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BRING MORE SWEET SMELLS INTO YOUR LIFE

By Engrid Winslow

Fragrant flowers such as these crabapple blossoms bring sweet smells into your life.

Photo courtesy of Joe Winslow

Do gardeners love fragrance because they are gardeners or are they gardening because they enjoy fragrance? It’s sort of a “chicken and the egg” concept, but no gardener can deny that growing plants is a sensory experience. Whether it’s brushing against basil or tomatoes while harvesting or inhaling the smell of a rose, those of us who garden seek out sweet (even unusual) smelling plants. If you enjoy the spicy scent of marigolds or the heady aroma of peonies then you surely want to bring fragrant flowers and plants into your life.

Fragrance can bring back memories or promote relaxation. Lavender is the most well-known fragrance added to various products that help us relax and even fall asleep.  The best way to bring fragrant flowers into your garden is to plant them where the fragrance can be enjoyed when you are outdoors. Place them near walkways, front and back doors, benches and under bedroom windows so the smell can be appreciated. Also, consider the seasons when they bloom for year-round enjoyment.

Fragrance in flowers falls into 4 major categories: Floral, Fresh, Spicy and Woodsy are the primary scents. Floral smells are sweetly fragrant and include flowers such as stock, lilies, sweet pea, alyssum, lily of the valley and phlox. If you like spicy then be sure to include marigolds, sage and carnations. Fresh scents include lavender and mint while you can add the woodsy smell with rosemary and thyme.

There are public gardens, that were designed with fragrant flowers in mind and in honor of the blind, that are worth a visit if they are near you. If not, then just notice what you are smelling as you walk your neighborhood and garden centers. Sometimes a smell will surprise you, require investigation and then add to your home garden.

Tough Love

by Sandy Swegel

Ok, your seedlings are up and growing. Whether in the ground or growing under a light, your plants have one or two sets of true leaves. You can’t wait to have a big beautiful and blooming plant.  Now you have to be brave.  You have to take that nice tall plant and cut it down.  Ouch.

The result of this tough love is that you get better, bigger, stronger plants.  The gardening term is “pinching back” because you want to get “branching.”  When you pinch back your one main stem, the plant responds by sending up two stems. Presto chango, you have doubled your plant.  Let the plant grow another two sets of leaves on each new stem and again pinch back to the first set of leaves. Now where you once had one measly little stem, you have four stems growing out and a strong bush plant.

This works especially well with basil and other herb foliage plants.  It’s also amazing with petunias and annuals you want lots of flowers from.  Even if you’re buying plants from the store, pinching back can be a good idea. When the commercial growers are producing plants for sale, they want a plant that has a flower as soon as possible because even one flower makes a plant sell. If that plant is spindly or just very full you have to be strong and even pinch back that flower.

Pinching back is only for plants whose stems are branching,  It doesn’t work for herbs like parsley or flowers like lilies.  With perennials, it’s best to pinch back before the first flower buds have started.  The only other time I don’t pinch back is when I’m willing to sacrifice the greater good of the plant for the instant gratification of flowers.  Sometimes I just need a flower RIGHT NOW.

Knowing how plants act and react is the secret to having a beautiful garden.  You can learn about how plants behave by observing them and noticing things like how they branch when you pinch back a set of leaves. There are good scientific reasons the plants are doing what they are doing.  Scientifically, you are “interrupting apical dominance” and stimulating “axillary buds.” If you want to understand plant behavior more thoroughly, one way to do that is to read Brian Capon’s book, “Botany for Gardeners”  It explains plant physiology with words and pictures that are easy to understand.
www.amazon.com/Botany-Gardeners-Third-Brian-Capon/dp/160469095X/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1