N3. The Leonie Cornelius & L'OCCITANE Gardening Times

Award-winning Garden Designer, Leonie Cornelius shares her gardening tips inspired by Provence and Leonie’s favourite L’OCCITANE products.

Leonie Cornelius is an award winning garden designer, based in Sligo (Ireland), writer and founder of design company waė. Leonie’s work focuses on creating a strong connection between wild nature and each other through lasting and wildly beautiful designs and collaborations to make life more joyful every day.

All photos by: Colin Gillen


Ah the power of scent. What sense conjures up more emotion, more memories and more personal associations than scent? I find it fascinating that throughout our lifetime we collect ‘scent samples’ in our minds and associate them with memories, people and places. Even years later when we smell this same scent we can still have a strong emotional reaction to this scent and be transported back to the time when we first smelled it. 

Planting scented flowers in the garden is a wonderful way of being reminded every day of the fascinating sense of smell and allows you to make new personal scent memories from your own garden. 

Rose - ‘The Queen of Flowers’

Anyone that has ever smelled the Rosa × centifolia will understand why it’s my all-time favourite plant for the scented garden. The aroma is truly decadent and this is the rose which many perfumes are created from including the Rose collection from L’Occitane.

This flower is also known as ‘The Queen of Flowers’ and in ancient times, Mediterranean women would steep rose petals in oils to perfume their skin with, as a way to radiate beauty and femininity.  At L’Occitane Rosa Centifolia is obtained from Grasse using an exclusive technique that fuses modernity with tradition and captures this amazing rose which traditionally blooms in the beautiful landscape of the Provence.

Leonie's Top Perfume Picks


"This is my go-to scent for everyday. It’s super fresh and invigorating and smells so clean. It contains the Lippia Citriodora which gives it its distinctive citrusy scent."



"These two products are perfect together. There’s something really special about the simplicity of this rose scent and that’s because it literally contains Rosa Centifolia."



"The home collection by L’Occitane has some beautiful products. This one has been infused with many botanical perfume favourites. It has a blend of lavender, sweet orange, geranium, bergamot and mandarin."


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Create your own L’Occitane inspired Perfume garden

Interested in creating your very own perfume garden? The aim is to create a space which envelopes you in scent, surprises you through the seasons and helps you create your very own scent memories. Here’s some creative ideas for creating your very own Provençal style perfume garden.

Tip 1: Find the perfect spot for scent

The first thing I would consider when planting a L’Occitane inspired perfume garden is location. The location of your planted specimens will dictate how often and at what times of the day you will experience the scent. For example, if there is a social place you like to have friends over, or a space where you lie and relax like a hammock or a bench in the garden, then perhaps consider planting a scented shrub such as the cabbage rose or the sweetly scented Philadelphus near this area. These highly scented shrubs will be a wonderful one for relaxing and you will come to associate this scent with relaxation and your own space.

Another tip is if you have a south facing balcony or even a sunny windowsill, consider some form of citrus tree. These have a stunningly strong scent and anyone that’s ever smelled one knows the scent is almost intoxicating and so quintessentially Mediterranean. If you are lucky enough to have a glasshouse or conservatory then a citrus tree- whether orange, lemon, lime or bitter orange is a wonderful choice for a container.

Tip 2: Create a scented Journey

Now I would also consider your journey through the garden. Would you like to experience a scent as you come home and walk into your garden gates for example? An idea here would be to create a pergola or archway with some deliciously scented jasmine or some gorgeous sweetpea.  Along pathways is another opportunity to create some scent interest. For example, why not line pathways with highly scented lavenders, hesperis or freesia for example or dot in a series of terracotta planters along the edge of a path.

Tip 3: Choose your personal star plant

Scent is very personal and scientists have found that smelling the right scents can enhance our mood and literally, make us more happy. An example is how lavender has a calming effect on our psyche and peppermint is enlivening and boosts our mood.

Since our favourite scents vary from person to person the best advice here is to choose a plant- and itss cent-which makes you happy. Choose a plant for the scent that reminds you of something good or choose your favouote scent because it simply makes you feel great. Lilacs, jasmine, citrus, lavender, sweet pea (see image) , dianthus, lily and geranium for example are some firm favourites. I think the key here is to get lots and lots of it and show it off to its fullest. A pergola covered in Jasmine, a border exploding with lavender or a series of balcony containers overspilling with cinnamon scented dianthus- the key is to go wild and don’t be afraid of being bold with quantity.

My star plant of choice today is the Rosa × Centifolia. Growing this Rose, which is also known as the ‘Cabbage Rose’ or the ‘Provence Rose’, in your own garden is fairly simple. The shrub shaped rose grows to about 1.5 metres and flowers from May to July- hence its French name ‘Rose de Mai’. They prefer a well drained soil and can even grow in semi-shade though the scent of these beauties is most striking in sunshine (see image). 
While blooms are undoubtedly the most visually attractive part of the garden, there is a lot to be said for including some scented foliage in your perfume garden. Lemon verbena - Lippia Citriodora - is a wonderful shrub which likes a warm protected location and has incredibly scented foliage.  The common lemon balm, Melissa officinalis is another option for climates which won’t suport the somewhat tender Lippia and also has lovely scent. Some other options are the stunning Monarda which is adored by bees or myrtle and bay shrubs, salvia varieties, rosemary shrubs and the Eucalyptus tree.
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