In Praise of Nemesias



When something you like grows well in your garden it makes sense to grow more of it. I count agapanthus, zantedeschia, trachelospermum and osteospermum amongst the plants that more than make themselves at home – they positively take possession. We all need carefree plants like this, otherwise gardening would be a slog. They look after themselves whilst we fuss around less robust treasures, encouraging them to live in places they’d prefer not to live.  A happy, unconstrained plant is a better looking plant, always. You can train, prune, relocate, spray, feed, deadhead or talk to the wrong plant in the wrong place for as long as you like, but it will never feel at home.

So, having had great success with a small, white, scented nemesia named ‘Wisley Vanilla’ I have continued to plant more and more in tubs, bowls and window boxes. The scent of the flowers is warm and delicious, like vanilla-infused custard, and the flowers blush pale pink when they are planted in sun. I have not experienced a winter yet when the plants have not pulled through, often in full bloom by April when they mingle between daffodils and tulips. The only maintenance required is the removal of spent flowers a couple of times each season. In light shade the plants can be encouraged to make neater bushes if the leading shoots are pinched out. Beyond that, little other than an occasional shot of Tomorite or Miracle Grow is needed to deliver an almost perpetual display of delightfully fragrant flowers.



Flushed with success the plant breeders have quickly expanded the range of scented nemesias available to gardeners. When I first saw Nemesia ‘Plums and Custard’ at Broadstairs Garden Centre I knew I had to diversify. Of the many new hybrids on the market, this is one of the most striking, its flowers an audacious combination of violet and canary yellow, held above glossy green foliage. The flowers are produced in much tighter clusters than ‘Wisley Vanilla’, which only serves to accentuate their dramatic colouration. Plant with yellow daisies or purple salvias to really bring out those vibrant tones.



Having decided not to turf everything out of my winter windowboxes I have, instead, supplemented a planting of ivy, hellebores, euonymus and rosemary with ….. you guessed it ….. more nemesias. Here was an excuse to try another bi-coloured variety called ‘Berries and Cream’. The name says it all, with flowers blotched, marbled and veined in shades of raspberry and blackcurrant. This colourway would blend far more easily with pinks, purples and yellows in a hanging basket or container display. ‘Berries and Cream’ is sweetly scented, but the fragrance is not as reminiscent of vanilla as the other two varieties.



Given a water retentive growing medium, Nemesias are easy plants to grow, either as annuals or tender perennials. If they don’t make it through the winter they are easily replaced from cuttings* or newly purchased plants. During the growing season nemesias simply demand to be appreciated for their cheeky flowers and mellow fragrance. Planted now, they won’t stop giving back until the first frosts.

I’d love to hear which plants are good ‘doers’ for you. What are your go-to plants for summer colour and scent? Every garden, and gardener, is different. TFG.


*If you do choose to take cuttings, be aware that many plants, including these nemesias, are protected by Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR). These restrict anyone from profiting from their propagation, unless they have express permission to do so. Propagation for personal use is permitted, but not for sale, even if it’s for charity.