Most fragrant of them all

Most fragrant of them all

Flowers need not just be ornamental. Fragrant as well as pleasant, they can also add therapeutic value, writes Suja Natarajan

Nothing beats the pleasant and incredible smell of mild floral fragrances that waft through the garden. Like its vibrant colours and shapes, a flower’s fragrance is an important element that brings out its best.

“The fragrance is an integral part of a garden, which people seem to have forgotten. Having a fragrant garden will give you a lot of joy, peace and calm,” says Sriram Aravamudan, director, Mysunnybalcony, Bengaluru.

Given that floral fragrance has many therapeutic values, how about dedicating a portion of your home to these beauties? Not only would they make your garden look colourful, they will also uplift your mood. Here are some flowers that’ll work wonders for your home and life:

* Rosemary: Native to the Mediterranean region and Asia, Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub. Perennial, fragrant and woody, it is often used as a decorative plant in gardens. Rosemary is also used as a flavouring in cooking. Easy to grow and pest-resistant, rosemary can grow to full bloom with regular maintenance.

“As it is difficult to grow Rosemary from seeds, it is recommended to take three to five inches of a plant cutting and pot them. They will begin to show signs of growth in a few weeks,” says Mythri Ananda, a homemaker with a penchant for flowers.

* Rose: The “queen of flowers” is known for its exquisite perfume and has been a popular fragrant flower for several centuries. Growing high-quality fragrant roses such as Damask are high on maintenance, as they need regular watering, fertilising, grooming and spraying. The intense, sweet fragrance is used to aid relaxation, relieve depression and skin ailments.

* Geranium: Semi-woody and delicate, the lovely pink flowers are natives of South Africa and are noted for their scented foliage. They are versatile and can be grown in the garden or in hanging pots.

Some of the common scented geraniums include rose, mint, lemon, spice, oak-leaved and fruits such as apricot and oranges. In such plants you can get a mild fragrance from its leaves.

“By applying a bit of water to the leaves, you will get the fragrance immediately,” says Sriram. They can grow up to two to three inches tall and are known to bloom during late spring or summer.

* Frangipanni: Also known as the Hawaiian Lei flower, frangipani grows well in tropical areas. The flower emanates a strong scent during the nights. Colourful, bright and waxy, they come in yellow, red and orange and grow as large shrubs with thick branches. They need proper ventilation and light and are sensitive to cold climates. But all efforts are worth the sense of peace and tranquility they lend to an abode.

* Raat ki rani: This flower, which blooms in the night-time, gives one of the most intense fragrances. Its sweet smell attracts many moths and butterflies. It grows best in the warm climate with regular watering and trimming. Its essential oil acts as an aphrodisiac, deodorant, relaxant and tranquiliser.

* Champak: A native of south-east Asia, this yellowish-orange flower grows through the year in tropical climates. Its strong, sweet scent can be enjoyed from a few hundred metres away from the tree. The oil is traditionally known to be used as a perfume. It also helps in soothing stressed minds.

* Bethlehem lily: These bloom at night with a heady, pleasant fragrance that gives a dramatic appeal in the dark. The size of a fully blossomed Bethlehem lily is about 12 to 17 cm in diameter and it takes 20 days to bloom fully. The flower has a centre that looks like a bed and the stylus has a star that looks like a cradle with the star.

* Marigold: Derived from the word ‘Mary’s Gold’, the flower is globally grown through the year. Its musky and strong smell gives you protection against insects such as mosquitoes. The essential oil of marigold is used to get relief from cold, cough, mumps and skin ailments.

* Thyme: This is a Mediterranean evergreen herb that grows well in sunny and harsh conditions. Apart from its sweet fragrance, it is also known for its flavour. As this herb is perennial and easy to grow, you can keep the exotic spice well-supplied in your kitchen garden.

As they begin to sprout in summer, the best time to plant them would be during autumn. “It is not readily available in India, but a few stores do have a good stock of such herbs,” informs Mythri.

* Galangal: Also known as Siamese Ginger, Galangal is native to south-east Asia and is part of the ginger family. It grows several feet high with long sheathing leaves. The clumpy rhizomes have a spicy flavour and fragrance.

It grows well in warm temperate to tropical climatic conditions as long it is well-fertilised and has moist soil. Galangal was considered an aphrodisiac during the middle ages due to its warm and stimulating fragrance.

The use of these floral fragrances is not just limited to the ones mentioned here. In fact, they can be used in a variety of ways. Did you know that some fragrances can help improve one’s appetite? “Herbs like rosemary, mint and basil have such a strong scent that it instantly builds your appetite,” states Meghaa.

Some plants with fragrant leaves are exclusively grown for masking malodours and act as air fresheners. “For instance, herbs such as basil act as non-toxic, natural air fresheners,” says Dr K B Reddy, a retired professor and accredited Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultant based in Bengaluru. Also, plants such as citronella help in repelling insects and snakes from the garden.

Maintenance issues

Although most fragrant flowers are perennial, they require regular care and grow best when they are exposed adequately to sunlight and air. “Flowers that are not native to India are difficult to maintain and need a bit of expertise,” opines Shaan Lalwani, director, Vriksha Nursery, Mumbai.

Right time to plant

A good time to plant is during the months of March and April as the weather is warm and sunny. “An ideal time would be in late March due to summer showers,” suggests Sriram. As plants are dormant during winter, the likelihood of it germinating is not very high, he adds.

As India does not have any temperature extremity, plants can grow through the year, and bloom on and off as the year progresses. To bring out the flower’s best fragrances, organic fertilisers, such as dried cow dung and ayurvedic neem cake, are the best way to go.

“The moment you use chemicals, it affects the plant’s fragrance,” avers Sriram. Additionally, one would need a neutral pH soil to grow the plants.

Colourful and bright, these fragrant flowers can help enhance the beauty and tranquility of your home in many ways. So, what are you waiting for? Let the fragrances waft into your home!

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