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A Garden of Fragrance

A Garden of Fragrance
Suzy Bales
New York: Regan Books (an imprint of HarperCollins)
Publication Date: 

cloth, 167 p., $29.95

For the olfactory acute amongst us, Louise Beebe Wilder's classic, The Fragrant Path, has long helped to navigate the scented garden path. In any passionate pursuit, organizational methods determine directional choices for collectors and practitioners alike. Wilder's arrangement of scented plants is guided by the timeless sensitivities of the gardener's nose. In a garden of fragrance, Suzy Bales orders our aromatic universe from a more current, psychological perspective. Her preface explains, "A fragrant flower miraculously influences our thoughts, moods and imagination, ultimately affecting our behavior."

While Louise Wilder's humorous prose charms the plant enthusiast, Suzy Bales' bubbly text caters more to the overscheduled 21st-century gardener. Less leisure time makes for more accessible approaches, showier categories ("Seductresses, Come-Closers, Moonlighters, Shaggy Dogs and Rogues") and quicker fixes. The most user-friendly section of the book is the collection of appendices; they include charts on aromatic oils, aromatic properties and compatible scent combination. These, along with the "Family Portraits" (descriptions of fragrant plant groups), alone are worth the price.

The rest of Ms. Bales' book groups plants according to the seasons in which they bloom in her zone 7 garden. The content is also intended to "complement the traditional practice of designing by color." Interspersed throughout the text are small boxes planted with interesting horticultural details. They range from how to identify a plant's fragrance from its botanic name to historical tidbits.

Like most contemporary garden publications, this book speaks in a certain voice to a specific audience. AGarden of Fragrance is but one good gardening reference in a field that demands many texts.

— Julie Siegel