Fragrant Mignonette: You Can Grow That!

Imagine yourself in a cushioned lounge chair tilted almost, but not quite, all the way back. You're on a brick patio beneath the high shade of ancient oak trees. The breeze is strong enough to move the highest branches just enough so that shafts of sun play on the on the other side of your closed eyelids.
Small but mighty: Mignonette close-up with
Dianthus flowerin the background for scale.
The only sound is the gentle swoosh of the leaves as they brush against one another. The air is dry and warm. You inhale and think of raspberry Jell-O.
What? Wait a minute... raspberry Jell-O? Well maybe not exactly. There are other scents mixed with it that are harder to pinpoint. Perhaps you're eating the Jell-O beneath a fragrant honeysuckle. Or maybe you've just passed out in the midst of a raspberry patch.

Mignonette is like that only less prickly. The common name for this plant is French for "little darling," a moniker purportedly given to Reseda odorata by Empress Josephine. She grew the little plant from seed her husband, Emperor Napoleon, brought back from one of his forays into Egypt.

I've grown it before when I had more sun, and when the sun hit the flower, it brought out a scent like ripe raspberries. The fragrance has been described in many ways, from spicy to sweet, but Reseda odorata cannot be described as showy. First, its flowers are tiny and kind of brownish looking from a distance. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Once you've smelled this flower, you'll want it just about everywhere.
But be warned--it really doesn't like to be transplanted.
Although lots of seed packets say "resents transplanting," with Mignonette they mean it! This is especially true of seedlings that are more than an inch or two tall. I started seed around the first of April in my VegTrug. It just started to bloom a few days ago, meaning from seed to flower takes about two months. However, if you were to start seed now, it might go a little more quickly though I've not tested this theory. My plants are overgrown and leggy and I've given them a haircut to see if I can get them to re-bloom.


  1. Scented flowers are always my favorite and this one looks unusual as well. Will definitely put this on the list for when our house is finished and I can finally can create a back garden. Lovely post!

  2. Oh, Jean, I planted those seeds last year here in zone 7 and we had that freakish summer with 117 degrees and zero rain.
    Mignonette did not care for that weather!

    Your description makes me want to try again. Where did you find the seeds?

  3. Martha,
    I found Mignonette 'Machet' at Select Seeds in CT. They have a good selection of fragrant flower seeds. Find them online at

  4. Wish I could grow this in my harsh, hot climate. It sounds absolutely delightful!