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Aromatic Herbs: Foliage That Smells Great


Picture of white-flowering thyme.

Picture of the herb, white thyme.

David Beaulieu

Not all fragrant plants derive their heady aromas from their flowers. Aromatic leaves needn't always take a backseat to "flower power." The entries listed below offer examples of aromatic herbs where olfactory delights can be attributed to aromatic foliage:

Fragrant Plants: Creeping Thyme

Not surprisingly, many herbs fall into the category of vegetation with aromatic leaves. And the present list is dominated by herbs, beginning with thyme. Although I focus on creeping thyme used as a ground cover in this article, there are also thyme plants with upright forms. Not all thymes are created equal when it comes to smell, so click the link to find out which ones are the superior performers.

Read article: Creeping Thyme

Fragrant Plants: Catnip

Like other members of the mint family, catnip is an aromatic herb. Catnip is famed for the effect that it produces on some of our feline friends. Its fragrance drives them wild, affording their human companions what I like to term "cheap entertainment."

Read article: Catnip

Fragrant Plants: Sweet Woodruff

Like the creeping thyme introduced above, sweet woodruff functions as a ground cover in landscape design. Its whorled leaves and star-shaped flowers bring cheer to shady areas of the yard. The aromatic foliage intensifies in fragrance when dried, making sweet woodruff herbs a natural for potpourris.

Read article: Sweet Woodruff

Fragrant Plants: Lavender

Lavender is virtually synonymous with "fragrance." Perhaps the best known of the aromatic herbs, it is a staple of potpourris. Both lavender's flowers and leaves, especially after drying, have helped it carve out a special place for itself in the aromatic gardening pantheon.

Read article: Lavender

Fragrant Plants: Sage Herb Plants

The aromatic herb, sage has many uses, one being culinary. For example, sage is commonly used to flavor stuffing. Sage is an "acquired aroma"; but if you enjoy cooking (doing it or eating it!), you may well enjoy the smell of sage -- by association. The sage with which I deal in this article, Tricolor sage, has the advantage of being highly ornamental, to boot, as its leaves boast three colors.

You may know the term "sagebrush" from the old Westerns. But that shrub is more closely related to 'Silver Mound' artemisia (same genus) than to the "sage" I'm talking about here.

Read article: Tricolor Sage

Yarrow: Aromatic Herb or Perennial Flower?

Yarrow's aromatic foliage bears a fern-like appearance. The texture of the leaves is fine, making yarrow a good plant to juxtapose with coarser-leafed plants to create contrast. Like the other plants listed on this page, yarrow, although often thought of as just another perennial flower, is considered an herb: in fact, its medicinal qualities are the source of its botanical name, as I explain in this article.

Read article: Yarrow

Above, all my examples of plants with aromatic leaves are of a similar height. But on Page 2 you'll get a better sense of the diversity of plants with aromatic leaves, with examples ranging from giants to ground-huggers....

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