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Past Articles Library | Walking Down a Scented Path with Thyme

Addressing the five senses is part of a smart landscape plan and goes beyond the visual realm.  One of the senses that are ignored often is the sense of smell.  Utilizing smell is a great way of letting the visitor not only walk down “memory lane” of past landscapes but also keeps your landscape in their mind.  But how do you create your own “memory lane of smell?”

There are two approaches that exist and both of these approaches have their own pros and cons.  The first approach utilizes plants in the landscape that smell excellent or are pleasant to the nose.  This includes mints, roses, and thymes.  Mints are a great choice but they can quickly take over a landscape if not contained.  Roses are another fantastic option but unless you choose heirloom varieties, the scent will be nonexistent.  The process of domestication and breeding for large blooms has bred out the aroma and while diehard rose lovers will swear they smell the sweet fragrance of roses, it is all an illusion.  Thymes are a further alternative that can add that special smell but their small size can be an issue in a large landscape design and release of the aroma occurs when the leaves are crushed.  In doing, getting to the thyme in the landscape can be problem.  In realistic terms, you do not want people stomping around in your landscape to release the aroma.  Another approach to use is to plant the thyme were the gardener can reach it and utilize it at their whim and this is where landscaping stepping-stones comes into play.

Landscaping the true area of where a path maybe is an underused and underdeveloped area.  Most of the time, mulch, gravel or grass is the basic ground covers that surround stepping-stones.  While this makes maintenance easy, it does not address the nose.  Mints can be planted instead of grass and then mowed to release the aroma while keeping things tidy.  Another low maintenance approach is to use a ground cover that does not require mowing to release the smell and this is where thyme comes into play. 

Creeping thyme is a perennial that comes in many varieties but the basic characteristics are the facts that they are short in stature and spread along as a ground cover.  They are also very tolerable as far as being stepped on and can bounce back from a lot of abuse.

To utilize thyme in this fashion, you will first need to decide where your visitors go in your landscape.  If they use a certain path, incorporate stepping-stone along the trail to reduce soil compaction and incorporate creeping thyme among the stones.  As the visitor strolls down the lane, they will be engulfed with the scent of thyme.  If on the other hand, you do not have a certain path or do not want to utilize stepping-stones, then consider planting around the sitting area on into a stone fence.  Both of these areas are places by which the garden visitor will stop and contemplate about the day or converse with friends.  As human nature has it, we fiddle with plants when we stop and in doing will give the visitor a whiff of thyme that will enhance the conversation. 

When shopping for creeping thyme, keep in mind that it can be started from seed, division and stem cuttings.  The key to remember is to only use the creeping or wooly variety.  The remaining types are too tall to use for the path approach but can be used inside the landscape design.


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If you love fruit tress like apples, peaches, pears and plums, but don't have the room, plant a dwarf variety.

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