On a recent trip to Norfolk a friend recommended a cliff top walk to see the gorse which was in full bloom and smelt of coconut. Coconut? They were right, the smell was almost identical. I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed this before.
We often overlook plant scent: there are some great mimics. Plenty of plants are known for their familiar scent, like Lavender, Roses or Fennel. But plants that that produce the distinctive smell of another are a pleasing curiosity. Philadelphus blossom (pictured right) has the aroma of oranges. Apple Mint really does smell of apples. And Chocolate Mint does live up to its name.
There are other plants that get chocoholics salivating. The best of these mimics is Cosmos atrosanguineus or Chocolate Cosmos. This half-hardy perennial is almost extinct in its native Mexico, but easily available to gardeners here. In exposed areas, it is best to cultivate it like dahlias - give it winter protection or bring it into a frost-free greenhouse.
Those who like old-fashioned sweets should sniff out Thuja plicata, a conifer whose foliage smells of pear drops when crushed. Its cousin, Thuja occidentalis has the aroma of pineapple. Cytisus battandieri flowers also smell of pineapple, hence its common name Pineapple Broom.
The perfume of some plants can surprise you when it's not their main feature. Elaeagnus is grown for its evergreen and often variegated foliage. It's often used as a hedge, its flowers hidden and insignificant, yet they pack a potent punch. When you search for the source of that wonderful smell it's usually overlooked.
Cordylines are another popular plant, grown primarily for their foliage, but every now and then mature ones throw up an impressive flower spike. One of mine is doing just that at the moment and its scent is absolutely intoxicating.
So maybe the next time you go down the garden centre you'll be guided as much by your nose as you are by your eyes.