OT book "The Fragrant Year"

poorbutroserich(Nashville 7a)March 12, 2014

I know so many of us here are "nosies" and really appreciate fragrance. This book, by ? Wilson & Leonie Bell, helped so much with selection and cultural requirements. I enjoy the writing style too.
Lots of old fragrant cultivars are listed (I thought of Christopher and his sweet violets).
I bought it online from thrift books for next to nothing.
I ordered some dianthus today based on her praises.
And there's a chapter on antique roses. Everything fragrant all year long.

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AquaEyes 7a New Jersey

Ooooh! That's definitely a book I'd want for myself -- and will look for it after this post. Thanks for thinking of me -- and I actually have a bunch of Dianthus coming as well. I wonder which of these were mentioned:

'Bath's Pink'

'Fire Witch'




'Jan Louise'

"Mom's Cinnamon Pink"

'Mrs. Sinkins'

"Old Vermont"

'Raspberry Surprise'

'Rose de Mai'



    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 8:47PM
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The black and white drawings by Léonie Bell are truly remarkable. There is nothing like them. They are exactly life-size and show all significant botanical distinctions, which other illustrations, including photographs often don't -- because the artist / photographer isn't aware of what is important. There is one that illustrates the different types of old rose blossoms: quartered, button-eyed, etc., for example. And one showing the myriad sizes and shapes of different lilac florets -- all exactly life sized, side by side for comparison.

And how I wish some of the daylilies they mention as fragrant were available! Vespers, Mid-West Majesty, Fond Caress -- are some of the names I recall. Gone forever, it seems. And the azaleas. Not that I would have space to grow them! But one wishes somebody would. Gone forever with a style of middle class life that has also vanished -- in which people had large gardens! The book was allowed to go out of print not long after being published. Then there was a cheap reprint. Caveat emptor. Actually, it would be a blessing if some or all of this book could be put on the internet, with permission of the heirs, of course.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 10:47PM
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Lovely book, and one of my favorites. I treasure my copy.

As for the large yards with middle class houses - they still exist. They have simply gone out of fashion.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:48PM
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AquaEyes 7a New Jersey

I'm not knocking women's lib by any means, but I think a contributing factor is the decline of the "two-adult, one-income" households -- not because it's "out of fashion" for women to be stay-at-home wives but because it's not as economically possible as an option. Back in the day when one employed member of a couple was sufficient, an unemployed but equally talented and intelligent adult remained home to perfect the arts and sciences of maintaining that home and garden. As our society has moved toward dual-income families out of financial necessity, home and garden care had to be streamlined to account for less time available for the task. Gardens evolved into landscapes that could be maintained with less effort. It's unfortunate in that having something to tend has psychological benefits, and I think that is why resurgent interests in gardening continue -- even if in simpler forms.



    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 12:09AM
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The author "Wilson" was Helen Van Pelt Wilson.


As to the pinks: I do not have my book available at the moment but I think that I remember a description of Mrs. Sinkins - something about bursting hers bounds. Ahem.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 12:59AM
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Christopher, no doubt that is a contributing factor but I honestly don't think it is the whole story. Also I think it is more a reason why fewer people sew or cook than did previously (I do both, as well as garden). The downsides there are throwaway, poorly fitting clothing and the obesity epidemic. I number among my friends working professional women engineers, lawyers, and even an editor who do cook, knit, and garden, but I will admit they are probably over-achievers and exceptions to the rule. Well, the editor doesn't knit, but she does cook and garden, and throws darned good parties.

However it was my employed-full-time father who did all the gardening at our house. He loved the plant world, something he passed along to me. My still-working brother gardens a bit, but not his wife, who is retired. One of my many sisters is an enthusiastic gardener, and she is single, and works full time. My mother never gardened at all, not during the not quite two decades when she worked outside the home, and not during the rest of her married life when she stayed at home. It was interest, not time, that determined who worked in our garden, and I think that is widely true.

None of my children seem to show any interest in gardening.

Here in California many people hire a garden maintenance service to do their garden work, so I doubt that time is a compelling factor. There is simply less interest in ornamental gardening than there once was. Vegetable gardening has become trendy recently, so I do see a few tomato plots in the back yard, and some people will plant a lemon or orange tree. New houses are crammed in onto near-zero-clearance lots for higher profits to the developer, and prospective homeowners snap them up without complaint. If people objected, the builders would stop doing it; but they do not. I used to think the driving factor was the incredibly high cost of land here in Bay Area California (about a million dollars an acre in my community and many surrounding ones), but when I travel I see it in lower land cost areas also.

If you want a large lot for a garden, you must either buy an older house in an area were such lots are in existence, or move to a rural region.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 11:52AM
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seil zone 6b MI

Hey, I have one of those yards with a middle class house! A nice 1950s 3 bedroom brick ranch on a hundred foot square lot including a carport with a circle drive that was considered quite "modern" in it's day. I love my house as is and wouldn't trade it for any of the newer pseudo this or that McMansion they're building today! And my garden is pretty big for suburbia.

The one thing I don't think any one has really mentioned is that most gardeners are older. Young families are busy with kids and every day stuff, even in one income households, and don't have the time or spare cash to invest in a big garden. When the kids grow up and leave the empty nesters start to use that time and extra cash and that's when they start or go back to gardening.

Susan and Christopher, my dianthus do smell lovely so I'm sure you'll enjoy yours!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 12:19PM
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Great book recommendation and very nice posts. I just sneaked off to my favorite online out-of-print book dealer and ordered two copies before posting this. Very sorry to hear about the loss of fragrant daylilies.



    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 8:58PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

The species daylilies are still around. As is Hyperion.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 10:41PM
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Sounds like a great book.

Oh, I love dianthus! They just thrive here, bloom virtually all year, spread into thick clumps, & smell nice.

Our Lowe's puts them on their trash racks as they bloom out--just picked up several six packs for 50 cents each & a 6-6pack flat for 3 bucks. They just need the old blooms clipped & some water & they'll do great. (also picked up another 10 $1.00 pots of bloomed-out daffs (tete a tete). Each pot has 3-4 big bulbs--heck, .25 each for good bulbs.

Haven't checked this year, but J. L. Hudson seeds used to have a great selection of heirloom dianthus & sweet peas.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 12:04AM
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One sees the Stout daylily Hesperus offered occasionally, never Vespers. Sometimes I wonder if they just made it up.

I would have liked to check the fragrance personally, since not everything described as fragrant seems so to me. Or it seems fragrant in the nursery or someone else's garden and not in mine.

I agree that in the past (when I was young, almost in historical times) people of both sexes seemed to have more time for hobbies and just generally. Commutes were shorter and there were fewer distracting devices (including so-called "time-saving" ones). People had fewer consumer goods -- many many fewer, in fact almost none. So there was less work spent maintaining them. Shopping was not really the recreational activity it became. They ate less complicated food, and on and on (my mother used to go to the butcher and discuss with him how he ought to cut the meat. She was very picky. Even now I tend to distrust over-the-counter meat -- and am thus semi-vegetarian).

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 2:58PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Helen Van Pelt Wilson was certainly famous in her day & obviously loved plants, gardens & gardening. She grew & knew what she wrote. Any & all of her books are solid with info & inspiration. Throughly agree that life-size line drawings are the best for detail. In love with dianthus since first intro in childhood & can barely imagine a garden without them. Current favorite is Rose de Mai for its relatively rare in its clan happiness in Winter wet & acidic soil, along with its cinnamon clove perfume & abundant bloom from early to late. It's not a stand-up pink, but rather a billowy relaxed one, and can easily reach 4' across.

There seems a renewed interest in backyard recreation & entertaining that leads to appreciation of nature & plants, if only to the depth of decor at the start. Someone right now is being drawn to a leaf or flower for the first time & may be nudged into exploration of Nature's bounty.

All the home arts seem to wax & wane in popularity with the times. Yet there are always those drawn to them whether the pursuit is fashionable or not, and kindred spirits will find a way to gather, as we do here, to keep the knowledge & adventure alive.

My son never showed any interest in gardening till he bought a home. His wife's interest was sparked by his, and my granddaughter knows every plant in both our gardens well enough to give tours.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bio for Helen Van Pelt Wilson

This post was edited by vasue on Sat, Mar 15, 14 at 1:03

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 3:35PM
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Thank you, Susan! I'm all about fragrance. Very therapeutic and just a downright delicious part of my gardening experience. Ann Lovejoy has a good (older) book, too. It mentions combos that work and those that clash (to her nose). I've found it to be helpful when desiging with fragrance in mind. One of my fav combos is damask rose and honeysuckle wafting in the evening air. Mmmmmm. Carol

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 4:06PM
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Wow, the library of congress lists 51 books as by or edited by Helen Van Pelt Wilson (some are reissues or duplicates). She taught English and Latin, too, before devoting herself to horticulture. She was a virtual industry, and, if her books sometimes verged on the pedestrian, I always felt her recommendations were really solid.

And, If hankering for daylilies is frustrating, reading about rare and obsolete geraniums (pelargoniums) is even more so. Mme Thibault, which Wilson recommended, was for a long time my holy grail. I had it and loved it until somebody broke into my Philadelphia backyard and stole it (because of the Mexican container it was in). That was in the 1970s. Named pelargonium cultivars are still grown commercially in northern Europe but in this country have now mostly been replaced by seed-grown strains.

Finally, some years ago, I did succeed in obtaining a tiny cutting of Mme Thibault from Canada at great expense -- it was a present from my husband. It lasted about a year and gave me great pleasure in my window garden. Other people thought it was pretty, too. It was a fimbriated one -- like a dianthus, a pale blush pink. And so graceful -- not like your humdrum bedding geranium. Then it died. Of course it is not vigorous and my urban micro-climate is much too hot and humid for geraniums.

But to get back to the books -- it is the inspired drawings by Léonie Bell that really elevate The Fragrant Year, IMO. I am going to keep my eyes out for dianthus Rose de Mai.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 9:36PM
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Oh, and a very fragrant antique yellow spider daylily is Ariadne. Like lemon water! Very easy to grow here in PDX. Sometimes Oakes in TN offers it. Just FYI in case some wants to try it. Carol

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 11:43PM
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This thread is full of interesting comments and information. Monarda, your observations about how we use our time these days compared with in the past are striking! I'm old enough to have some sense of the change too. As a fragrance lover I appreciate all the flowers mentioned.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 12:14AM
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