The Power of a Fragrant Garden
By Keely Shaye Brosnan
Whether in early morning, midafternoon or under late-evening’s indigo sky, wandering among lavishly scented blossoms in my garden is one of my greatest extravagances. Make no mistake: I purposefully cultivate my garden so I may momentarily enter a world where sight doesn’t matter and fragrance transports me entirely. It’s a simple pleasure, but one I wouldn’t want to live without. When I visit a garden anywhere in the world, it’s not just the picturesque surroundings and soothing sounds that entice me—the earthy aromas captivate me as well. Freshly mowed grass, richly scented roses or heady honeysuckle can stir my imagination while elevating my mood and creating a sense of well-being.
Scent is often described as the soul of a plant or flower. The aromatic atoms of plants make up what are called essential oils; they are the concentrated life force of a plant. Essential oils are what make a rose smell like a rose. These oils are found in the flowers and fruits of plants, although sometimes they appear in the leaves, stems, roots or bark (as with sandalwood and cinnamon). Some plants—including scented geraniums—hold their scent until touched, squeezed or watered. Other plants, such as night-blooming jasmine or eveningscented stock, exude their fragrance freely.
Scent has a powerful effect on the psyche; it opens the heart as well as the mind. Our sense of smell is personal and frequently stems from associations created in early childhood. Because memory and fragrance are closely intertwined, scent can trigger a sudden burst of happiness, conjuring potent recollections from the past. For some, the warm and sensuous perfume of a gardenia evokes memories of a first romance, while for others, the bracing smell of pine rekindles the joy of holiday festivities.
Though mankind has wandered far and wide in search of exotic scents, most are as close as your own backyard. When you plan your garden keep fragrance in mind: Think of it as the ultimate embellishment. Seek out plants possessing full heavenly scents. Although they may be harder to find, old-fashioned varieties of fragrant flowers will reward you with an evocative sensory experience every time you wander among them.
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