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Follow your nose to find a scented flower or rout a
I walk past a garden on my way to work. Something smells
wonderful in there but I can't figure out what it is. I've stuck my
nose in every flower I see and can't find it. Any ideas what could
be going on?
Let's look at two possibilities. One involves time and the
Scent comes from liquid secreted by a flower as it matures and
is ready for pollination. The liquid oxidizes and its chemical
components waft around. This attracts a bee, moth, bird or other
creature to sip some nectar and carry ripe pollen between
Each plant species evolved to use specific pollinators. Some
that are paired with nocturnal creatures begin producing scent at
dusk and quit at daybreak. Most day-pollinated flowers work the
Do you hurry past in the morning, then hunt the fragrance
late in the day, or vice versa? If so, the blossoms you seek may be
Flowers also cease producing scent and close once they are
pollinated, shifting resources to ripening seed. This can happen
rapidly if there are plenty of pollinators. It amazes me how
quickly blooms fade at the zoo's butterfly exhibit. Yet it only
makes sense, as those flowers are serviced by an unnaturally high
number of thirsty insects.
The second possibility is that you're looking in the wrong
Don't stop at the flowers. Many leaves are aromatic due to oils
that protect them from hot sun and high heat. So stoop lower as you
hunt, to rustle the greenery to see if it releases a scent.
Look up, too. Some people overlook the tiny blossoms borne by
some trees and shrubs, even while noticing their odor. Linden trees
have been in bloom recently, for instance. From on high they can
shed perfume for hundreds of feet.
Even if you don't find it, isn't the search fun?
Please tell me how to get rid of mint in the
You can move and start a new garden on mint-free ground. Short
of that, dig it out or kill it with a systemic herbicide such as
Dab the herbicide on every bit of mint. Don't drip on anything
else and keep the mint from touching other plants until the weed
killer dries. Then wait and watch while the mint metabolizes the
poison, shifts it into its roots and dies. Since this tactic can
ruin a bed's look for weeks, I usually choose to dig.
The good news is that mints are shallow rooted. Unlike some
thistle, poppies and other weeds with roots that dive deep and
spread laterally from there, mints crawl along at or near the
The roots are scented, too, like the foliage. So there's no
doubt which root to pull as you trace a mint's path through a
You may have to lift good perennials to remove mint if both have
shallow roots and become a tangle. If you want to go easier on the
desirable plants, wait to dig after summer's heat breaks in late
August. Meanwhile remove all the mint you can. After chasing it
into crowns of surface-rooted keepers, check back weekly to nip off
any mint shoots that develop.
Neither my peonies or my lilac bushes had fragrance this
year. For several years this has been happening. Could you advise
me what to do?
Some plants produce less fragrance on cool days than warm. Also,
scent travels poorly in the rain. There were many wet, chill days
this May so perhaps you missed the few chances there were to catch
Maybe you've changed position relative to the plants or
surroundings have changed to alter air currents. In either case the
scent may be there but elude you.
A man I know built a deck and then realized he'd thereby removed
himself to upwind of his roses. Another friend thought for several
years that her madonna lily (Lilium candidum) was
diminishing in fragrance before realizing that a nearby hedge had
matured, restricting air flow across the lily bed.
Fragrant foliage all year 'round in an herb bed.
Thyme, lavender, sage, santolina and other evergreen herbs can
delight the nose now and even in winter. It's a good time to visit
an herb farm or the herb department at a garden center, sample the
smells and bring some home.
Green thumbs up
to those who plant for the unseen smile. This includes garden
clubs, Master Gardener groups and beautification teams who sow
wildflowers along a highway or daffodils at town entries. It also
covers individuals who deliberately point their sunflowers' faces
to a road beyond their back fence or garden an easement seen only
from a public way. It's very kind to give when you won't see the
effect your gift has on others. Thank you!
Green thumbs down
to narrow thinking when it comes to raising a mound or "berm."
To elevate a privacy planting of arborvitae, juniper, lilac or
ornamental grass make the mound wide with only very gentle slopes
on its sides. Make it five feet wide for every foot in soil depth
and indent the top where you'll plant. If you don't the plants will
suffer as rain and irrigation water zip down the sides, away from
Originally published 7/10/04