Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fragrance in Gardens, Good Scents & Bad

We received an email the other day from a customer who buys from us at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle each February.  She wrote, 
"I have had stupendous success with the bulbs I purchased from you at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and would like to plant more!  (The fragrance I smell while working in my garden almost makes pulling weeds enjoyable.)" [Thank you Jan]
I do believe that people who garden are more in tune with all their senses.  We love pleasing color combinations, the whiff of a delightfully scented plant, the crackle of autumn leaves underfoot - or the crunch of a newly graveled path -  ripe berries, juicy and warm from the sun and what gardener can't resist touching foliage or flowers?  I drive my husband, Bob, crazy in fabric or clothing stores because I need to feel all the textures - he thinks I'm nuts, but oh well.  After many years of marriage either he has adjusted or I've "trained" him (smile) because he simply rolls his eyes nowadays and takes care to point out, "You missed one."

I personally love the beautiful colors and  textures of bark on trees.  While at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show in San Mateo in March, we stayed at a hotel with mature eucalyptus trees and before consenting to climbing into the cab of our truck for home, I HAD to snap a photo of this beautiful bark.
Of course, the artist in me turned the photo on its side because of the soft "waves" of bark reminded me of ripples of sand at the ocean, but you get the idea.

Fragrance in the garden can uplift the spirit and become quite relaxing in it's own right.  How do you react when walking past a bakery?  Even if you are not hungry at the time, the fragrance reminds you pleasantly of the last time you enjoyed fresh bread from the oven.

Naturally, less than pleasing scents can have the opposite effects, warning us of danger or to back off.  There is a tiny section of my garden that is a "mole magnet", the slightly raised bed is used primarily for garden trials.  Every time I watered the moles would perk up and head in to eat worms; it was like a smorgasbord and my tiny plants were being badly dislodged every week.  What to do?

We had three plants of Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' (above) left over from a plant sale and figuring they didn't need much care, the Spurge (common name) were tucked into this small area.   Little did I know this particular variety was so pungent!  Every time I strolled down the path around the house, a rotten aroma would assault my nose.

Thinking it was something "dead" under the prickly, 5 foot wide Quince bush, I started sniffing.  Quince was OK, good -  no scratched arms trying to remove a carcass, but whew, those Euphorbia!

It's enough to bring tears to your eyes, and even though they pump out their high level of fragrance 24/7, they will stay in place.  The reason?  No moles have tunneled anywhere close to that area all summer, so yes, a benefit!  I'll tolerate the smell now that it has been identified and rejoice in the unexpected advantage. -Dianna

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