Scent can inspire powerful memories, improve your mood, and make you more productive. Use the power of scent to your advantage with a scent garden.
The power of scent
Scent is the only sense that has a direct connection to our lizard brains. Fragrances are processed by the limbic system and can impact our emotions, behaviors, motivations, and even our long-term memory.
You learned to associate smells with certain situations when you were very young. Those memories stay with you for life. Come across the smell of baking cookies or Play-Doh and the memories come flooding back. This is called the Proustian memory effect. This effect depends largely on previous experiences and cultural influences, but there are some generalizations you can use with your scent garden design. Fragrance is a tool you can use to create a garden space that improves your outlook on life.
The science of scent
Flowers use fragrance to attract pollinators. Those fragrances can be classified as floral, fresh, spicy, or woodsy. Each of those scent profiles evoke a different response. The floral scents of jasmine and gardenia are said to help us relax, while the fresh aroma of citrus, mint, and lavender stimulate and refresh us. The woodsy fragrances of balsam, cedar, and rosemary are believed to improve our thinking processes, while sage, carnations, and roses are said to make us feel more sensuous.
For me, the smell of thyme invokes a sense of warmth and home, while brushing against a rosemary bush lights up a part of my brain that feels strong and calm. Different scents affect people differently. For some, the smell of freshly mown grass stirs up memories of summer and being active, while pine boughs inspire thoughts of the holiday season. Knowing which scents trigger the feelings you want to invoke will help you with plant selection. Just be sure to choose plants appropriate to your Hardiness Zone and microclimate.
Popular scent garden plants
Some of the most popular flowers for scent gardens include butterfly bush, catmint, creeping phlox, datura, dianthus, freesia, gardenia, geraniums, honeysuckle, hyacinth, jasmine, lavender, lilacs, lily of the valley, paperwhites, peonies, roses, stock, sweet alyssum, sweet peas, Sweet William, and violas. Other fragrant ornamentals include artemisia, boxwood, and wisteria.
Most herbs have pleasing aromas that fit nicely into a scent garden. Anise, basil, dill, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme all have wonderful fragrances when brushed or walked on. Balsam fir, cedar, citrus, eucalyptus, linden, and witch hazel trees can add their aroma to your scent garden.
Scent garden design
As you lay out your scent garden, be sure to note mature plant sizes and bloom times, as well as monthly maintenance. You don’t want a shorter, high maintenance plant hidden behind a rugged, giant shrub. With a good balance of flowers for each season, your scent garden will look as good as it smells!
Did you know that researchers have shown that we can smell over 1 trillion scents? It ends up that our 400 smelling receptors, combined with our amazing brains, are just as good as scenting things as dogs. If we take the time to pay attention.
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