That’s it…find a fragrant plant in your yard…now take a deep sniff. Ah! Much better!
Yes, studies show that scent has a powerful effect on the human brain. It can help us recall the past by triggering memories. And it helps us relax and unwind in the present moment. In case you hadn’t noticed, hospitals now use aromas to reduce stress and promote healing. Lavender, anyone? And researchers found that yummy scents like chocolate chip cookies and vanilla entice shoppers to buy more in retail malls.
So, use what you know instinctively, and what research has found, to make the most of scent in your garden. Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Plan for year-round fragrance options.
What garden smells evoke spring for you? Yes, your mind may automatically think of spring when you smell daffodils or hyacinths, whether scented in the garden, supermarket, or church. So bulbs and flowering trees should be part of the plan.
Roses can be a scent marker for early summer, depending on how fragrant the species. Many native plants are heady with scent because it’s part of their natural defense from predators and worth trying. Test plant foliage, too. Mint family plants including the salvias have very pleasant odors when the leaves are brushed or crushed.
For fall, the stand-by chrysanthemums are scented in both flower petals and leaves, while some berries, like grapes, have subtle scents, too.
Those plants rely on their berries being eaten and the seeds distributed by birds and small mammals as part of their survival strategy.
For us, just enjoying the scents can be enough. Fall bulbs like lilies can add to the fragrant mix.
Does thinking of winter scents bring evergreen plants to mind? No matter where you live, evergreen plants can add value during the cold season, from trees to shrubs to simple low ground covers. In addition to conifers, consider herbs that stay green in your climate, such as rosemary, lavender, or santolina.
2. Think big!
With a list of fragrant plants in hand, consider where to add them to your garden. A pleasant-smelling plant here and there can be nice. But what if you place a massive display of one plant along a fence or wall, where the scent can be directed your way as you walk beside it? Don’t be hesitant in adding the impact of scent to your yard.
What if you have a planting bed that extends 10 feet in length. If the bed is reasonably deep, you could include spring bulbs, followed by a scented annual like sweet alyssum, then late-sprouting perennials like salvias or catmint as the ground cover, with antique roses that bloom spring and fall as shrubs above them.
Using the same plants throughout the bed will increase the amount of fragrance that the plants can release.
Then plan to stroll along the bed throughout the seasons whenever the weather conditions are just right.
3. Learn the impact of warmth, humidity, and wind.
To really be aware of aromas, your olfactory nerves and your brain need scents that come and go. If you smell the scent all the time, your brain tends to ignore it after while. The weather microclimate in your garden can be your friend in managing your scent experience.
In the garden, gentle heat encourages plants to release their lovely essential oils for you to experience. A spot that captures the sun and is protected from strong wind allows humidity to build. Add a seat near scented plants here.
You will be enveloped when the sun is out and discover that the scent fades when the clouds appear.
Choose special spots near the house to enjoy fragrances you love while inside, too. Use window boxes, for example. Locate the box where you see the plants from inside your home. Open the window on balmy days and let the breeze spread the scent into the house.
4. Use layers of scent.
Cosmetic companies encourage women to build their scent with soap, perfume, cologne, and dusting powder in the same fragrance because each product has different staying power.
While you won’t be layering garden scents on your body this way, you can use the layering concept both horizontally and vertically in your garden. Place scented plants at different heights, or layers, in your yard. Plan for fragrant experiences as you lie, kneel, sit or walk through your garden. Consider where the morning breezes cross your yard.
Have you ever thought that you could enjoy garden scents in the yard while lying on the patio after yoga? If you spread out to feel that breeze, what plants will the air cross before it reaches your nose?
5. Practice sniffing!
Not all of us are born with the same ability to detect scents, and sadly, the ability to discern aromas can fade with age. But noticing fragrances gets better with practice, whatever your age. Like people whose sniffing ability is important for their work, such as wine tasters and perfumers, attention and exposure to scents can enhance your ability to find and recognize differences in odors. Age and experience can prove valuable in honing your ability, so start sniffing today!