The Sensual Garden



Our singular Daphne is in bloom this time of year producing a sensuous, heady musk.  Daphne is my garden’s Sacred Feminine, the goddess of  sensuality. Her blooms intoxicate, drawing me to my knees to inhale her rich scent.

There are a number of pheromone-rich plants in my garden, and lucky for me, they all flower at different times.  After the Daphne fades, the Jasmine comes to life.  You’ll find me in the side yard making up things to do for the weeks it remains in bloom.  The lavender revives in late spring, attracting bees all summer long.  It lines our front deck, and grows a few feet from our seating area.

According to Skin Biology, perfumes arose from plant oils with smells similar to animal pheromones. Plant oils with the strongest similarity to human sexual pheromones come from jasmine, ylang ylang and patchouli.

The sensual garden is a gentle lover. Leaves stir smoothly on an afternoon breeze as buds unfold languidly when ready. Bees swoop in, spreading garden goodness from plant to plant.

Without a quenching rain, my earthly companions must reach for ground water.  So far they’re holding their own. The garden wouldn’t be the same without them.

Complimenting the Sunflowers: The Color Purple

In color theory, yellow compliments purple. The colors are directly adjacent to one another on the color wheel, in the same way green is to red, and orange is to blue. Without consciously realizing it, I’ve complimented brilliant yellow sunflowers with purple Lavender, Ageratum and nearby Mexican Sage.

The sunflowers line the top of the deck, while the lavender shrubs grow in front. The fragrant flowers bump up against the steps, softening the hard edges. Lavender is one of my favorite plants. It blooms for months on end, with a distinctive scent, valued for its restorative and relaxing powers.  I dried a bunch of lavender in the garage, and used a few blossoms in my bath.  I’m dreaming up ways to share these powerful blooms this Christmas.


Lavender Lines the Deck

This week I planted Ageratum and Baby Tears in a moss bowl, added some LEGO® Brick furniture and called it a Fairy Garden. It wasn’t until I took a step back from the arrangement that I realized I had surrounded the sunflowers with purple goodness. I love the shape of the fluffy blooms, but I also delight in the little saucer shapes with the dotted edges just before.


Ageratum Graces the Fairy Garden

Dominated by tall grass, the Dwarf Plumbago is easy to miss. It resides in the lower garden and to the right of the steps leading to the deck. Don’t you just love the red burst of seed pods in the center?

Dwarf Plumbago

Dwarf Plumbago

The magnificent Mexican Sage grows at the curb, in an otherwise unremarkable section of the sidewalk strip. The sage goes dormant around December, when we give it a hard prune, then resumes its show of color, spring through fall. It’s a popular plant with children on the block due to its soft, velvet-like flowers. The hummingbirds are also big fans, frequently tussling over the right of territory.

Mexican sage

Mexican Sage
Drought-Tolerant and a Hummingbird Favorite

On the subject of territory, my sister Sharon “owns” the color purple. It’s been her favorite her entire life. Sharon, this one’s for you.

Sunflower Wall or Bust

My longed-for “wall of sunflowers” is coming along nicely, but I’ve revised my description a bit.

Three sunflower seedlings survived the first planting but the squirrels pilfered the rest.  The second crop did much better after I engineered a screen saver, but the plants are shorter.  I thought they would catch up in height, but since they are also setting buds, I think they’ll remain vertically challenged.  So…here are my…sunflowers, minus the flowers.  They’ll be along shortly.

Sunflower bud

Sunflower Bud

Sunflowers Line the Deck

Sunflowers Line the Upper Deck
Lavender grazes below

Therapeutic Bath Salts: Putting My Dried Lavender to Work

Dr. Teal’s has a wonderfully fragrant and oh so relaxing lavender bath salt, but it’s nearly seven dollars a bag.  I shop for generic brands of Epsom salt, half the price and equally effective for soaking sore, tired muscles.  That said, I long for the relaxing scent of lavender filling the steamy room.

So today I’m experimenting with my own dried lavender.  I took a few flower heads and gently pinched the flowers from the stem.  I tucked the flowers into a small organza bag I had on hand (available at most craft stores) and double knotted the ribbon at the top.

Recipe to Relax

Lavender Sachet

Recipe to Relax:

  • Draw a hot bath, preferably up to your chin.
  • As the water fills the tub, add two cups of Epsom salts.**
  • Run hot water over the lavender-infused bag.
  • Hang up the do-not-disturb sign.
  • Practice yoga breathing, letting your cares slip away.

**A word of caution:  bath salts and oils can make the tub surfaces slick.  Use common sense care when getting in and out of the tub.


Vernal Equinox in my own Backyard

Happy spring!  Here’s what’s happening in my own little slice of garden paradise.

To Bee, or Not To Bee?

Raspberry Vines

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~Hal Borland

Flowering Bulbs and Budding Fuchsia

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

Flowering Carrot

Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men. ~Chinese Proverb

The Bees Arrive on Schedule

All things lavender:

Cowichan Valley Lavender Farm: Beautiful drawings and additional links

Lavender Crafts: How to make lavender wands.

Learn more about the relaxing properties of lavender at The Hub

Provencal Lavender Field Maps (for that fantasy vacation to France)

Lavender in art: Watercolor on


For additional garden quotes, visit the Quote Garden.

Lavender Caper

"...Here's flowers for you: Hot lavender, mints, savory, and marjoram." The Winter's Tale

It’s a mystery. Two summers ago we planted a row of lavender along the front deck. Five small plants with big potential. Within a few months they would be peeking over the edge of the deck, covered in fragrant blooms.

The plants doubled in size, supporting each other as they grew out and up. They bumped up against the lawn; spilled on to the stairs. Except for one. One of the five plants was still below deck. Like the runt of the litter, I reasoned, the smaller plant needed more time.

My well-honed sense of symmetry was eschew; I wanted each of these plants to grow into one cohesive row. The plant seemed healthy. It branched, it flowered, and it grew. Every few days I would lean over the edge of the deck, lifting its branches skyward. Perhaps this lovely lavender had simply lost its way.  “Stand tall,” I encouraged; that space is yours to fill.

I sought the advice of a couple of garden experts. One suggested it was something in the soil. I asked if it was possibly a dwarf variety but they didn’t think so. Nearly two years later the plant is still small.

I’m pragmatic when it’s time to pluck annuals from the earth and I can thin seeds and pull weeds with impunity. Giving up on an established perennial, however, feels like the gardener’s equivalent of throwing in the towel. If only the plant would send me a sign by turning brown, falling over or displaying a visible blight. Then I would be ready to let it go.

June, 2010

February, 2012: One of these plants, is not like the other...

Dwarfed by the Others