BURYING your nose in a bunch of lavender or running your hands along a hedge in full flower is one of life’s pleasures. Whether it’s an old-fashioned rose, a small bunch of freshly picked violets or a pungent herb, the heady smell is a reminder of the joy that nature – and gardening – bring to our lives.
Lilac trees hold a special place in my heart. My mother grew them in Nottingham and she picked the flowers in spring to bring inside so we could enjoy the delicate blooms and revel in their beautiful perfume. Likewise with sweet peas, which she grew in abundance every year.
An Australian friend got quite teary in the 1960s when he came across some gum trees while in the Canary Islands, which shows how evocative a fragrance can be.
No garden is complete without something exuding an aroma, be it a tree, vine, shrub, ground cover or herb – unless, of course, you’re highly allergic. So let’s start from the ground up.
Obvious flowers that have a delicate smell are violets, but they can be a curse when they multiply, unless you go for native violets (Viola hederacea), which aren’t quite so prolific. Dianthus or pinks (smaller relatives of carnations) have a very sweet smell. Lily of the valley has a lovely perfume and flowers on Caulfield Cup Day, but I find them tricky to grow. Then there are the many heavily scented spring-flowering bulbs such as freesias and jonquils.
Invasive species are so pervasive in Hawaii’s low-lying areas that the U.S. Forest Service says it’s not cost-effective or practical to eradicate them all. Instead, it’s launching new research into developing “hybrid ecosystems” that will incorporate some nonnative plants but allow native plants to thrive.
The service has received a $1.6 million grant from the Defense Department’s strategic environmental research program to study the possibility.
“Invasive species are so prevalent. You’re hand weeding, trying to eliminate them and aren’t able to keep up with them. It feels like you’re fighting a losing battle,” said Susan Cordell, research ecologist with the Forest Service. “Restoring these lowland tropical forests to a historic native state is not financially or physically feasible.”
Hawaii’s low-lying native trees and plants were wiped out by cattle, goats and other nonnative mammals that were set free to graze after the arrival of the first Europeans in the islands in the late 1700s. The animals trampled on ferns and undergrowth, drying the soil and tree roots. Later reforestation efforts resulted in the planting of fast-growing nonnative trees like eucalyptus instead of native trees.
To see intact native ecosystems, you have to climb high into the mountains.
Cordell said the grant will allow researchers to find ways for native species to “coexist” with some nonnative species.