Last week Bill and I took the girls to Washington D.C. I am a history buff, an art freak, and enjoy long walks so , really , as I was reminded over and over again, this was MY vacation. (thank you family). Wasn’t it hot you ask? Well, thank you for your concern, yes it was. The weather systems there come up the coast via hell and stifling can not even begin to describe the air quality, but we gamely proceeded through all the “musts” (Capitol tour, memorials, Smithsonians , zoo, etc)
On the day we had planned (and when I say “we” I mean “me dragging the others in protest”) to see the United States Botanical Garden ,it was about a million degrees and high heat plus high humidity led to high irritability , so even I agreed that we should bail and head for the nearest a/c , preferably in a bar, which is what we did (thank god for brew pubs!)
Now I was a little sulky and missing my plants, but brave soul that I am I got over it and moved on. The next day we headed to Mt. Vernon on a river boat. We got there and started to walk around, and lo and behold George W was not only a farmer but an avid gardener and landscape designer!! Woo-hoo!!! When we walked past the house and saw the upper garden all the Monroes in unison shouted “PLANTS!” …..although me in ecstasy and the others in horror.
There was also a lower garden (JOY) and a formal herb /veggie garden with espaliered fruit trees and grapevines , an experimental garden for new seeds and plants Georgie boy was interested in trying , a gardeners house, a greenhouse and a farm area for crops of corn, wheat and such. Heaven I tell you. So we toured around, saw the house too and met Martha (well not really, she’s long gone, but an incredible interpreter/impersonator).
I bought a lovely book about George and his farm and homestead and as I was reading it was fascinated by the fact that fragrance was one of the leading directives behind his garden and plantings. Turns out things were really smelly in the 18th century.( B.O, and lack of speed stick, outdoor privies, no fans, horses and other livestock and their waste products, garbage in piles since there is no curbside pick-up , the list goes on and on.) So our first president planted lilacs and other strong smelling shrubbery near the outhouses, grew many fragrant herbs to help not only outside, but to be dried and bought in to sweeten bedrooms, pillows, drawers,and clothing. Brilliant.
When I walked outside this morning and was greeted by the strong fragrance of the roses that grow right near the walkway I was reminded how important it is to think of the garden in that way. I mostly think about color, height and foliage, and rarely think about fragrance , probably because Glade does it for me. But what is the first thing everyone does when they encounter flowers? Lean in for a sniff of course.
That is not to say I do not ever plant things for fragrance. Here are a few of my favorites
I adore the smell of lilacs, reminds me of childhood and grammy’s house, so I have planted 8 in their own special bed comprised of 4 different varieties syringa vulgaris, ‘Donald Wyman’ ‘Miss Canada’ and one labeled french lilac whatever the heck that means. Their bloom time is staggered and they are all fragrant although the common lilac (vulgaris) is the strongest. I also grow the old fashioned but wonderful mock orange .
Then there is lavender. I have a bed of that too, as well as many scattered throughout the gardens including the white one belowlavandula x intermediacv. White Grosso .
I add in lots of Asiatic and oriental lilies, and fight like a mad woman to control the red lily beetle so I can enjoy them (only outside I think they are too strong of a scent for indoors). I planted orinpets last year but they were rabbit lunch.
In the summer there are roses, clematis,monarda (bee balm) and phlox to enjoy.
my FAVORITE garden scent is spicy and clove like so in the spring there are virburnum x burkwoodiibushes and dianthus and in the summer summersweet clethra anifolia ‘ruby spice’ and the best smelling garden phlox , phlox paniculata ‘David’ that is simply intoxicating.
my favorite scent in general is lemon so I plant lemon balm in containers (it is a garden thug) and place them around the garden so I can grab a leave or two and crush it in my hand and inhale deeply on the way by.
in my not thinking mentality I have also planted some real winners in the “smells like crap” category. Number one is the penstemon ‘Husker red’ that I have planted en masse and had to deadhead for like 6 hours on Sunday. It smells like dirty feet.
one more note about D.C., on our way back from Mount Vernon we disembarked in the newly finished National Harbor area at the foot of the Gaylord Hotel. That is quite possibly the best commercial landscape job I have EVER seen (both inside and out) . Needless to say my family was done done done with plants and threatened to leave me there if I did not hurry up through the atrium to catch the car service taking us back to the city. I didn’t even get to take any pictures, sob sob. They have a website but it doesn’t even show the pool area that was simply phenomenal.
p.s. what’s blooming ??? Roses of course!! Look under “What’s Blooming” to see!