Good Scents in the Garden

Apr 9, 2020

Good Scents in the Garden

Apr 9, 2020

Editor's note: Master Gardeners are keeping busy in their own gardens during Napa County's “Shelter in Place” directive. It's spring, it's getting warmer, it's a great time to work in the garden! Here's how Master Gardeners are spending their time:

by Yvonne Rasmussen

Walking around my block in between rain showers I noticed there were many wonderful smells. The line from an old Lynyrd Skynyrd song started to play in my brain but I changed it a little: “Ooh that smell, can't you smell that smell, the smell of LIFE surrounds you.” Come along with me on my olfactory tour of my neighborhood.


Leaving my back door I was greeted by the scent of fresh cut lawn and lilac. Aha! I didn't know the lilac was blooming. As I rounded the corner, the pungent, buttery scent of the nectarine, peach and plum trees almost done blooming filled my nose with a promise of future bounty. The roses along the driveway have begun to bloom adding their soft genteel sweetness to the air. The comforting scents of resin and pine pitch warmed by the sun exude from a pile of large pine logs, cut down and left in place being too big to move. This large tree had succumbed to pine pitch canker many years before. This smell takes me back to happy memories of camping trips and mountain hikes from my youth.  The soft scent of green grass and weedy flowers wafted past me from the open field, mixed with the faint barnyard smells from the neighbors' distant animals.

I can hear the sounds of the goats, horses and chickens chattering in the distance. Fresh earth turned over from a neighbor installing irrigation in their new front yard mixes with the scent of crushed oak tree leaves and blooming wisteria that arches over their entrance gate. I see children bouncing around in living rooms and the pleasant welcoming smells of breakfast cooking, bacon and coffee the most recognizable of those smells, along with other unknown wonders of warm food for a morning meal. Walking along the river the musty, swampy smell of slow water mixes with the scent of trees along the waterways as willow, bay and oaks lean over the creek. Going past the wineries, I catch a whiff of fermentation and wine barrels.

Then, walking past Jessel Gallery I catch some smells of fresh paint from the paintings set out to dry and oxidation from rusting metal of the many whimsical sculptures in front of the store.  Rounding the corner, going past another artist studio, Gordon Huether provides me with smells of welding, hot metal and glass being molded into grand sculptures. On the final stretch, rambling back toward home, I pass a row of old roses beginning to bloom on their twisting, gnarled trunks. Maybe they're not as pretty as they once were, but still put forth fabulous fragrance for all to enjoy. The blooming flowers or catkins of oaks and walnuts produce copious amounts of pollen raining down on the wild radish mixing with the smell of cows and horses in the pasture.  And finally, I'm back to my warm, cozy, homey smells of roasted vegetables, baked pumpkin pie and fresh brewed coffee and tea. All these smells contribute their fragrance to the mosaic that is my neighborhood. Welcome home.

Informational links:

Scientific American publication-Nov 11, 2002, 'Do scents affect people's mood or work performance?'

By: Rachel S. Herz, an assistant professor of psychology at Brown University

UC Integrated Pest Management

Lilac info-

Peach info-

Pine pitch canker-

Wisteria info-

Rose info-

Walnut info-

Oak info-

During Napa County's shelter in place directive that protects everyone's health and safety, Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: or phone at 707-253-4143.  Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.

Visit our website: to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.

Photo credits: Wisteria- Free photo, no attribution required; Cat-