When I get an idea for a book, it is always because I want to know more about a subject. I wasn’t anexpert on propagation when I wrote Making More Plants. I wanted to learn how to make more plants. The Natural Shade Garden happened because I bought a house in Brooklyn, NY with a 21’ x 45’ backyard in the shadow of neighboring buildings. I’ve always been interested in fragrance. And I always smell flowers (after checking for a bee). I’m quite apt to fondle a leaf if it looks like it might have a scent, as well.
But, when I read descriptions of plants in catalogs and on the web that have a smell, they usually write “fragrant” or “sweet.” That doesn’t tell me anything. What does the flower or leaf smell like? Is it unpleasant or delicious? Does it smell like pine or honey? I set about analyzing botanical scents and interpreting them as best as I could. I learned that smells change all day long, and of course, they are subjective. Still, I’ve put my impressions in a book illustrated with photos of plants and gardens by me along with gorgeous scans by Ellen Hoverkamp. (Photos: Fragrant English rose ‘Gentle Hermione’, above, and Ellen’s lily-of-the-valley scan, below.)
As I said, not all smells are pleasant, although, I rarely mind the ones I find in the plant world. For instance, I rather like the odor of skunk cabbage leaves. I used to say my acute sense of smell was a blessing and a curse. My nose doesn’t do me any favors when I pass garbage in August or run into someone who has used fabric softener. Most cologne makes me gag. My through seems to close if I run into something like a “green tea” air freshener. I think perfume and cologne should be banned from public spaces like airplanes and restaurants. I’ve been in the latter unable to taste my food due to someone at a nearby table.
But I digress.
If you are interested in fragrance, in taking advantage of or highlighting this aspect of gardening; hearing more about how smell works and what it does to people, you will enjoy this exploration.
Topics include: How scent makes us feel. How to sample scents (without anesthetizing your smell receptors). How plants communicate with each other through smell. How botanical fragrance is captured for perfume, and that you can, too. How to design for sensory gardens, for aromatherapy, and for spaces in your garden.
Stay tuned to hear more about this topic and the book as we get closer to the publication date – October 15!