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Suzy Bales - Garden of Fragrance

I am bowled over by this book. It is absolutely great! Some of my enthusiasm may stem from the fact that (from the publisher's description) I was prepared to dislike it. With chapter names like "the seductresses," "the come-closers," and "the shaggy dogs," I thought the book would be just too cutesy and shallow. I was quite wrong. The writing is some of the finest I've read since the great Katherine White (Onward and Upward in the Garden.) It begs comparison with two of the great classics of fragrance garden writing: Louise Beebe Wilder (The Fragrant Path, 1932) and Helen Van Pelt Wilson and Leonie Bell (The Fragrant Year, 1967.) Suzy Bales is obviously writing from many years of gardening experience. Her writing style is as engaging as a page-turning thriller. Not only will you savor the read, you will refer back to it again and again --- great appendices and index!

The organization of the book is logical and refreshing. First we are introduced to the most fragrant flowers, then the flowers that smell great, but you need to get your nose right in there. After that come the wonderful evening flowers, then the fragrances that you have to do something to (i.e. crush the leaf.) Then there's a chapter on the fragrances that not everyone likes the smell of --- plants such as wormwood, marigolds, and lantana.

There is also a short but wonderful chapter on scented rooms. I was concerned that this would be yet another exposition on dried plant fragrance (not a feng shui favorite.) Much to my delight, it is a rare chapter on putting together bouquets --- feng shui heaven!

A Garden of Fragrance has my wholehearted endorsement. If you want to grow fragrant plants, start here. If you're already doing so, read it anyway, and find out much more.

HarperCollins, New York, 2000, www.reganbooks.com, 0-06-039341-6, 167 pages, color photos, hardback, $29.95.

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