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Growing An “Off The Grid” Fragrance Garden

We all give thought to the “what if’s” of a disaster, economic collapse, or attack on U.S. soil. We’re stockpiling our food, learning to grow survival gardens, and figuring out ways to provide the essentials for ourselves and our families. Generally, luxury items don’t come into play when you’re trying to plan ahead for austerity.

However, there may be one luxury that you can still have, even in a survival situation. Americans have fallen in love with home scents. We Febreeze, Glade, Scentsy, and potpourri our homes to the tune of billions of dollars a year. Yet Mother Nature can provide us with wonderful smelling scents that will cost you nothing save for the initial cost of planting your scent garden. Never get so utilitarian that you neglect the pleasurable, especially in your survival planning, if at all possible.

It’s really quite simply to grow your own fragrance garden, and in subsequent articles we’ll show you how to utilize the different plants in a myriad of ways.

The sweet smells of a fragrance garden begin in April with the small, sweet violets and will grow and change throughout the season until the nasturtiums are killed by the late fall frosts. The blazing colors of our garden – blue, white, lavender, apricot, and gold – will grace it all summer long. The sweet smells of the flowers is but half of the glory of this fragrant paradise. Delightfully fragrant herbs and other foliage will add depth to their perfume throughout the growing season.

Fragrance gardens are typically built in a cove-like design and the bed is raised to a height of three feet to place all of those luscious smells right at nose level. While you sit on the sheltered bench enclosed it its cove to partake of the heady delights within you will find that beneath your feet in this little sanctuary you will find a carpet of sweet violets hiding there beneath the bench and filling the cozy seating area.

Grow Your Own Heirloom Flowers This Year

The Garden
The traditional fragrance garden is built in a rectangular shape. The design in my resources was 12 feet across the back, with 6 foot sides that are 3 feet tall and wide. The bench – which is 5 feet long and 2 feet deep – sits centered and to the back of the small cove-like area, which measures 3 feet by 6 feet. This diagram shows it built of brick, yet you can make your beds from what is close at hand and available locally, such as rock, lumber and/or other building materials – your imagination is the limit to your design choices.

The Plants

  • Sweet Violets – a six inch tall perennial that spreads in clumps and prefers partial shade, thus the reason to plant them beneath the bench. You can plant all Royal Robe Violets or a combination of Red Giants, White Czars, Rosinas, and Royal Robes. Blooms in April and May.
  • Snow White Beebalm – a three foot tall perennial. Give these plants a two foot circle as they spread. Both the tubular flowers clusters and the leaves have a lemony fragrance. Blooms in June and July.
  • Hidcote Lavender – a perennial that stands 18 inches tall and up to 18 inches wide. Flowers and foliage are both highly fragrant with the intense lavender scent. These should be placed a foot apart to form a purple hedge. Blooms in June and July.
  • Mother of Thyme (also called creeping or wooly thyme) – a creeping ground cover that grows three feet tall. The small shiny evergreen leaves are highly fragrant with the salty, pungent smell of thyme. Plant a foot apart near an edge so that they will trail over the wall giving a cascade effect. Bears tiny lavender flowers in June and July.
  • Lemon Thyme – a clumping perennial that grows 4 inches tall. The light green leaves have a delightful Lemony fragrance. Give them 1 foot circles. They will bear small, rosy blossoms in June and July.
  • Scented Geranium – a perennial in zones 9 and 10, where they can reach a height of three feet. In colder climates setting out pots or cuttings will need to wait until all frost danger to subside. Geraniums grow quickly and can reach a height of 18-24 inches in one season. Their wide array of color ranges from Pink to Lavender and will bloom throughout the summer. The foliage is soft and fuzzy green or bicolored and highly fragrant. Geraniums come in hundreds of fragrances which include: lemon scented – P crispum; variegatum, with creamy white leaf margins; rose scented – P graveolens – with large fragrant leaves; and peppermint scented – P tomentosum – with downy, maple-like leaves. Give plants 18 inch circles.
  • Lemon Balm – an 18-24 inch tall perennial that may grow to 2 feet in width. Flower heads should be cut back (dead headed) to keep plants from self-sowing their seed. The scalloped green foliage is strongly lemon scented. Plant in 18 inch circles. Blooms July through September.
  • Blue Wonder Catmint – a bushy perennial, 12-15 inches tall with fuzzy, minty foliage. Covers itself in 6 inch flower spikes in early spring and summer. Cut back plants after blooming to encourage re-blooming in fall. Give 1 foot circles.
  • Garlic Chives – a perennial which grows 2 feet tall and spreads in clumps. It has strap like blue-green foliage which contrasts well with the more leafy herbs. Cutting the bloom stalks before seeds ripen will prevent an overabundance of chives from taking over your garden. Plant in 18 inch circles. Blooms with rose scented, star shaped clusters of white blossoms in late summer.
  • Nasturtiums – an annual that grows one foot tall by two feet wide and will cascade over the garden’s edge. Sea green leaves with a unique peppery, nose-pinching smell. Plant on 18 inch circles, after all danger of frost has passed. Bears flowers summer through frost in various shades of red, gold, apricot, and orange.
  • White Flowered Rosemary – a perennial in zones 8-10; else sink pots in the beds or plant out and repot in the fall. Can reach hedge proportions, but won’t do so in zones north of zone 8, where it rarely reaches 2 feet tall. There are several great white flowered varieties which bloom in early summer. Rosemary’s main attractions are their graceful, deep evergreen, needled branches and their delightfully pungent piney scent.

My husband is fond of saying that anyone can survive. It’s living that’s difficult. Your fragrance garden can give you the small daily pleasure you need to encourage you to continue on, no matter what the circumstances that surround you.

And you don’t have to wait until TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) to enjoy your fragrance garden and derive pleasure from it.

Happy gardening!

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