From the chapter on Air
After you have gotten rid of unpleasant or noxious smells, encourage your olfactory sense with things that scent the air. Baking bread will make everyone think your home is the nicest place in the world. Freshly ground coffee is nearly as good. Grow a scented garden, concentrating on old-fashioned roses, night-scented stock, and plants with aromatic leaves. Modern hybrid flowers rarely have the rich smells of their predecessors. In fact, it is quite possible to raise a garden full of flowers which have no smell at all, because they have been bred for show, not scent. Put scented plants in raised beds or near seats in your garden. Some municipal parks have put in gardens for the handicapped, with beds raised to wheelchair level and filled with interesting leaves and fragrant flowers for the blind.
Herbs have aromatic leaves. Plant them where you will brush against them or where you can run your hand over them. In John Aubrey’s Brief Lives, he mentions how “Sir John Danvers, being my Relation and faithfull Friend, was wont in fair mornings in the Summer to brush his Beaver-hatt on the Hysop and Thyme, which did perfume it with its natural Spirit; and would last a morning or longer.”
From the chapter on Gardening
Faced with a bare garden, the first thing one does is head for the garden centre to buy trays of pansies and wallflowers. Then you pull them out and plant something else the next season. This is what I call the municipal gardens approach, which is wasteful and a lot of work compared to a closely planted perennial bed.
Plant old-fashioned scented varieties, which are enjoying something of a revival thanks to interest in the traditional English garden. Modern hybrid roses appeal to some, but the glorious fragrances of ‘old’ roses will be a delight to everyone who comes into your garden, and you’ll be helping to preserve genetic diversity. Like vegetables, flowers have been bred for size and appearance in recent years, and more subtle charms have been neglected. But even the big seed companies offer a few of the old-fashioned varieties, and there are specialist firms with fabulous ranges.
If you have room, grow plenty of flowers for cutting. Even a small garden can offer quite a good supply of house flowers, especially if you use plenty of greenery too – much nicer than those plastic-wrapped bundles of imported flowers most of us depend on to add some colour to the table, and organically-grown too, unlike the flowers we buy (an estimated 20% of the pesticides used on Colombian flowers, a major source for UK florists, are banned in Europe).
The floral industry uses more pesticides than any other agricutlural business because, they say, consumers are even more reluctant to accept flowers which are less than perfect than they are apples or cabbages. Florists use vast quantities of plastic containers and accessories, syntheic fabric flowers and ribbons, balloons, paints and dyes, as well as floral preservatives. Cost margins are slim, as traditional floral shops compete with mass-market supermarket floral departments, and most commercial flowers are imported out of season flowers, or exotics. Encourage your florist to use locally-grown flowers, simply constructed arrangements, and ask about the pesticides used on the flowers you buy.
A well-designed picking garden can give you flowers throughout most of the year. When you grow your own flowers, plant sturdy native species, and harvest in the evening directly into a bucket of clean water. Allow the flowers to sit overnight in a cook dark place before arranging.