Friday, October 30, 2009

Fragrances of Autumn

Autumn to me is a season filled with fragrance.  Beyond candy apples or wood smoke, I have fallen for the scents of plants as they mature and change.  I have vivid memories of hiking at the Morton Arboretum and shuffling through the bitter tang of oak and hickory leaves or the pungent vinegary smell of honeylocust seed pods.  October Skies aster not only has pretty blue flowers, but run your hands through the foliage for its spicy tang.  I tend to leave the stems of my herbs up through the winter for the birds to clean out.  The juncos have been known to clean out the basil seeds in an afternoon.  However, I also like to use them in dried arrangements, and even their woody stems still hold a light scent.

Not every plant has a fabulous fragrance in fall.  Many people love the scent of prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis) as it blooms.  It's a great short prairie grass, but instead of freshly popped popcorn or clean laundry, to me it smells like sweat socks.  And not clean sweat socks.  Needless to say, no prairie dropseed in my garden.

One of my favorite fragrances of autumn is katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum).  As the leaves turn, they give off the scent of burnt sugar or caramelized apricots.  Even in spring, the fallen leaves still hold a scent.  It's a bittersweet fragrance, but it holds a power over me.

He's just a new baby, but growing fast!

A pretty apricot fall color, too!


  1. Hey, I love the pictures! Did you take them yourself?

  2. Yes! All the photos are taken by me unless otherwise cited.

  3. Here in our St. Paul, MN neighborhood we are blessed with many female Gingko trees as street trees. Ahh...stinky gingko! I think I would rather smell the sweat socks!

  4. Oh, I definitely agree that female ginkgos are smelly! I have a couple in the neighborhood. I've eaten the fruit only once - at at local Chinese restaurant. It was a pleasant mild nutty flavor, but not enough pizazz to order it again.