An aromatic herb garden is a wonderful place to sit and relax and take in all the pleasant fragrances the plants lend to the atmosphere. Aromatic herbs give off their scent when brushed against or rubbed. Most aromatic herbs are used in cooking, but they are also used in cosmetic and medicinal applications and, when dried, make lovely potpourri.
Lavender is a popular fragrant herb with spires of purple flowers that lend a clean, fresh scent. Lavender has been used to scent clothing and the body for centuries. Chamomile is another flowering herb; it has miniature daisylike flowers that smell faintly like apples. Chamomile promotes relaxation.
The aromatic parts of many herbs are the leaves. Rosemary is an evergreen herb with needlelike leaves with a pungent scent that stimulates the brain. Fennel bulbs grow underground and are used in cooking fish, but the feathery leaves also have an anise scent. Marjoram and oregano have a similar fragrance, with oregano being the stronger. They are used in cooking and aid in sleep issues. Thyme has tiny leaves and a spicy fragrance mixed with mint.
The mint family includes thousands of plants. Basil is one of them; its leaves have a strong anise scent that invigorates the mind and body. Sage is a main ingredient in stuffings and has a warm, homey scent. Romans used it as a rinse for hair to make it smell good and in the baths to scent the body. It can manage stress and is antiseptic. Mint has many different types and fragrances that stimulate the senses and get the blood moving. Peppermint is the strongest, followed by spearmint. There are a host of other types of mint that smell like lemon, orange, lime, apple, chocolate or lavender.
Lemon is a common scent for herbs, but some have a very strong fragrance. Lemon balm is one of them, with a sweet scent and flowers that attract bees. Lemon grass has a strong scent and flavor and is used often in Thai cooking. Lemon verbena is a tropical plant with one of the strongest lemon flavors and scents, and the tea is especially delicious.
Every aromatic garden should have a variety of scented geraniums, or pelargoniums, that have come from Africa. These do not resemble the types most common in gardens that have red or pink globes of flowers and an unpleasant odor. The flowers on these are very small, and the leaves are the scented part of the plant. Leaves come in many shapes--from round to toothed to lacy--and they smell like rose, lemon, mint and chocolate. Other types imitate the scent of fruits, like apricots and strawberries, or spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.