Spring and summer mornings are my favorite time of year. We are blessed with early morning fragrances of roses, geraniums and fresh herbs warmed by the sun. An open window provides nature’s own air freshener.
To start your own fragrance garden, here’s how to begin.
Choose herbs with strong scents planted in pots, in window boxes, or in the ground near a window provide an unexpected layer of pleasure for home gardeners each morning. Rubbing the leaves and flowers or even brushing by the plants releases the scent. Fragrant herbs are quite simply plants that have strong scents in flowers, leaves, or stems. Many fragrant herbs offer additional advantages in your kitchen, too.
1. Begin with these 5 popular herb choices
• French lavender: (Lavandula dentata) a must-have for any fragrance garden. Lavender prefers a hot and dry sunny location. It is not easy to propagate, buy well-established potted plants of lavender. The flowers will range from shades of purple to blue. Lavender’s scent can range from subtle to strong and perfume-like. It is frequently used a moth repellent. Dried lavender flowers sewn into sachets (small cloth pouches, and placed between clothes) will offer a fresh, sweet scent.
• Lemon thyme: (Thymus citriodorus) looks and grows like English thyme but has the scent and taste of lemons. Use it in any recipe that calls for lemon flavoring or lemon zest. Known worldwide for its culinary advantages, Lemon thyme is popular in Middle Eastern and European cuisines. It is best added early in the cooking process. When left to simmer, the lemon flavor slowly infuses the dish with its flavor. It’s a great source of iron.
• Mint: (Mentha) is easy to grow and very hardy, but it can rapidly overtake the garden. Choose peppermint, spearmint, or any other variety. The fresh scent of mint is relaxing and clarifying. Mint is a perennial, and will come back stronger and thicker each year. Flowers are white to purple and cap a rapidly growing cluster of glossy green leaves. Brew mint leaves into a refreshing hot or iced tea.
• Rosemary: (Rosmarinus officinalis) features narrow needles and a resinous fragrance. Rosemary’s green-gray foliage is a favorite in the garden and the kitchen. It’s native to the Mediterranean area and does best in warm climates. Rosemary comes in two basic varieties, upright and creeping. Uprights can grow from four to five feet tall. Creeping rosemary makes a good ground cover, which stays under two feet in height. Use it for great flavor in vinegars, jams, stuffing, vegetables and meats.
• Sage: (Salvia officianalis) prefers a sunny location. Long spikes of purple flowers, ranging from dark blue to a light purple, are a delight in the garden offering color throughout the summer. Sage grows tall, up to two feet high, and has textured and patterned leaves. It’s a favorite in soups, stews and braised meat.
2. Tips for growing fragrant herbs
Growing successful herbs starts with the correct soil. Average garden soil should be improved with organic matter and sand to improve the texture and drainage. Choose a garden location with at least 6 hours of direct sun each day. Avoid locations where water stands or runs during wet months. Encourage proper drainage with raised beds amended with compost. In colder climates, bring container plants inside for harsh winters.
3. Caring for herbs
Apply a balanced fertilizer sparingly to leafy, fast-growing herbs. Heavy applications of fertilizer, especially those containing large amounts of nitrogen, can decrease the concentration of fragrant oils in the herb’s lush green growth. It’s best to fertilize once during planting and once again at the start of the growing season.