Archive for the ‘Fragrant Plants’ Category

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yasimin, Jessamine

<em>Jasminum officinale</em> <em>Jasminum officinale</em> in the Trie Garden

The potted jasmines that perfume the gardens, and make a paradise of Trie Cloister, are in full flush and will flower for many weeks to come. The jasmines sold as house plants by nurseries and garden centers in the Northeast are often not the true or poet’s jasmine, Jasminum officinale, but a more frost-tender species, Jasminum polyanthum. Sometimes called winter jasmine, it is very heavily scented, but not so sweetly fragrant as the poet’s jasmine.

Jasminum officinale has been at home in a sheltered, sunny position in the bed under the parapet wall in Bonnefont Garden and has wintered over there for some years. The plants grown in terra rossa pots are the same species, but are a distinct form, J. officinale forma affine.

The color of the buds on these beautiful plants is a deep pink, although the flowers, slightly larger than the species, open pure white.  The fragrance is delightful even during the day. (Jasmines are most fragrant in the evening. ) Long prized for its scent, jasmine is still grown in great quantities at Grasse, which was already a center for perfumery in the Middle Ages.

Native to the Himalayas of western China and introduced into European gardens from the East, jasmine was a relative latecomer to those regions not in close contact with the Arab world.  Read more »

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Fragrance of Lavender

True or English Lavender (L. angustifolia subspecies angustifolia growing in Bonnefont Herb Garden.

Above: Lavandula angustifolia in Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden

The scent of lavender has always represented the quintessential fragrance of the herb garden to me. This sweet, full-bodied aroma has the magical ability to conjure up special memories and associations with the past and present. Although this fragrance may seem magical, it also serves a very important biological function for the plant and the ecosystem in which it exists. The aroma of the flower attracts insects that share a symbiotic relationship with the plant. Bees—the most important of these insects—are integral in the pollination of lavender. They serve as pollen vectors between male and female flower parts.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lavenders, Lavandin

Lavandin (Lavandula Xintermedia \"Grosso\" growing in Cuxa Cloister Garth Garden.

Above: Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) flowering in Cuxa Garden.

Lavenders in The Middle Ages

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ssp. angustifolia) was used to scent linen and to keep moths and insects from woolens, as it still is. According to the fifteenth-century herbal Hortus Sanitatis, or the Garden of Health, this virtue of protecting clothing from vermin endeared lavender to the Mother of God, who also loved the herb as a preserver of chastity: “If the head is sprinkled with lavender water it will make that person chaste so long as he bears it upon him.” (Margaret Freeman, Herbs for the Medieval Household, 1943.)

Lavender had a number of medicinal applications as well as household uses, and could be employed against pains in the heart, fainting spells, and sleeplessness; it was applied to the forehead for headache and included in antidotes, such as a plaster for scorpion bites. It was used internally as well as externally, and a decoction was drunk for epilepsy and kidney ailments and as a preventative for apoplexy. (Frank Anderson, German Book Illustration through 1500: Herbals through 1500, 1983–4.) Read more »