Monday, January 19, 2009

The Fragrant Path

It snowed again last night, just a few inches this time. I am continuing to ignore winter and dreaming about next year's garden. Seed catalogues are a great help but also a terrible temptation.
One of my favorites is The Fragrant Path, a work of love by Ed Rasmussen in Nebraska. There is a web site, Fragrant Path Seeds but you must order by mail. The catalogue is old fashioned, no gloss, no pictures but a wonderful variety of flower seeds and detailed, interesting, and honest descriptions of the flowers.
The emphasis of the catalogue is fragrant flowers, mostly old fashioned open pollinated varieties. The seed packets are inexpensive ($2.00 or $1.50) and very generous.
The first picture here is Dianthus Superbus an old fashioned perennial pink that is gorgeous to see with its feathery, deeply cut petals in many colors and equally beautiful to smell. I bought the seed from Fragrant Path which offers many varieties of these lovely flowers.
Dianthus are supposed to like a limey soil but I have had no problems growing them in my acidic New England garden. I do throw on a little lime once a year or so. They are not long lived perennials, I think they flower themselves to death. But they are easy to grow from seed so are inexpensive to keep replenished.
For those like me who love to read about gardens Louise Beebe Wilder's classic book The Fragrant Path is a must. You can find it on Amazon.

I think everyone loves the fragrance of old fashioned lilacs. The hybrids also have the lilac aroma but I don't think it is as strong or pure as the species. The newer lilacs do have some advantages, a range of purple colors, bigger flowers and more compact, tidier bushes. I like the huge old gnarled lilac bushes but with fifty acres I have room for them.
Lilacs are easy to grow, they like a little lime scattered at their feet every few years. Be careful when pruning or deheading lilacs, it is easy to cut off the bud for next years flowers. Some people prune out one third of the growth each year to keep them controlled and to encourage flowers on the lower limbs. Only do this with mature plants.
I call the second photograph French Lilac because when I was a girl we called all of the dark purple lilacs French lilacs. By any name it is a gorgeous, mysterious flower full of scent.
Both of these photographs are from my series Botanicals, simple photographs that emulate old botanical prints.
You can get a copy of the Fragrant Path catalogue for$2 from the Fragrant Path, P.O. Box 328, Fort Calhoun, Nebraska 68023. Even if you don't want to buy seeds this is great garden reading. If you buy seeds you will get it for free the next year.
This carnation (pink) may not be fragrant but it is very pretty and it will not fade. It was crocheted by Suili. Her Etsy shop, Suili, is full of gorgeous crocheted flowers if you want to make an everlasting bouquet. Far more elegant than the usual paper or silk flowers.

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