SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY
The world is full of
odors, and some of them are not good. Then again, "good"
is a relative term. The source of one person's aromatherapy
is the cause of another person's allergy attack. The
human nose is a complicated thing, and the human brain
is even more so. Still, most gardeners are fond of
fragrant plants, a fact more and more plant breeders
and vendors have come to realize. From Astrantia to
Zinnia, the catalogs are full of new more fragrant strains
of old favorites.
Most people don't buy tuberous
begonias for fragrance, but now it's possible to do
so. A new cultivar, sold in some places as "Scentiment"®,
provides cheerful yellow color, a cascading habit for
baskets or boxes and an alluring scent. Ordering the
tubers now and starting them at the end of February
will assure a summer of fragrant blooms.
For the past several years
lavender has been riding a surging wave of popularity.
It is, of course, unparalleled for fragrance. It is
also easy to grow and care for, demands little water,
thrives in lean soil and looks good in fresh and dried
Each season brings new cultivars,
and this season is no exception. Lavender angustifolia
'Lavenite Petite' is, as the name implies, a small variety,
standing only 12 to 15 inches tall. The leaves are
silvery. Lavender angustifolia 'Silver Edge' grows
taller, reaching three feet in height. The leaves are
bluish green edged with silver. I foresee clumps of
it in my garden in the summer and dried bunches of it
in my linen closet in winter.
Sometimes it seems that the
University of Connecticut is celebrated primarily for
its sports teams. Little do those rabid basketball
fans out there know-"U "Conn" is also a powerhouse in
Astroemeria (Peruvian lily) breeding. Now they have
produced a freckled golden-flowered version, 'Sweet
Laura', that is unique among its kind because it is
scented. It's a wonder they didn't call it 'Musky Huskie'.
A few years ago I bought
several divisions of a tried and true old daylily called
'Hyperion'. Everyone should have at least one good
stand of these tall yellow lilies. They are lovely
to look at and even lovelier to smell, with a scent
that wafts easily on a summer breeze.
Though 'Hyperion' has long
caused a stir with its fragrance, most daylilies have
had to get by on looks alone. Now lovers of sweet smells
can rejoice. New varieties are much more likely to
smell good. The lily experts at Gilbert H. Wild and
Son (P.O. Box 338, 3044 State Highway 37, Sarcoxie,
MO 64862, (888) 449-4537) carry 'Chorus Line', a flashy,
fragrant, reblooming daylily that is "pale pink with
a rose band and yellow halo." They also list 'Prairie
Moonlight', another scented reblooming variety that
is tall and pale yellow with extra large blossoms.
During the Cold War era,
Americans developed a fondness for big muscular hybrid
tea roses. Breeders responded by producing hybrids
that were long of stem and robust of bloom, with flowers
that often looked better in bud than fully opened.
The problem with many of those roses was that they had
little or no scent. Now, thanks in part to English
rose breeder David Austin, the pendulum has swung back
and recent introductions have been touted for their
fragrances. 'Pearl Essence', a new pink hybrid tea
from Jackson & Perkins boasts of its "strong, fruity
fragrance." Since fewer people douse their roses with
foul smelling pesticides these days, it's a perfect
time for a fragrant rose renaissance.
Everyone knows that there
are wizards here in New Jersey and elsewhere who can
make laundry soap smell like fresh air and new vinyl
car seats smell like well-worn leather. Isn't it comforting
to know that there are also wizards out there who can
make roses smell like roses again?