Sight, sound, touch, taste, scent
Sunday, 17 Aug 08 Sunny 29°C / 85°F
Thanks to verthandei for cluing me in that I can harvest basil seeds. I had cut back all the flowers on my basil; I went out today and salvaged about 6 flower stalks and got these seeds. I’ll be gentler with the stalks from now on, and hopefully be able to propagate these indoors this winter, which I’ve never done.
I did a lot of aromatics today, not just the basil, but also some mint and lavender (for a mint-lavender lemon syrup), and marigold (more seeds). While I harvested the basil seeds I was drinking coffee, and every time my hand on the mug came up to my face, I got a strong scent of the basil with the coffee. Wonderful. I didn’t wash my hands for hours, because it was so magical having that smell follow me around. Boiling the mint and lavender filled the house with a sweet fresh odor; can’t wait for it to cool down so I can try the syrup.
Marigolds are one of those stealth aromatics— you always forget that marigold is an herb, and that it has a wonderful smell. I want to say strong smell, but that’s misleading. What I mean is that the smell makes you think “strength.”
I love to walk past the fennel at this time of year as well. If you brush against it the whole yard gets a whisper of the anise scent. Sage will do this too. I’ve always thought it would be nice to do an herb-walk. A slightly-too-narrow path lined with aromatics so that you have to brush them on your way past.
A garden is sensory. You can experience it in so many ways. There’s sight of course— what most people think of when they see a garden— it looks nice. And taste— you can grow the things you eat. This is where gardeners start, I think, with a desire for beauty and food. But gardens also have sound. Buzzing insects, and singing birds. Rustling of small animals in the brush, maybe running water. Gardeners know about touch. The fuzz of a lambs ear, or the prick of a rose. A crisp forsythia leaf, the hard shell of a nut, the heavy sun on the back of your neck and of course the wonderful feel of the soil around your hands.
Scent is subtlest sensory benefit of a garden. It’s why I feel you can’t really plant too many herbs, and why I never feel bad about not harvesting all of them. Because the dried and dead plants will retain their scent right into the winter. You can brush your hand over dead thyme in the middle of January and get a rush of midsummer hitting your nose.
Pictures of some of my aromatics—if only you could smell them, too!: basil seeds, wild onions, russian sage, wormwood, fennel
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