The Garden of Fragrance at Strybing Arboretum

The author is a board member of the Strybing Arboretum Society and is active on behalf of the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind.

All gardens are subject to change — the replacement of spent or overgrown plants and the introduction of new or improved kinds. Readers may find that some of the plants listed here are no longer in position when they visit the garden.

Many people enjoy this Garden of Fragrance. Some visitors sit on its benches to enjoy the view or rest in a secluded cul de sac. Children of all ages are delighted with the textures which they are encouraged to feel. Stories about the garden intrigue many of those who take a guided tour with Arboretum docents: the history and reason for the rock walls, the pool, St. Francis, the bell. Plants are the raison de’etre, however, and I will describe them more or less in order as they are seen during a walk in the garden. A list of plants must be revised from time to time since some die, some are removed and new ones are added. Plants are chosen with three purposes in mind: for background and the general design of the garden, for interesting texture and of course, for fragrance. Fragrances are of two kinds, pungent or sweet. Some fragrances fill the air in a mixed bouquet; some need close contact, even crushing of the leaves to obtain their scent.

Several labels with brief descriptions of plants written in Braille for those with impaired sight are within reach in the garden. The first set of Braille placques was made by the Volunteer Services for the Blind in Philadelphia. The second set, describing additional plants as well as redoing the first set, was made by Blindcraft in San Francisco. Braille letters are written with tiny copper nails in redwood blocks. A placque is mounted near the entrance to the Garden with the Braille letters embossed on metal. This is a welcome to visitors with impaired vision.

“As you enter this garden we invite you to touch, smell or taste all plants, the names of which you will find on top of the wall. The stones in these walls were salvaged from the 13th century Spanish monastery presented to San Francisco by William Randolph Hearst in 1941. The wall to your left will lead you to a stream where you may rinse the scents from your hands if you wish.

“Featured in this garden is a statue of St. Francis by the San Francisco sculptor, Clara P. Huntington. It was exhibited in the San Francisco Pavilion at the 1939 International Exposition on Treasure Island. An old Mexican bell is hung at the path turn-around with the inscription, ‘Ave Maria, 1808, San Francisco.’

“Please come again to visit the Garden of Fragrance.”

Let us take the tour, starting on the right and going counter clockwise. Plant positions may have been changed, usually to give a plant a better exposure, sometimes because a space develops in the garden. But you will find many labels, besides the Braille labels, which will enable you to identify the plants.

Lilac (Syringa velutina). This is used in the garden instead of common lilac, because the latter does not flourish in the climate of Golden Gate Park. Our syringa has not grown at maximum rate; but it may reach ten feet if it continues healthy into maturity. The leaves are much smaller than the common lilac, the branches thinner and the shrub fairly compact. In April, you will smell the fragrance of the small, pinkish-lavender flowers, lilac-like but less evident.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), Braille label. The botanical name of this plant tells us that it is not a real jasmine, but only like a jasmine (jasminoides) so the common name is misleading. Our plant here is not thriving because it dislikes the wind which blows through the Arboretum. In a sheltered, warm place it would be lush and bear many small, white, starry flowers for a very long while. July and August are the main flowering months but it takes sun to bring out the fresh, sweet smell. The leaves are waxy and if you break a stem, a milky sap comes out.

Sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica), Braille label. Several nandinas were planted for the effect of their feathery leaves. Nandina is not a bamboo, but there is a little similarity in the feel of the stem. In a sunnier area of San Francisco, the leaves would color better. Our specimens are about half maximum size.

Blue fescue (Festuca ovina glauca), Lamb’s ears (Stachys olympica), Lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus), Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). Braille labels for the last three. These four ground covers, forward of and following the nandina, are pleasant to touch. The leaves of the first are soft and grassy; the leaves of lamb’s ears are velvety, those of lavender cotton crisp, even brittle, those of chamomile rough and mossy. Rub the chamomile and find the distinct herb-odor on your fingers.

Geranium (Pelargonium sp.). Moving along towards the curve in the wall, you should find one of the many kinds of geraniums with fragrant leaves. One within reach here has quite a leathery feeling.

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). Behind the nandina is a wide area in which pennyroyal has been allowed to spread. It is rampant, like all mints; to contain them a lot of hacking out of roots is necessary yearly. You would probably have to pick a stem to crush for the scent of this old-fashioned herb. It is a flat ground cover most of the time but sends up, in summer, one foot stems topped with lavender flowers. Herb collectors pick these and dry them.

Shore juniper (Juniperus conferta), Braille label. This flat juniper is a landmark as we walk around the curve of the wall. The sharp, numerous needles are pointed and prickly; but not disagreeably so like some of the other junipers. Our plant spreads in a low and contained manner and then starts to cascade over and down the wall. We hear from those who have visited the beaches of Japan that it hangs four feet and more down the dunes.

Winter savory (Satureja montana). A clumping, perennial herb as well as an attractive garden subject. It grows more lush in an exposure sunnier than we have in the garden. If you want to grow it at home, it will become a one foot shrublet from a cutting, in a couple of years. Enjoy the small white flowers through the summer, even in small bouquets, and then shear all of them off. (This stimulates next season’s growth.) Tie the stems in bunches and hang upside down to dry.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Braille label. Since it spreads by runners and rootstocks, this mint, as well as many others, needs strict control. Toothed leaves are on quite tall stems; the odor is pungent.

Bergamot mint (Mentha citrata). Use all mints for flavor or for preventive medicine. Cut up fresh leaves or dry them, store them and later make them into useful infusions. This one is old-fashioned and not very commonly grown nowadays.

Chilean guava (Ugni molinae), Braille label. We come to a tall, wide bush, making a major accent through the depth in the curve of the bed. In spring and summer, you will find fragrant bell-like flowers, several in a cluster. The small, round berries which follow have a delicious odor, some say like ripe apples. They make fine jelly. You might like to grow it in your garden as an open, evergreen shrub or hedge. The mass of branches is clothed with small, waxy, leathery leaves. The new leaves are bronze. (A former name for this was Myrtus ugni.)

Catmint (Nepeta mussinii), Braille label. There is a good sized drift of this nepeta just back of the wall. The foliage has a pungent odor which cats love to rub into their fur. In spring or summer, there are lavender flowers. These will be sheared off in fall leaving clumps about one foot across and eight inches high.

Pineapple sage (Salvia sp.). This might be called scarlet sage since the flowers are red. Our plant has somewhat woody stems and acts as a perennial.

Maiden’s wreath (Francoa ramosa). Several dumps of this tough perennial are at the back of the bed. A number of flowers are needed to make a fragrance. When you grow it at home, encourage the dumps to increase by good care so that you may have many flowers the following summer.

Breath-of-heaven (Coleonema album), Braille label. On this evergreen, compact shrub are many very small leaves on many branchlets. They are crisp and aromatic. Even when trimmed to form a hedge, a number of small white flowers are noticeable. (Sometimes, the name Diosma alba is used.)

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora var. calycina). The common name refers to the fact that the color of the flowers changes from rich purple through pale purple to almost white. In winter (summer in Brazil) it has waxy flowers in small dusters. The leaves are soft but are not rich or clear green after a cold and dark winter. Put Brunfelsia in a container; it likes being potbound: Use rich, loose compost and grow it in part-shade with feeding during the growing season.

Osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus). This evergreen shrub, which attains a height of about twenty feet in twenty years, is noted for fragrant flowers. There are several species, many of them excellent plants for northern California. You may see in gardens those species with toothed leaves and may easily mistake them for a kind of holly. This young plant replaced a tree blown down a year or two ago.

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens ‘Lady Plymouth’ ), Braille label, (Pelargonium crispum ‘Prince Rupert’ ). Many different kinds are planted in the garden from time to time. These two are quite long-lasting and are close enough to touch. One has small variegated leaves, the other has leaves with very curly edges. Rub them to bring out the odor.

Santolina (Santolina virens). This is a spreading herb about fifteen inches high with acutely serrated foliage. Pass your hand over it to feel the roughness and to smell its unusual odor.

Willow-leaved jasmine (Cestrum parqui). This is not a jasmine, but it has exceedingly fragrant flowers from January to April; the fragrance is really more potent than that of most jasmines, and most noticeable at night.

The flowers are greenish-yellow. This species comes from Chile where it is evergreen. Here, it suffers in cold weather so that cutting it to the ground in early spring is the best practice. The normal height is about six feet but new stems will grow, in one season, more than half that high.

Daphne (Daphne odora). At the thought of fragrance, this oriental shrub comes to mind immediately. It is susceptible to a fungus that attacks the roots, but a well-drained, light soil helps the daphne survive. In very early spring it produces pink flowers that are not spectacular, but have a scent that is unforgettable.

Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans). Compare this Osmanthus with smooth-edged leaves with the one passed earlier with hollylike leaves. In Europe, this one was grown in greenhouses for its fragrant white flowers. The dean, evergreen leaves, tinged bronze when young, are also attractive. In a garden it will attain thirty feet in height but our plant is only a few years old and quite small.

Honey-bush (Melianthus minor). There is nothing “minor” about this handsome shrub; it grows rapidly and can soon become ten feet across. Given a major space in the Garden of Fragrance, it still has to be cut back drastically every so often. There is nothing suggestive of honey in the fragrance. The red flowers, in tall plumes, are nectar-bearing but if the nectar has an odor, it does not pervade the leaves which have an unpleasant smell. The nectar has medicinal value in the country of origin, South Africa.

Mickey Mouse plant (Ochna serrulata). This evergreen shrub from tropical Africa suffers in a severe winter in northern California. It seldom grows to a height normal to its native habitat. It has small leathery, tinted leaves, yellow flowers, the sepals turned red, and curious fruits. The bright red receptacle and black, seed-like drupe suggested to someone the face of Mickey Mouse. You can find it just before coming to the rosemaries, except in the years when it has been buried by branches of honey-bush.

Luculia (Luculia intermedia) and (Luculia gratissima), Braille label. There are several kinds of Luculia and they all suffer in varying degrees in a cold winter in the Arboretum. Two in the Garden of Fragrance withstood the winter of 1974 well. The first species grows to twelve feet high and at least half as wide and has evergreen, pink-tinged, leathery leaves. Clusters of reddish-pink, salverform fragrant flowers are showy in autumn. On the opposite side of the circle, the second species is doing well. The color of the fragrant flowers is described as pink or rose. This shrub is apt to grow several feet taller than the first species mentioned.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and (R. o. ‘Lockwood deForest’ ). These two make a big spread in the curve. The one called ‘Lockwood deForest’ has an angular branching habit and fine deep-blue flowers. Rosemary foliage has a delicious herb odor and several visitors can touch it here at the same time. But you can grow a smaller bush at home if you want the leaves to dry for flavoring.

Laurel or sweet bay (Laurus nobilis). This is a forty foot evergreen tree from the Mediterranean region. In gardens here, we often see it as a tub plant, usually dipped to a ball shape. Ours will be left natural and it is growing well. Since it serves as a background subject, it is planted too far back for us to reach the leaves. It gives a fine odor when crushed or cooked.

Caucasian daphne (Daphne caucasica). A deciduous daphne, eventually growing to five feet, is planted in front of the second luculia. While the scent is not remarkable, like that of the well-known Daphne odora, it is still delightful and the flowers which are white and pubescent outside, open a few months later than Daphne odora.

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla). Rub a leaf of this on the palm of your hand and you will smell the lemon-like scent. In winter, this tall South American shrub looks ratty; it used to be popular as a greenhouse subject. When cut back, it puts out fresh branches. In summer, many of these will have slender spikes of lavender-white flowers at their tips.

Viburnum carlesii, the scented parent of Viburnum x burkwoodii

Viburnum carlesii, the scented parent of Viburnum x burkwoodii

Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x woodii). Braille label. High on the bank is a good-sized group of a large, fine, healthy, almost tree-like viburnums. It is the hybrid Viburnum carlesii x V. utile, and is partially evergreen. It gets its fragrance from the first parent and its height from the second. When grown in a sunny place branches cascade with the weight of the many white flower dusters from January to May. It is sweetly fragrant, some say like daphne, others say like cloves.

Rhododendron (several). Large plants act as landscape background and some azaleas border the stream. Although planted way back, as its stature requires, Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’ is still able to perfume the air with its beautiful white flowers as late as May.

Yulan lily-tree (Magnolia denudata). Another scent which may be added to the indecipherable mixture on a warm day in early spring is that of the flowers of this handsome, tall tree planted high above the garden. You may have noted the creamy-white cups on a large specimen behind the osmanthus and viburnum planting. (We are retracing our steps now to the bank area short of the group of plants bordering the brook.)

Delavay osmanthus (Osmanthus delavayi). The arching habit of this osmanthus is distinctive and attractive. The flowers are exceedingly fragrant but you must visit the Garden between January and March to enjoy them. The small white flowers would be numerous on this plant if it had a place with more light.

Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’). The species, Agapanthus africanus, can be three feet tall. But since mid-century, plants-men have been developing dwarf forms of it. This named cultivar with delicate lavender flowers on shorter stems opens its buds through summer. It is planted near the edge so that you may detect its slight fragrance.

Groundsel (Senecio greyi). This species is a sub-shrub which will grow to eight feet but is usually less as a result of pruning to keep it healthy and shapely. The texture of the leaves is decidedly velvety and they are grayish in color. Both the underside of the leaves and the flower buds have a white tomentose coating. If you grow this plant in your garden, cut off the buds before the sprays of daisy-like flowers show yellow. Arrangers like both foliage and buds for use as “fillers.”

Sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata). Braille label. Well-known in early gardens of the United States and in Europe where it originated, this perennial fragrant herb is a good groundcover for shade. Shearing in the fall helps its health a great deal.

Lily-of-the-valley shrub (Pieris japonica). Still on the shady bank and before you come to the stream, look for the two species of Pieris planted in this area. It is moist, peaty soil where members of the heath family do well and are appropriate to the woodsy glen. The first is an old-fashioned shrub, grown in many parts of the United States and Europe. It is evergreen, moderate in growth (reaches about ten feet high eventually), healthy and dependable. To find it in bloom in northern California, you must come in very early spring, perhaps as early as February. Clusters of cream-colored, closed bells are quite fragrant, like lily-of-the-valley.

Pieris (Pieris formosa ‘Forrestii’). You will find the drooping panicles of bell-shaped flowers on this Pieris about two months later than on P. japonica. (The panicles would be pleasant to feel but both pierises are too far back to touch.) This Himalayan pieris grows twice as tall and the leaves are twice as big as the previous one. Visitors sometimes think the leaves are flowers because they are bright crimson when the sun reaches them.

Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). This western American native grows along stream sides in the wild; it is here appropriately situated near water, but too far back to touch, sad to say. The leaves are evergreen, rough, crinkly and have a characteristic pungent smell. Drooping racemes of deep-rose flowers open in very early spring. Berries are black and bloomy. This is one of our natives which British plantsmen “discovered” long before we appreciated it. It was introduced into England by David Douglas in 1826 and there are now twelve cultivars available there.

Ferns (Phyllitis scolopendrium) (Polystichum munitum). The first is sometimes called hart’s tongue fern; the leaves are long, narrow, entire and somewhat wavy-edged. This is from Europe. The second is western American and known here as the sword fern. Both are of very easy culture. They would hide all our rocks here unless controlled.

Requien mint (Mentha requienii), Braille label. This tiniest of mints is planted in the crevices of the rocks in front of the pool. Feel along the top of the wall. The strong peppermint scent will remain on your fingers for a while. This very flat groundcover flatter even than baby tears, should be planted in your garden in shady spots on the edges of raised beds or the edges of containers so that, while cultivating or grooming, you may touch it, by accident or on purpose.

Lily turf (Liriope muscari), Braille label. This spreading plant makes a good groundcover for shade and takes little maintenance. It is planted here in a wide drift for foliage texture. The soft, smooth, grasslike leaves are grouped in mounds. In summer, there are pale-lilac flowers partially hidden by the leaves.

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), Braille label. This little fragrant plant has scattered itself freely along the top of the wall and in the wall. Seed will germinate in any spot where there is a pinch of earth and a bit of moisture. Some of the small, white, sweet-smelling flowers seem to be present, rain or shine, almost every week of the year.

Tree heath (Erica arborea). This heather is a big, woody shrub which needs skillful pruning. Here it is grown as a background plant in the shade of the large cypress. Perhaps sometimes the fragrance of its flowers becomes an essence in the total mixture.

Sarcococca (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis). This dwarf, evergreen shrub has been lost in the Garden of Fragrance. Perhaps it will be replaced since its flowers are intensely fragrant. It is densely branched with neat, elliptic, shining deep-green leaves.

Sarcococca (Sarcococca ruscifolia). This slow-growing, evergreen shrub has reached four feet, even six feet, in some of our older gardens in the West. Sometimes, it is pruned as a hedge. It has fragrant greenish-white flowers in winter and lustrous, dark-green, wavy-edged leaves. The berries are dark-red. If you have a plant with black berries, you have the species, Sarcococca confusa. This is a good shrub for shade but will tolerate quite a lot of sun in San Francisco.

Zabel’s laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Zabeliana’). Quite a way back from the wall is this cultivar of common laurel. It is too far back to test the particular odor, somewhat musty like other laurels, but it may be part of a blend of fragrances on a warm day. This low, horizontally-branched form, if growing well, will soon cover a wide space on a bank. (A good substitute perhaps for the too common Pfitzer juniper.) It has long, narrow, shiny leaves and freely borne small white flowers in spring. It will stand shade and the drip of trees but will grow in the open as well.

Banana shrub (Michelia figo, formerly Michelia fuscata), Braille label. The fra­grance of this plant is most distinctive, but whether you will think of ripe bananas perhaps depends on whether you like bananas. Another common name is pear drops, so the powerful scent is definitely fruity and you will detect it on a sunny day from quite a distance. The shape of the curious, brown-purple blossoms is not, to me, like a drop. They look like tiny magnolia flowers, which might be expected since Michelia belongs to the Magnolia family. Even when it attains its mature height of over ten feet, branches are thick close to the ground and spread wide, forming a solid, shiny, evergreen mass, good for a screen or background.

Ginger (Hedychium sp.). This is planted for the bright orange-red flowers in fall. Many people with impaired sight can see strong colors. Geums with flowers of a similar color are planted nearby.

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis). It is impossible to have a Garden of Fragrance without at least one kind of lavender.

Choisya ternata (Mexican orange)

Choisya ternata (Mexican orange)

Mexican orange (Choisya ternata). The fragrance of the flowers in late spring and summer does resemble that of orange blossom. Choisya belongs to the same family as citrus but there are no fruits resembling an orange. The fragrance of the leaves is noticeable; crush them to release the aroma. A medium-sized evergreen of rounded habit, this shrub is an old standby in California.

Gold flower (Hypericum moserianum) (Hypericum coris). These are easy small shrubs for sun and semi-shade, with yellow summer flowers. Sometimes they look scrappy but improve with cutting back and cultivating.

Wooly thyme (Thymus serpyllum). Not for eating but for decoration and texture, this creeping thyme is certainly one of the flattest. Feel the pubescence (hairiness) on the tiny leaves; then smell your fingers for the delightful aroma.

Garden sage (Salvia officinalis), Braille label. “Officinalis” denotes that a plant has been used as a medicinal herb. This sage may be two feet tall with narrow, pungent, grey-green leaves. Spikes of violet-blue flowers attract bees in early summer.

Apple mint (Mentha rotundifolia ‘Variegata’), Braille label. The variegated forms of mint seem to be a little less invasive than the green kinds. Also, they are apt to have less fragrant foliage. This one has nice markings; some shoots will have leaves almost entirely creamy white. It is pubescent giving the foliage an interesting rough texture. The species has purple flowers in spikes four inches long. (The name “apple” is used for two quite different mints.)

Winter’s bark (Drimys winteri). If you ever have to write this name, watch where you put the “y”; it is easy to put it in the first syllable instead of in the second. This is a handsome, small tree from South America which suffers here only in the coldest winters. (It will stump-sprout if the tops are completely frozen.) Our tree was planted here in the winter of 1975. It was chosen for its density and for its large, shiny, evergreen leaves. (A fine specimen grows outside the gallery of the Hall of Flowers.) The fragrant flowers are ivory-white in loose umbels, opening in March and April.

Violet (Viola odora). A drift of violets has been planted in the shade of overhanging branches. You may smell them by just leaning over the wall.

Victorian box (Pittosporum undulatum). Victorian box does not in the least resemble boxwood. Nor is it the most undulated of pittosporums. (A species with more undulate leaves and with more of a yellow-green color is P. eugenoides). Our pittosporum is an evergreen, dense, small tree usually with branches near the ground. The leaves are thick, shiny, dark-green and numerous, giving a large, full shrub very suitable for a screen, background and windbreak. Several together make a grove, here planted near enough to the path to feel and smell. The flowers are creamy-white, fragrant, in terminal clusters and are at their height of bloom in the spring. There are bunches of orange fruits in the fall; strip off the leaves from short branches and use the berries for long lasting flower arrangements.

Wild marjorum (Origanum vulgare), Braille label. An easy and useful herb to grow for seasoning. It may become invasive in your garden, but it is not hard to dig up. Pick a stem in order to crush the leaves for more intense odor or take it home for drying.

Kniphofia (red-hot poker)

Kniphofia (red-hot poker)

Poker plant, tritoma, torch lily, red-hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria). The flowers of the common poker are hot-red and should make a splash of color for those with partial sight. It has no scent and is placed far back in the planting strip. It is tall and erect; you might select it for a background perennial in your garden. But you would probably want to give it more grooming than it could have in a public garden since the foliage gets messy looking in old age. Modern cultivars are dwarfer and neater.

Yerba buena (Satureja douglasii), Braille label. No garden should be without this Western creeper. It will grow in shade as well as sun. Little, round, wavy-edged leaves on long slender stems give off a distinct odor when crushed; there is a nice mixture of delicacy and vigor.

Golden-tuft, gold-dust, basket-of-gold, or rock madwort (Aurinia saxatilis, syn. Alyssum saxatile). Braille label. You can well imagine that this perennial is widely grown because of its numerous common names. Its old botanical name was also well-known. It is useful as an edging or foreground plant and popular for its many small yellow flowers held for several weeks in spring. The sweet scent is quite noticeable.

True or common myrtle (Myrtus communis). Braille label. Beyond the end of the wall and behind a resting bench is a fine grove of large, thick shrubs. Dense branching structure to the ground and many packed leaves produce a fine windbreak. These shrubs need yearly trimming to be kept in bounds. The flowers, small and white in summer, are followed by blue-black berries. Rubbed leaves give off the special fragrance typical of the myrtle family.

There is an island which we passed in the turnaround. Let us go back; there, are old benches on which we may rest, or we may feel the texture of the old bell or of the mossy ground cover (Sagina subulata). Wild strawberries are usually planted here and fragrant-foliaged geraniums: The air should be carrying a blend of the many scents.

Zabel’s laurel  (Prunus laurocerasus  ‘Zabeliana’).  Quite a way back from the wall is this cultivar of common laurel. It is too far back to test the particular odor, somewhat musty like other laurels, but it may be part of a blend of fragrances on a warm day. This low, horizontally-branched form, if growing well, will soon cover a wide space on a bank. (A good substitute perhaps for  the  too common Pfitzer juniper.) It has long, narrow, shiny leaves and freely borne small white flowers in spring. It will stand shade and the drip of trees but will grow in the open as well.

Banana shrub  (Michelia figo,  formerly Michelia fuscata),  Braille label. The fra­grance of this plant is most distinctive, but whether you will think of ripe bananas perhaps depends on whether you like bananas. Another common name is pear drops, so the powerful scent is definitely fruity and you will detect it on a sunny day from quite a distance. The shape of the curious, brown-purple blossoms is not, to me, like a drop. They look like tiny magnolia flowers, which might be expected since Michelia belongs to the Magnolia family. Even when it attains its mature height of over ten feet, branches are thick close to the ground and spread wide, forming a solid, shiny, evergreen mass, good for a screen or background.

Ginger  (Hedychium  sp.). This is planted for the bright orange-red flowers in fall. Many people with impaired sight can see strong colors. Geums with flowers of a similar color are planted nearby.

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis). It is impossible  to have a Garden of Fragrance without at least one kind of lavender.

Mexican orange  (Choisya  ternata). The fragrance of the flowers in late spring and summer does resemble that of orange blossom. Choisya belongs to the same family as citrus but there are no fruits resembling an orange. The fragrance of the leaves is noticeable; crush them to release the aroma. A medium-sized evergreen of rounded habit, this shrub is an old standby in California.

Gold flower  (Hypericum moserianum) (Hypericum  coris). These are easy small shrubs for sun and semi-shade, with yellow summer flowers. Sometimes they look scrappy but improve with cutting back and cultivating.

Wooly thyme  (Thymus serpyllum).  Not for eating but for decoration and texture, this creeping thyme is certainly one of the flattest. Feel the pubescence (hairiness) on the tiny leaves; then smell your fingers for the delightful aroma.

Garden  sage  (Salvia officinalis),  Braille label. “Officinalis” denotes that a plant has been used as a medicinal herb. This sage may be two feet tall with narrow, pungent, grey-green leaves. Spikes of violet-blue flowers attract bees in early summer.

Apple mint  (Mentha rotundifolia  ‘Variegata’),  Braille label. The variegated forms of mint seem to be a little less invasive than the green kinds. Also, they are apt to have less fragrant foliage. This one has nice markings; some shoots will have leaves almost entirely creamy white. It is pubescent giving the foliage an interesting rough texture. The species has purple flowers in spikes four inches long. (The name “apple” is used for two quite different mints.)

Winter’s bark  (Drimys winteri).  If you ever have to write this name, watch where you put the “y”; it is easy to put it in the first syllable instead of in the second. This is a handsome, small tree from South America which suffers here only in the coldest winters. (It will stump-sprout if the tops are completely frozen.) Our tree was planted here in the winter of 1975. It was chosen for its density and for its large, shiny, evergreen leaves. (A fine specimen grows outside the gallery of the Hall of Flowers.) The fragrant flowers are ivory-white in loose umbels, opening in March and April.

Violet (Viola odora). A drift of violets has been planted in the shade of overhanging branches. You may smell them by just leaning over the  wall.

Victorian box (Pittosporum  undulatum). Victorian box does not in the least resemble boxwood. Nor is it the most undulated of pittosporums. (A species with more undulate leaves and with more of a yellow-green color is P.  eugenoides).  Our pittosporum is an evergreen,  dense, small tree usually with branches near the ground. The leaves are thick, shiny, dark-green and numerous, giving a large, full shrub very suitable for a screen, background and windbreak. Several together make a grove, here planted near enough to the path to feel and smell. The flowers are creamy-white, fragrant, in terminal clusters and are at their height of bloom in the spring. There are bunches of orange fruits in the fall; strip off the leaves from short branches and use the berries for long lasting flower arrangements.

Wild marjorum  (Origanum  vulgare), Braille label. An easy and useful herb to grow for seasoning. It may become invasive in your garden, but it is not hard to dig up. Pick a stem in order to crush the leaves for more intense odor or take it home for drying.

Poker plant, tritoma, torch lily, red-hot poker  (Kniphofia  uvaria).  The flowers of the common poker are hot-red and should make a splash of color for those with partial sight. It has no scent and is placed far back in the planting strip. It is tall and erect; you might select it for a background perennial in your garden. But you would probably want to give it more grooming than it could have in a public garden since the foliage gets messy looking in old age. Modern cultivars are dwarfer and neater.

Yerba buena  (Satureja  douglasii),  Braille label. No garden should be without this Western creeper. It will grow in shade as well as sun. Little, round, wavy-edged leaves on long slender stems give off a distinct odor when crushed; there is a nice mixture of delicacy and vigor.

Golden-tuft, gold-dust, basket-of-gold, or rock madwort  (Aurinia  saxatilis, syn. Alyssum  saxatile).  Braille label. You can well imagine that this perennial is widely grown because of its numerous common names. Its old botanical name was also well-known. It is useful as an edging or foreground plant and popular for its many small yellow flowers held for several weeks in spring. The sweet scent is quite noticeable.

True or common myrtle (Myrtus  communis).  Braille label. Beyond the end of the wall and behind a resting bench is a fine grove of large, thick shrubs. Dense branching structure to the ground and many packed leaves produce a fine windbreak. These shrubs need yearly trimming to be kept in bounds. The flowers, small and white in summer, are followed by blue-black berries. Rubbed leaves give off the special fragrance typical of the myrtle family.

There is an island which we passed in the turnaround. Let us go back; there, are old benches on which we may rest, or we may feel the texture of the old bell or of the mossy ground cover (Sagina subulata). Wild strawberries are usually planted here and fragrant-foliaged geraniums: The air should be carrying a blend of the many scents.