February 13, 2010

Sweethearts of the Garden

What plants make you swoon? To me, there's nothing more intoxicating than fragrance - from foliage to flowers. I tend to associate fragrance with fond memories, do you?

To appreciate fragrant foliage, the plant needs to be touched. I love to brush past lavender along pathways. The soothing smell of lavender is calming and a perfect scent to induce restful slumber. There are so many choices in lavender and it's a perfect nectar plant for honeybees.

Gathering fresh basil leaves is heavenly! When I pick basil for the kitchen, I create a bouquet to keep in a vase, just like flowers. Bury your nose in sweet basil, inhale and close your eyes - are you at an outdoor restaurant in Italy? It is easy to grow basil from seeds, or purchase seedlings in early summer to grow in pots or in the garden. Spicy Thai basil is a perfect herb to use as a filler with flowering containers, too.

Likewise, fresh mint reminds me of visits to Jerusalem and Morocco where hot, mint tea is served while bargaining for goods in the markets. I brought home teapots from both places.

On a summer day here at home in the humid south, sprigs of spearmint make a glass of ice tea even more refreshing. Since mint can run rampant in the garden, it is best grown in pots. There are many flavors of mint, too. Chocolate mint is one of my favorites to sniff, though I've not put it to any culinary uses so far.

Speaking of the south - fragrance from magnolia, osmanthus fragrans, jasmine, gardenia and ginger blossoms hang in the evening air. My fragrance garden is based on these beauties that surround our dining patio where we like to enjoy evening meals.

The blooms in my fragrance garden are most noticeable in spring and again in fall which are also perfect seasons for outdoor dining. The rest of the year, the evergreen foliage of the magnolia (tree), jasmine (vine), osmanthus (large shrub) and gardenia (medium shrub) keep the space looking lush and inviting. All prefer part-shade, moist soil and are deer and rabbit resistant, too.

Not a coincidence, those same white fragrant blooms sparkle at night, especially in the moonlight. Fragrance, beautiful blooms, moonlight... isn't that enough to make you swoon, too?

Favorite Fragrance Garden Blooms

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance may vary in your garden.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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