GARDENING: THE PERFUMED GARDEN

Published November 1, 2020
Shrub of the month — Brugmansia | Photos by the writer
Shrub of the month — Brugmansia | Photos by the writer

For a garden to be a real, living, breathing entity, it should be bursting with myriad joys of plant life: colour, texture, shape, form and, surpassing all of these things combined, the heady fragrance from which dreams are made.

There is that extra special, spiritually uplifting aroma of earth after a shower of rain; the green smell of happy, healthy, growing plants; and the glorious perfume emanating from whichever personal favourite, fragrant flowers the individual gardener has chosen to grow.

It is often claimed that a woman’s perfume is her signature — exactly the same can be said of a garden.

A gardener may have a love affair with roses. Growing them in, up and over every conceivable space, and in every hue that roses can be found in. Crimson velvet ones over a pergola, pale pink cabbage roses trailing down from a balcony to mingle with deep golden, pure white, peaches and cream and amber blooms of shrub and bush roses growing up to meet them but, beautiful as the sight is to behold, without the all essential perfume, no dreams will be born there. It will be a showy, yet sterile, place. A garden without soul!

Add perfume, breathe it in and breathe it in deeply, the magic then begins.

So many people these days buy rose bushes/climbers/ramblers for the size and splendour of their blooms alone, completely overlooking what is, at least to the writer, the basic necessity of fragrance which, sadly, has often been left by the wayside during the intensive breeding programmes aimed at producing more and bigger blooms over an extended period of time. Without their delicious perfume, a rose is not a rose anymore and honey bees will, I’m sure, second this emotion.

The old-fashioned roses of yesteryears — remember the shell pink ones escaping over your grandmother’s haveli wall? — were treasured for their fragrance along with their looks (our very own desi roses continue, thankfully, to do just this) and, if you search hard enough, you can still find examples here and there — examples crying out to be saved and appreciated, and be multiplied by the cuttings that are so easy to take, to grow and to dream on.

A garden without a heady and essential fragrance may be a showy but sterile place — one without soul and magic

Other perfumed garden favourites include: our national flower Jasmine, nargis, orange, lemon and grapefruit blossom, apple blossom, sweet sultan, sweet Williams, wallflowers, hyacinths, chambeli, tuberoses, freesias, sweet peas, stocks, raat-ki-raani, lavender, sweet alyssum, heliotrope, carnations, phlox, honeysuckle, Persian lilac, motia, champa, mehndi, kamni, oleander, brugmansia, chandni, beaumontia grandiflora, nicotiana, some varieties of petunia and many kinds of lilies.

Plan yourself a perfumed garden in which to dream your troubles away.

Gloriously fragrant rose
Gloriously fragrant rose

Planting suggestions for November:

In the flower garden: Every kind of poppy you can find seeds for, Californian poppies and Shirley poppies being amongst the easiest to find and the simplest to grow. Sweet peas can still be sown but the sooner the better. Then there are larkspur, Queen Anne’s lace, ageratum, wallflowers, sweet Williams, sweet alyssum, tagetes, sweet sultan, cornflowers, mimulus, bidens, nemophila, godetia, antirrhinums, violas, pansies, Virginia stocks, ten-week stocks, salvias, clarkia, bellis, hollyhocks, annual chrysanthemums, asters, coreopsis and lots more.

Bulbs and corms: Asiatic and Oriental lilies, nargis, Dutch hyacinths, grape hyacinths, Dutch iris, miniature iris, tulips, daffodils, crocus, ranunculus, sparaxis, cyclamen, anemones, freesias, ornamental alliums and, hopefully, some new introductions in the stores/nurseries too.

The vegetable garden: Broad beans, peas, sugar peas, petit pois, winter red and pink radish, black winter radish, French radish, radicchio, endive, winter lettuce, cos lettuce, pak choy, mustard, mustard mizuna, giant red mustard, garlic mustard, turnips, turnip greens, cauliflower, lots of different kinds of cabbage, including red ones. Brussel’s sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, green sprouting broccoli, calabrese, curly kale, kale, red Russian kale, scarlet kale, black Italian kale, chopsuey greens, spring onions, onions, carrots, beetroot, kohlrabi, rutabaga, leeks, Swiss chard/leaf beet, celery, spinach, garlic, potatoes, Chinese cabbage, mesclun mixes and both mixed Chinese and Japanese salad greens. In Karachi, tomato seeds can be sown in sheltered spots but will need protection at night and on chilly days.

The herb garden: Fast growing types of lavender, rosemary, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, apple mint, peppermint, green mint and any other kind of mint you can find. Parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, lemon balm, nasturtiums, watercress, arugula/rocket, dill, aniseed, chamomile, calendulas, chervil, chives, garlic chives, coriander, cumin (zeera) and, again in Karachi only, various kinds of basil in warm, sheltered, spots.

Shrub of the month: Brugmansia — Angel’s trumpet. This gorgeous, perennial shrub is one of the most powerfully fragrant garden plants around, its heady perfume being strongest from evening through until the dawn light. It can attain a height of six feet to 15 feet in general, flourishing in full sun or light shade. Enjoying moist, well-draining, humus-rich soil, it is easily propagated from six inches to eight inches long cuttings, taken from established branches, during the summer months: these cuttings can first be rooted in nothing more than water before being planted out or inserted in to pots of good quality compost, be kept watered and planted out when established. Flowers, these really are stunning, may be yellow, white, peach, pink and of single or double form.

Please note that all parts of this plant are extremely toxic. Do not grow it next to edible plants/fruit/vegetables/herbs, as the soil may be contaminated by the poisonous leaves of Brugmansia when they fall. Keep well away from areas frequented by children and pets. Wear gloves when handling any part of the plant.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 1st, 2020

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