Herbs With Scented Leaves

Plant scented-leaf herbs throughout the garden and in containers to enjoy their refreshing fragrance as you garden or relax on the patio. One of the pleasures of an herb garden in summer is pinching different leaves to crush and smell as you walk along the paths.

A host of perennial herbs have aromatic leaves. I will touch on some favorites:

Tidying the flower borders in early April, I inevitably brush against the emerging foliage of beebalm (Monarda didyma; Zones 4 to 10) and a deliciously refreshing minty smell rises to my nose, a smell I now associate with spring’s welcome. If mildew disfigures the foliage of beebalm after it blooms in July, don’t hesitate to cut the stalks almost to the ground. You will be rewarded with wafts of its good fragrance again as you work, as well as the sight of fresh, healthy new growth in a week or so.

Fern-leaf tansy (Tanacetum vulgare ‘Crispum’; Zones 4 to 8), which I grow in the flower borders for the contrast of its richly-textured crinkled leaves as well as in the herb garden (think tansy cakes), has an aroma I love. Crush a leaf to bring to life the smell of deep, rich woods.

Another favorite of mine is camphor-scented southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum; Zones 5 to 8), which is prized for its bug-repelling propensities as well as its feathery texture in the borders.

The tiny Corsican mint (Mentha requienii; Zones 6 to 9) that creeps in the gravel here in shaded places smells exactly like the liqueur Crème de Menthe when rubbed with a fingertip. An upright mint with felted pale green leaves, M. citrata (Zones 6 to 11) smells deeply of oranges to me. 

Caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona; Zones 6 to 9) romps in the gravel too. When stepped on or otherwise crushed, it has a sweetly pungent fragrance quite different from cooking thyme. Lemon-scented thyme (T. xcitriodorus; Zones 6 to 9), like lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla; Zones 8 to 11), smells deliciously of candy.

Read about growing herbs

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