The secret power of gardens

Scent: The perfume of some plants may affect humans physically or emotionally.

In The Garden

January 16, 2000|By Ary Bruno | Ary Bruno,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Winter is often a time of reflection for the gardener. Would you like your garden to be a more relaxing place? Stimulate a loving attitude in your mate? Reinvigorate flagging energy? The plants you choose can help you do this, as well as perfume and refresh the air.

The sense of smell has often been called a door to the past. It is one of our most intense senses, acting as an almost magic portal to the human psyche.

Because of this, the scents of various plants and flowers have a wonderful capacity to influence our moods: to stimulate or relax us; to lift depression, relieve anxiety and buoy our spirits; even to make us receptive to romance.

The conscious use of fragrant plants can be the secret of the gardener. It presents an opportunity not only to charm with form and color, but also to evoke deeper, more emotional responses. To close one's eyes in a fragrant garden is to perceive an invisible landscape of the spirit.

Gardeners throughout time have sought to capitalize on the delicious smells of various flowers and herbs. Today, "scent" gardens are more popular than ever. Some are designed especially to appeal to people with visual or other impairments, who might not otherwise enjoy a garden.

Thousands of years ago, the ancients believed that the scent of a plant represented the liberation of its soul, and based on observation, they also saw that this essence or soul of the plant could be used to soothe pain, lift the spirits, aid sleep and intensify passion.

Now, there is re-awakened interest in this ability of scents to influence our emotions, and it seems only natural that the gardener should take advantage of it.

For example, lavender, rose geranium, mock orange, bergamot, clary sage, chamomile, catnip hyssop, jasmine and violet are all soothing scents which can help people relax. Peach blossoms and fruit are said to be a fine remedy for anxiety attacks.

Or perhaps you would prefer your garden to make you feel alert and revitalized.

Pine and fir should form the backbone of such a landscape; dwarf varieties will serve just as well as full size, if you are short on space.

All the mints work well too: peppermint and the more well-behaved calamintha are excellent to promote alertness. Basil (another mint relative), rosemary, marjoram and some roses, such as `Heritage' with its strong lemon-citrus overtones, are also good.

Or maybe you are looking for a way to stimulate more intimacy in your relationship.

Using certain plants in areas where you and your partner tend to sit and linger, such as surrounding a favorite corner of a terrace, may possibly nudge things along.

Roses, especially those with damask and "old-fashioned" scents, are highly effective here. Many sturdy antique varieties exist; among shrub roses, the rugosas `Roseraie de l'Hay' and `Blanc Double de Coubert' are exceptionally hardy and fragrant.

Some new hybrids, such as the David Austin roses, are also being bred again with fragrance in mind: `Colette' and `Mary Rose' are classic-style Austin roses with a pronounced damask scent.

One or more of the musk roses should be included; good choices are `Kathleen,' which does well in partial shade, and `Erfurt,' which blooms almost continuously through the season.

Southernwood is another reputed aphrodisiac. It is a lovely landscape shrub of muted gray-green color and fine textured leaves, with a beguiling, soft, lemony fragrance.

Jasmine, of course, has long been included in romantic lore. True jasmine is grown as a greenhouse plant in this area, or at least brought inside the house to a sunny window to be wintered-over.

If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep at night, consider planting some of the following under a bedroom window that you can keep open all or part of the night in warm weather, or cut a bouquet of these to take inside.

Hops is a proverbial sleep inducer, but chamomile, bergamot, valerian and lemon balm also help. Planted around a hammock or chaise lounge, they may help bring on delightful afternoon siestas.

Many of these plants will soon be available at garden centers, while others can be started inside, either from seed or from cuttings, if you have access to plants through gardening friends. These can be grown on a sunny windowsill or under grow lights, until it is time to set them out in the garden. If used as container plants, many of the herbs in particular can be brought back into the house next fall, and enjoyed throughout the winter.

Finally, one of the nicest things about using aromatherapy when designing a garden is knowing that even people who may not believe in it can derive great benefits -- in perfect innocence.


Jackson & Perkins

1 Rose Lane

Medford, Ore. 97501


Nichols Garden Nursery

1190 North Pacific Highway

Albany, Ore. 97321


Park Seed Co.

11 Parkton Ave.

Greenwood, S.C. 29647


Wayside Gardens

1 Garden Lane

Hodges, S.C. 29695


Well-Sweep Herb Farm

205 Mount Bethel Road

Port Murray, N.J. 07865


White Flower Farm

P.O. Box 50

Litchfield, Conn. 06759


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