Fragrant herbs must not be missing from the herb garden. They smell tart, sweet or lovely, but always aromatic. Let us dive deep into the world of scented herbs. Scents heighten emotions – and so the scent garden becomes a very special experience.
The special power of scents
Aromatic herbs have been used for many thousands of years, also or precisely because of their scent. Special properties have always been attributed to them: Rosemary and marjoram make you lively and cheerful, mint refreshes the mind. Mugwort increases alertness. Hops and lavender calm the nerves. Roses are still a symbol of love today, and the lovely smell of some scented herbs can be very beguiling indeed.
While the flowers of roses are the centre of fragrance, the leaves of herbs are. The essential oils in the leaf cells are responsible for their strong scent. Many scents are activated by stroking or by the warming rays of the sun alone. Therefore, give your herbs a sunny location, then they will smell particularly intense.
Microclimate for the scented plant garden
Plan a scented plant garden in a sunny spot that is protected from the wind. Only here can it fully develop its invigorating or relaxing effect. For me, natural stone walls or walls made of bricks are the ideal shelter. The walls break the wind, store the heat of the day and release it again in the evening. In this microclimate, herbs grow lush and stay healthy.
In the walled garden space, the gardener creates his own world that invites you to enjoy and linger. Design the scented garden as small as possible, with several paths and beds. This will create pleasant scented spaces in which a seating area should not be missing, two or three are even better. This is the best way to enjoy your fragrant herbs.
And with it a cup of herbal tea. With tea herbs from your own garden.
Fragrant herbs from the sunny south
Annual and perennial fragrant plants thrive in my fragrant garden. I find Mediterranean shrubs such as oleander, citrus, lemon verbena or angel’s trumpet particularly beautiful. The latter have their very own scent, which not everyone likes. In winter, the potted plants move into the cool winter quarters.
The strong-smelling half-shrubs sage, rue, hyssop and lavender remain in the garden for many years and serve me as a framework for the design of the individual beds. I like to plant them in tuffs or as small hedges. Annual and biennial herbs and perennials are also part of the game. They cover larger areas and bring colour into the garden with their flowers.
Garden design with scented plants
My favourites among the scented herbs are spicy anise hyssop, orange-peel-like spice tea, lemon-scented monards, tangy or lovely scented geraniums and the so differently scented mints. Creeping herbs such as the tart quender or lemon thyme are very robust. They find their place in beds, on paths or in a scented lawn.
The rather low-growing herbs are complemented by climbing plants, roses and shrubs. I prefer the historical rose varieties, such as the intensely fragrant Damascene roses, or wild forms, because they are very robust and easy to care for.
As soon as it gets nice and warm in spring, I repot my young herbs. Clay pots are particularly suitable: They are stable and allow the soil to breathe well. The flower pots should be large enough and have holes in the bottom. The substrate is also important. Experienced gardeners have their own special recipes. For the layman, I recommend high-quality potting soil from the shops. It has a balanced fertiliser content and a stable structure. This way, the freshly potted herbs are well supplied for weeks.
Before actually potting, I cover the holes in the bottom of the pot with pebbles or shards of clay and fill some soil into the pot. Then I hold the root ball of my plant in the pot and fill soil up to the rim. The soil is lightly pressed down to create a practical watering rim. This prevents the soil from being washed out of the pot when watering. When I have finished, I put all the herb pots in their place and water them well.
Scented herbs on the terrace
If you have little space, you can also plant your scented herb garden on the terrace. Well-coordinated pots have a harmonious effect and bring a lot of tranquillity to the design. Whether terracotta, wood, plastic or tin, all types of pots are permitted and well suited for herbs. The main thing is that they have a drainage hole.
Herbs need to be repotted every few years. The best time is in spring. Potted herbs dry out quickly and need regular watering in summer. It is good to water them deeply and let the root ball dry out before watering again. Herbs also need a dose of liquid fertiliser from time to time.
Beautiful things with scented herbs
Lavender bouquets In midsummer it is time to harvest the lavender. The lavender should only be cut when it has fully blossomed. Bundle the stems into small bunches and hang them up to dry.
Scented sachets Since ancient times, dried lavender flowers have been wiped off and put into cloth sachets. They freshen the air in the room or are placed in the linen cupboard to ward off moths. Other dried herbs are also suitable for the aromatic sachets.
Bouquet of herbs Roses and scented geraniums exude their delicate fragrance in a small, unobtrusive glass container. Always cut fragrant herbs fresh, as decoration or as a small gift.
Wreath made of peppermint A self-tied wreath made of flowering mint is unusual. It gives your table decoration a refreshing touch, as the mint leaves fill the air with their scent all evening. Then dry it and enjoy it as tea.
Burkhard Bohne is a passionate herbalist. He runs the medicinal plant garden at the Technical University of Braunschweig, gives herb seminars, is committed to historical apothecary gardens and is a successful author of herb books.