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  1. Life & Culture

Brandies: Add some natural smells to your bouquet

It even takes me a minute to think of plants whose leaves are fragrant.

But then I remember how many I've grown. If I make a bouquet and none of the flowers have fragrance, I add some scented foliage: silver dollar eucalyptus or mint or a few stems of rosemary.

Silver dollar eucalyptus is one of my favorites. I have had several plants, one that got so tall I couldn't reach the leaves. I soon decided it is better to keep it pruned as a shrub. It was one of the first plants I bought when we moved to Florida.

I also have a lemon eucalyptus that also wants to be a tree, but I keep pruning it down because I want to be able to cut foliage as needed. This one is very unusual in that it puts out dark green textured leaves that have a wonderful lemon scent. Then suddenly there are also many glossy leaves that have no scent at all. So I prune those off.

This plant can grow to be a large tree, so keep pruning. Crush the textured leaves to extract the citronella oil and keep the mosquitoes, ticks and fleas away. This can be kept in a container and it will even flourish indoors near a sunny window.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to root either of these plants from cuttings. But I hear that they come easily and grow quickly from seeds.

Rosemary plants are easy to root and they grow well in full sun to partial shade. They don't mind summer heat or winter cold and are quite drought tolerant in the ground. I cannot pass a rosemary plant without rubbing the leaves. The fragrance is delightful.

There are both upright and prostrate forms. Add the crushed leaves to any meat, fish or game dish, especially to roasts. Use it with vegetables, cheese, eggs and dry beans. St. Thomas Moore let it run all over his garden wall, both for the bees and as a symbol of friendship.

I have had plants that were taller than me. They last for several years and them suddenly die, so always keep a few smaller ones coming along. The fragrance of rosemary, even just the thought of it, helps the memory. I should keep a stem around my neck.

Rue grows in my garden for the lovely lacy silver-blue foliage and for the caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterflies. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo ate it to preserve their eyesight and their creative inner vision. Flowers are a bright cluster of mustard yellow. Rue can cause a rash for some people. It has never bothered me.

Plant mint where you can brush against it, walk on it or pick it often. It is easy to grow in Florida from seeds , cutting or plant divisions. They like moist soil, full sun for winter and some shade in the summer. This is one herb that many people use and enjoy as a garnish or for making mint tea, for settling the stomach and for cleansing the breath. There are many different kinds, with various tastes, even a chocolate mint.

There are many wonderful sages, also. I especially like the pineapple sage that grows year-round as easily as a weed but is much more useful. The leaves and dark red edible flowers are good as a garnish, in drinks, in fruit salads, chopped into cheese or as a fragrant addition to bouquets. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Garlic chives are easy to grow and good to add to soups and salads. Mine are blooming now with lovely white clusters. I planted the first ones years ago and they have spread nicely.

One of the best places to get these plants is at the upcoming Fall Plant Festival at the University of South Florida. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 8 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 9.

I'll also have some to offer at my open gardens on Oct. 15 and Nov. 12.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener and author of 12 gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture and is an alumni fellow from Temple University. She can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is gardensflorida.com.

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