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An Aroma Garden
Scented Spaces, Sacred Places

May 12, 2009
John Stuart Leslie

Gardens with fragrance add a variety of smells and feelings that can only enhance the enjoyment of the yard. It may be a Rosemary twig or an entire Rose garden. The scent may be musky, fragrant, sweet or spicy. It may be offputting and overpowering, yet captivating.

flowers provide multi-sensory value

When I catch the scent of a certain flower or foliage, I sometimes feel that the plant is communicating with me. Almost telling me to notice it for if I don't make a special effort to visit the garden and see whats blooming, I may not notice but for its scent.

I especially notice the scents of my plants and herbs when I am weeding or kneeling down. At these times, I notice that many plant's leaves and overall aroma has a distinct smell. Ever noticed that tomato plants have their own aroma?

We pick up hints and bits of information from a plant’s scent. We notice a flower perhaps at full bloom, bring our nose close to it to capture the full intensity and then look at the flower and make a connection between what we see and the degree of fragrance.


The temperature of our surroundings has a direct effect on the aromatic oils produced by the scented qualities of the plants.  The aromatic oils from Rosemary, Thyme or Sage are most evident during warmer weather. Sometimes, you are reminded how hot it is just by the degree you sense the aromas.


Scents can also trigger memories of when you first actually smelled the scent or with an event that was meaningful to you. Remembering these certain fragrances with a positive experience can be therapeutic.


Many plants and flowers provide a multitude of design options to create a scented garden. Here are a few:



Bay Laurel


Citrus (Orange, Lemon)



Monk’s Pepper



Sweet basil

Holy Basil


Bee balm
Clove pink

Lily-of the-valley




daisy My Sacred Garden


It should be noted that what produces the scent is important to know in selecting various plants for the garden and one should not just fill up a garden with as many scented plants as possible.


Among the trees mentioned, the scent from the pines and eucalyptus come from their leaves and are not overpowering unless there is a large grouping or the environmental conditions are just right. On the other hand, the Orange tree is fragrant only during its blossoming period and is powerful enough to smell without even being nearby.


Several factors must therefore be examined:


·    Appropriateness in its form, i.e. tree, shrub, ground cover, accent, container or pots.


·    Type of fragrances of similar character may be grouped, i.e. aromatic vs. sweet;


·    Size and form of the plants should drive the placement rather than the actual scents;


·    Time of year the fragrance is at peak. Offset down times with something else that will fill in;


·    Balance the use of evergreens, perennials, annuals so that you don’t have to re-plant your garden every season.


Accentuate the aroma garden with other elements that trigger your other senses. Use flowering shrubs and annuals to create color combinations that brighten the garden and balance your primary scented plants or vice versa.


Edible garden elements will bring a sense of taste and can be accomplished by using fruit trees, berries, nuts, and certainly all vegetables and cooking herbs.


Rose in a sacred garden

Sound can be introduced in windy areas by selecting certain trees and tall shrubs that make sound in the wind, the rustling of their leaves or branches.


Without wind or deciduous trees, water fountains and wind chimes can be used.


So what makes this garden sacred? You do. Select a particular plant that has a certain fragrance or scent that has special meaning to you.


Pick a time when this plant is flowering or is otherwise available to pick a flower or leaf, take it to your designated sitting area and go back in time to when you first remember smelling that fragrance. How old were you? Where were you? What happened then? You will most likely remember a pleasant memory, one that brings you joy. What’s that wise saying I always hear?.... Stop and smell the roses?

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