening: You can bring fragrance to your porches and patios

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

I was chatting with a gal the other day about changes in life as time goes on. A couple of years ago, she moved from her home to a condo and she lamented one of the things she misses most is the fragrance of her old-fashioned spring flowering shrubs. While she has a deck and a small space to plant, she said there was no way she could grow a lilac or a mockorange.

I was pleased to tell her about all the exciting new dwarf shrubs that have been developed in the past few years and more were becoming available every season.

 The  'Bloomerang’ dwarf purple Lilac from Proven Winners rises to just 2.5 to 3 feet in height and produces fragrant flowers in spring and reblooms. 

‘Baby Kim,’  an improved ‘Miss Kim,’ offers dark purple color in the bud stage and ages to a light lavender as the fragrant flowers open.  

For me nothing beats the fragrance of a mockorange  and the ‘Illuminati Tower’ variety from Proven Winners, which grows to 3 to 4 feet in height and just 1.5 feet in width, should fit nicely on the corner of a patio or deck. Hardy to zone 4, this beauty is deer resistant. 

Illuminati Tower Mockorange

I’m looking to introduce Double Play Doozie in the OPC display garden this year. This sterile spirea’s opening act is vibrant red and lime leaves that darken as the season progresses. The show continues as hot pink flowers emerge on the compact 2- to 3-foot shrubs and the bloom continues to frost.   

Butterfly bushes are all the rage because of the popularity of pollinator plantings, but many of the varieties become rangy and die back and need pruning in spring. Not so with the Proven Winners’ ‘Pugster' series that combines dwarf growth habit and larger fragrant blooms. Rising to 2 feet in height, they are available in blue, white, pink, amethyst and periwinkle.

Proven Winners’ ‘Pugster' series

Hydrangeas continue to be at the top of the list in sales when it comes to flowering shrubs, and the nativar ‘Invincible Mini Muavette’ is garnering rave reviews. Rising to just 2.5 to 3 feet, this dwarf rounded beauty produces dark green leaves and mases of showy mauve purple mophead flowers on rigid stems, reblooming throughout the summer. 

The flower heads of ‘Invincible Limetta’ emerge a lush lime green, lighten to soft greenish white and then age to green again.

The ‘Invincibles’ are hardy to zone 3  and make their grandmother ‘Annabelle’ proud.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at