Present-day gardening has to some extent departed from ancient tradition, under which the scents of flowers and herbs were as much a consideration as was their appearance or flavour.
The owners of small and large gardens alike would do well to consider more frequently this aspect of flower and herb culture, and to do so more often for the sake of enjoying the flowers in their natural surroundings. For Bacon was surely right when he said that the breath of flowers "is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes like the warbling of music) than in the hand," and if we feel the charm of this sensuous suggestion, we shall also agree with him that "nothing is more fit for that delight than to know what be the flowers and plants that do most perfume the air."
In former times there was a custom prevalent in England of "sweetening the house" or "strewing the hustings " with sweet-scented herbs and rushes, as a preventive against disease germs, as well as for their pleasant scent. An old picture of the Coronation procession of King George IV., shows the King's Herb-woman at the head of a number of fair maidens of well-known families, all of whom carry sweet-scented flowers wherewith to strew the Royal way. (See page 2103, Vol. 3.) One could wish that so picturesque a custom had survived to the days of our own King George.
One of the great attractions of the garden of sweet scents lies in the fact that it may be as much or as little restricted in size as space and the owner s wishes demand. For it may extend to bowers of roses and an entire garden of lilies, or comprise merely a patch a yard wide of savoury herbs. Whatever its dimensions, space can generally be found for one or two sweet-smelling climbers, and, if it is decided to have a bed of scented flowers immediately below the house-room windows, roses or other climbers can be trained up the side of the house.
For such a bed a succession of flowers could be carefully arranged. The winter-sweet (Chimonanthus fragrans) or the Daphne mezereum will be planted for the early part of the year, with lilac, syringa, or a pillar rose to contribute its sweetness later on. Below these, for spring display, a carpet of narcissi and daffodils can be spread, with tulips, such as Thomas Moore or Yellow Prince, in alternate masses. Hyacinths are also suitable for formal beds near the house, and the musk-scented hyacinth can be used if others are thought too strong in scent.
A pretty bed can be arranged of white and pale pink (Beauty of Nice) stocks, with specimen plants of heliotrope or lemon verbena between, and an edging of Snow Carpet alyssum. The old-fashioned Mrs. Sinkins pink makes a capital permanent edging, and, of course, nothing more charming can be devised than a border of carnations (for the culture of which directions have already appeared in Every Woman's Encyclopaedia, pages 569, 686, Vol. 1, and 2123, Vol. 3).
Window-boxes should also be arranged with a view to the perfume which can be enjoyed indoors from flowers planted in them. If any of the house windows face north, sweet-scented pelargoniums can be used as specimen plants. Or small monthly roses can be planted, and a carpet of musk laid down. Again, annual candytuft is a splendid subject for massing in borders which do not obtain much sunshine.
This may be in itself a rose-garden, surrounded by four or six wide borders sloping down towards it, and a pergola covered with honeysuckle to lead the way. The walks may be of soft grass, which should be kept in perfect condition, or they may be of broken paving stones or of old red brick. In the latter case, small, sweet-scented flowers - e.g.', pinks - should be encouraged to grow between the crevices, or a packet of some annual, such as Virginia stock, mignonette, or candytuft, be scattered between.
In the herb-garden, which may or may not be a part of the garden of sweet scents proper, Bacon would have us plant "whole alleys" of burnet, wild thyme, and water - mints " to have the pleasure when you walk or tread." Among pot-herbs to be grown in the plot which should be assigned to them are the graceful, feathery-leaved fennel, the leaves of which are used for seasoning and the seeds for flavouring liqueur; dill, which much resembles fennel in appearance, with seeds used as a condiment as well as for pickling and for flavouring preserves. Place, too, should be found for angelica.
Rosemary, borage, marjoram, mint, pennyroyal, chives, and, above all, sage, with its glaucous foliage and pretty blue flowers, are really ornaments to the garden as well as useful and sweet-smelling herbs. Parsley is also a pretty plant for edging the herb-bed, or for growing in a mass, whether the fern-leaved or moss-curled varieties are utilised, and there is also a variety called Hamburg parsley, possessed of a thickish, turnip-like root, which can be cut up for flavouring. Savory, hyssop, sweet basil, and tarragon, the last of which is a pretty plant which flourishes without attention in most gardens, are other herbs of which the leaves are used for seasoning purposes, while chervil is used for garnishing as well as for seasoning.
To return to the supposed rose-garden.