The Fragrant Garden
- Essential Oils

The Fragrant Garden at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens was a 1990 sesquicentennial year project gifted to the Gardens through the combined efforts of local women's organisations.

This garden, situated to the west of Cuningham House, contains a selection of trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials particularly noted for their fragrant qualities.

The first reaction for many people after looking briefly at unfamiliar flower is to smell it and then express some disappointment if it has no scent. Most people associate the garden with fragrance and it is difficult to imagine one without a haunting vestige of aroma.

Scent in plants is due to potent essential oils contained in minute glands on or within one or more parts of a plant. The petals, stamens and pollen of most flowers contain these essential oils, providing us with some of the most exquisite of fragrances.

In some plants however, these oils may flourish in the foliage of a plant as with mint and thyme. A number of oils are also found in bark as in cinnamon or in wood as in sandalwood and the incense cedar. Plants including the lemon and orange contain essential oils in the rind of the fruit while in others these oils are found in the root or rhizome of a plant as occurs in orris root.

Many plants release their scent freely with their fragrance drifting great distances. Their detection is sometimes influenced by temperature and other climatic conditions. Often a plant's essential oils are stored on the leaf surface in easily broken flask or globe-shaped cells. These plants should therefore be positioned where their foliage can be touched or brushed against. It is the chemical make-up of essential oils that determine the scent's character. These scents encompass a wide variety of fragrances such as aromatic, sharp, sweet or richly pungent. The attractiveness of a plant's fragrance is a highly personal matter. Opinions are often sharply divided with some considering a fragrance as pleasantly aromatic while others find it distinctly abhorrent. The strength as well as the quality of a fragrance can also be very differently perceived with some people noticing fragrances in plants that are usually considered odourless.

When next walking around the Gardens, remember to take note of clues that are given in the name of a plant such as citriodora, fragrans, fragrantissimus and odoratus for so many of these plants gratify the nose as well as the eye, yes, even in autumn.

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens
are managed by the Botanical Services
Section of the Parks Unit,
Christchurch City Council
PO BOX 237
PH: (03) 366-1701
Fax: (03) 366-6836
CONTACT: Richard Doyle.