Scratch N’ Sniff

With Autumn just around the bend, there will be many beautiful sights and sounds.  The rainbow color change of the leaves.  The crunch of fallen foliage under one’s foot.  But right now, I’m leaning into this last week of Summer with every scent I can linger on in the gardens and grounds.  The phrase “Stop and smell the roses” may have lost some of its luster over the years, but it is still a mantra of mine in the garden.  (I may have smelled every single new rose in The Rose Garden when they all first came into bloom – just to see which one had the best scent.  I am now wishing I had written down which was the sweetest.  Guess I’ll have to wait until next time and smell them all again!)

My all time favorite scent is the one that wafts over the breeze near the Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) on the outskirts of The Enclosed Garden.  The decaying Katsura leaves have one of the sweetest smells around – some kind of mixture of cotton candy and crystallized sugar. I often stop to pick up a leaf just to intensify the experience.


Katsura cercidiphyllum in The Enclosed Garden

Cercidiphyllum japonicum in The Enclosed Garden


The Katsuras aren’t the only ones with a distinct and memorable scent.  African blue basil (Ocimum ‘African Blue’) is a standout in The Rose Garden.  The refreshing smell of basil is a familiar one to many of us.  The African blue variety is similar in scent, but with an extra edge of spicy/sweet that makes it even more beguiling than the kitchen staple variety.  While it is not for culinary use, it is still a valuable player in the garden.  The bees love it!  The volunteers and I noticed, while standing among them deadheading one of the larger patches, the bees were barely bothered with us – so long as we left most of their beloved flowers on the stem.



While there are many sweet and captivating smells around the property, there are also some that split the crowd on whether they are pleasing or repulsive.  One of those, is Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’.  When the flowers first came into bloom, I was among those who would have said that ‘Tardiva’ had a lovely scent.  The longer the blooms stick around on their stems, however, the less pleasing I find their fragrance.  When I walk by them on warm days, I find my nose wrinkling instinctively.  They will be much lovelier to my eyes and nose once the weather has cooled a bit more.

Let’s end on a happier note: Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).  We use several different cultivars in the gardens.  ‘Golden jubilee’ is blooming in The New Big Bed along with ‘Black Adder’.  ‘Blue Fortune’ continues its claim to The Rose Garden.  No matter the cultivar, the lovely scent remains.  It is often described as licorice, but to me the foliage will always have an undertone of mint as well.  Either way, I like it!

What are your favorite scents in your garden?  Which plants stop you in your tracks?