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  • Jennifer Jewell


Magnolia - image by Ellen Hoverkamp from "The Scentual Garden", by Ken Druse


Scentual - hmmm. A good and evocative word, right?

Today we are talking all things fragrant plants and flowers with plantsman Ken Druse and his 20th - yes - 20th book "The Scentual Garden, Exploring the World of Botanical Fragrance " (Abrams Press, 2019).

As he writes: “In The Scentual Garden, I reveal a world of sensory experience to surprise and delight every gardener. This wholly original survey of botanical fragrance—how to sample it, design for it, revel in it, and even capture it—offers detailed descriptions of the scents of 100s of vividly illustrated perennial flowers, herbs, shrubs, and trees.

Chapters discuss how and why plants produce fragrances, how our sense of smell works, how perfumers capture floral scents, how plants “communicate” with each other, and even how to smell plants (here, the advice is similar to techniques for tasting wine). There are suggestions for bringing fragrance into gardens, from making paths that offer a sequence of sensory experiences to night gardens that come alive with fragrance. As in a previous book, "Natural Companions", photographer Ellen Hoverkamp contributes vivid and artful botanical photographs, to meet plants up close and personal.

In this time leading up to the dreaming space of winter dormancy here in the northern hemisphere Ken joins us today from his home and garden island in a river in New Jersey.

"I have always loved fragrance, but when reading catalogues all they ever said was Fragrant or Sweet - and that doesn’t tell me enough, so I wondered could I do this? Could I truly describe the fragrances of plants I love…"

Ken Druse, The Scentual Garden

Ken Druse is a well-known horticulturist and award winning author and photographer. His books range from gardening in the shade to naturalistic garden design, from propagating to combining interesting plants.

Follow Ken's work at the Wildlife Conservation Society website and at their Instagram feed: thewcs

Join us again next week when we celebrate the scentual side of the garden with Ken Druse sharing his love of scented plants and flowers in The Scentual Garden.

There are soooooo many ways people engage in and grow from the cultivation of their places.



Thinking out Loud this week...


Scent and memory – and gardens and memory – and season. That’s what’s in my mind this time of year as we explore this concept of scent in the garden with Ken Druse.

In his book and in our conversation, Ken notes that the same part of the brain that stores memory is also the part that registers scent – so it is that I smell privet and I think of my grandmother’s funny dislike of it and I think of childhood summers mosquito bitten, barefooted, and sunburned on the beaches of Little Compton, RI; I smell roses and I think of my mother’s perfume – though she is 20 years passed now.

And of course this is a nostalgic time of year – of warm saturated scents of ritual in the kitchen as we bake and cook, and even in the garden as we craft wreaths and swags and offerings to one another in greenery.

Savor these scents, these memories and the place you cultivate and that partners you in your days as surely as any human.

As we tend toward the winter solstice, the final full moon of this calendar year and this calendar decade yesterday – as we mark our own next growth rings – may you hold the value of your garden and this practice high and bright for all to see.

We are a few weeks past Thanksgiving now - a conflicted and layered, beautiful and challenging date and history to be sure....I explored this, The Co-Evolutionary Nature of Life/Love in my most recent A View from Here Viewsletter – it was one of those explorations that came to me as I rambled and there was no sitting still until the ideas and the experience that led to the ideas came out of me and were on the page. Shared.

If you didn’t have a chance to read it, and I hope you did, I’d love your thoughts on these things - on the force and truth that we grow each other – in every word, slight physical or mental adjustment to make space for another, or not – in every deed and intention – we grow each other.

All of that complexity notwithstanding, the conversation with Ross Gay on Thanksgiving Day keeps resounding in my ears and heart: These – our gardens – are laboratories of wonder and structures and gestures of care in our lives – in the world.

I consider the work of Cultivating Place – as much as my own garden – to be a structure of care in this world.

And with that in mind, with the end of the year and the end of the decade upon us, I thank each of you who is a sustaining member of this community – some of you at $10 a month, some of you at $20 or more!

You are deeply appreciated in helping us to make Cultivating Place a reality each week.

For those of you who value these conversations in your gardening week or month or year, I invite you to consider taking part as a year end offering and making a donation of any size – small or large - by following the links below OR at the top right hand corner of any page here at – together we grow this work and this world.

And that right there is strong medicine and forward looking action. Thank you!




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