Fragrant Designs - Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Fragrant Designs

Fragrant Designs

See Table of Contents
  • Fragrance: A Sensual Science, by Beth Hanson
  • Making Sense of Scents, by Beth Hanson
    • Scent Seeker
  • Capturing Scent, by Leda Meredith
  • Perfume for Pollinators, by Janet Marinelli
    • Air Pollution "Silences" Fragrant Plants, by Beth Hanson
  • Mixed Messages, by Beth Hanson
    • What’s That Smell?
  • Scented Gardens
    • Fragrant Front Yard Gardens, by Meghan Ray
    • Wildlife-Friendly Fragrant Hell Strips, by Claire Hagen Dole
    • Fragrant Native Woodland Gardens, by Janet Marinelli
    • Scented Evening Gardens, by Meghan Ray
    • Aromatic Container Gardens, by Jennifer Williams
    • Fragrant Gardens for Children, by Monika Hannemann
    • Scented Paths, by Caleb Leech
    • Fragrant Rose Gardens, by Anne O'Neill
    • Fragrant Annual and Perennial Vines, by Andrew Bunting
  • Nursery Sources
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Garden Plans and Plant Lists (PDF) ›


Fragrance: A Sensual Science

Beth Hanson

Plants send messages to animals ("Sweet nectar here!" "My leaves are toxic!") and to other plants ("Predator Alert!") encoded in many of the same chemicals that make fragrant plants appealing to humans. We have used these scents for our own ends for eons—as medicines, perfumes, spices, cleaning agents, and to create fragrant gardens. As gardeners we spend a lot of time around plants. By learning how they evolved along with their surroundings and how they use scents to function and communicate, we develop a deeper understanding of the rich relationships among plants and animals. We can create natural havens that give us the opportunity to observe, up close, interactions between fragrant plants and their pollinators and predators. At the same time, we can use scent to create inviting spots for ourselves and for our family and friends.

Examples of many plants with scents.
Draw human and animal visitors to your garden with an offering of fabulous scents. (Photo: Charles Mann.)

In this book, BBG's own gardeners and talented horticulturists from other public gardens show you how to put together delicious–smelling gardens. Fragrance is the focus, but looks don't take a backseat in the eight projects featured here. The evening garden is at its fragrant peak at night, and the light–colored flowers and foliage glow in the moonlight as the plants' scents lure their moth pollinators. Three gorgeous containers bring the aromas of the Mediterranean, Southeast Asian cuisine, and a country dooryard to your terrace, or any other place that you'd like to enrich with yummy scents. The garden of fragrant natives is a layered, naturalistic woodland where local wildlife species will feel right at home. Scented shrubs, perennials, annuals, and vines transform a path, hell strip, front garden, and back patio into vibrant, perfumed spots. In a garden designed especially for children, kids can explore, have fun, and learn, gaining hands-on gardening experience along the way. And the most famous scented plant, the rose, is the star of its own garden, surrounded by other plants that enhance its beauty and perfume.

Each project's author has selected an array of great–smelling plants that blend together into an inspiring design —rendered in a watercolor illustration in the book. Use the gardens in this book as a starting-off point or follow the suggestions of the authors. Either way, you'll welcome the handy tips for planting and maintaining the wonderfully fragrant plants you choose.

Image, top of page: Rebecca Bullene