Fragrant Herbs

The silvery lavender foliage is warm and releasing its romantic aroma.  Reaching down to pick basil, you brush rosemary, freeing its pungent spice.  On the breeze, the scents intermix and create a perfume unique to your garden at that moment. This scent magic, courtesy of fragrant herbs, takes you time traveling, evoking memories of people and places.


Luckily, fragrant herbs are easy to grow.  All they need is a good amount of sun or full sun.  They prefer well-drained soil but are pretty happy plants in most gardens.


Herbalist Suzanna Reppert-Brill, owner of the Rosemary House, says her favorite fragrant herbs are Lavender, Lemon Balm, Rosemary and Mint and Thyme.


Perfuming the air while decorating the garden, lovely lavender is first on the list.  Both the grey-green foliage and the purple-blue flowers are fragrant.  Lavender is a perennial plant in much of the US.  It is evergreen in mild climates.  Lavender scent is known for it’s relaxing qualities. 


Bring garden fragrance indoors by adding sprigs of lavender to cut flower arrangements, or by scattering a handful of crushed lavender leaves onto a carpet. Vacuum up the leaves to release lavender scent each time you vacuum.


Lemon balm is another champ for scent.   Some feel it can be little too perky.  It can spread.


Reppert-Brill said, “Lemon balm is self-seeding and very good at it.”   But she suggests keeping it cut back, by cutting it to use it.  This keeps it from spreading. 


“The virtue in herbs is in their use,” She said. 


A great use is placing a handful of freshly snipped lemon balm in a clear glass pitcher with ice and water.  The herb will flavor and scent the water while adding visual interest to the pitcher. 


In most areas, Lemon balm is so upbeat that it doesn’t go to sleep entirely in the winter.  For gardeners who miss picking fresh herbs in the winter, finding a patch of lemon balm still green long after frost, can be a sunny boost.  You can also cover lemon balm plants with a cloche to create a mini-greenhouse and encourage its winter hardy tendencies. 


Then there’s basil.  Where to start with basil?  It emits a spicy undertone to compliment other citrus or flowery scents.  You could design a whole border with basil alone. There are tall and small basils. There’s Purple Ruffles Basil and a red flowering Cardinal Basil.


The scent of basil, while alluring to us, isn’t so appealing to small-winged annoying insects.  Basil naturally repels gnats.  Sorry, mosquitoes don’t mind basil.  Basil is an annual plant that you can start from seed inside.


For the combo of flower and scent, thyme is your plant.  Tiny little flowers cover thyme for weeks in spring, making it super charming when planted in between flag stones or mixed in with clover as a lawn alternative.  Perennial thyme tolerates light foot traffic. Enjoy the scent as you step down your garden path.


Rosemary is an excellent shrubby plant that can even be grown as a hedge in warmer climates. It is a symbol of remembrance and rumored to improve memory. Because of its wonderful aroma and evergreen-like appearance, rosemary is beginning to be used as a substitute for the traditional Christmas tree.


Finally, there’s mint.  It is among the most fragrant but also the most aggressive.  Reppert-Brill suggests growing mint either in a small space that is contained by large swatches of concrete – like between a sidewalk and the road - or in a large space where mint’s bully behavior won’t be minded.    


By delighting our sense of smell, fragrant herbs add another dimension of enjoyment to the garden.  But they don’t stop there. Fragrant herbs multi-task. They appeal to every one of our senses.

©2020 W.Atlee Burpee & Co