This article originally appeared in the NAHA Journal (Summer 2016.2) and is re-published here according to the NAHA Writer Guidelines 2016 copyright statement. If you would like to become a member of NAHA and enjoy more articles like this, please visit the NAHA website.
Kathi Keville is both a herbalist and an aromatherapist, with fifteen books published in these subject areas. She operates the Green Medicine Herb School, located in California, with a garden of nearly five hundred species of medicinal plants and herbs. It is this garden that is featured in Kathi’s newest aromatherapy book: The Aromatherapy Garden.
Review of The Aromatherapy Garden by Sharon Falsetto
I’ve waited more than a year to review Kathi Keville’s latest aromatherapy book since finding out about its existence and it finally going to print! The subject area is one that greatly interests me, so when I finally received my review copy, it wasn’t long before I was immersed in the beautiful photographs and pages of the book. Oh to have an aromatic garden on this scale!
Whether you are a beginner to gardening and/or aromatherapy, or a more seasoned expert, Kathi’s newest book is sure to delight all of your senses! It’s a visual spread of aromatic herbs, flowers, and trees, together with a look into Kathi’s own aromatherapy garden – always a curiosity to a fellow gardener, if not somewhat tinged with envy!
You can almost smell the aroma of the various plants with every turn of a page, and almost taste the aromatic kitchen herb blends that Kathi describes. You will want to learn, and see, how to make herbal vinegars and teas she talks about; you will want to touch each vividly colored plant profiled; and, most of all, you’ll want to inhale all of the aromatic pleasures you’ll encounter.
Kathi’s book begins with a look at the tradition of scent in the garden, including the extraction of essential oils, how plants themselves use scent, the role of pollinators in the fragrant garden, and the types of scents you’ll find in an aromatherapy garden.
One thing I learned from the next part of the book was that not all aromatic gardens are the same: formal, cottage, Asian, and border gardens are some of the styles you can choose from for your own aromatherapy garden. Personally, I identify with cottage the best, given my English roots and childhood memories, but there is no reason why you couldn’t incorporate a little bit of each into a garden.
Once you’ve established a style, theme, and choice of aromatic plants for your garden, you’ll want to know how to cultivate your aromatic garden. Kathi discusses the basics: soil, mulch, water, shade, sun, temperature, transplanting, and propogating; all factors that contribute to the success of your garden.
Once your garden is established, you”ll then want to harvest your aromatic delights! From drying herbs to making oils, the book contains tips to cover obtaining the best products from your aromatherapy garden harvest.
The second part of the book, approximately two-thirds of the total 276 pages, is given over to profiles of aromatic plants. If you want to grow successful aromatic plants, you’ll need to be able to identify each plant, understand the growing conditions it needs to survive in your area, and how long it might live. A little bit of aromatic history is given with each plant profile, so you can better understand its uses. I particularly loved the inclusion of the growing zone for each plant in this section, so I could instantly know if a plant stood a chance of survival in my area.
Kathi Keville is a master of aromatic gardens and I feel honored that she has chosen to share her years of experience, in addition to her beautiful aromatherapy garden, with us in this book. The Aromatherapy Garden will inspire and delight avid gardeners and armchair gardeners alike – and take aromatherapists back to the roots of traditional aromatic plant medicine.
You can purchase a copy of The Aromatherapy Garden through the NAHA bookstore.
An Interview with Kathi Keville
NAHA’s Aromatherapy Journal recently caught up with Kathi to ask her a few questions about her book’s new release and how she established such a beautiful aromatic garden.
- I love that your book contains many photos of the plants in your own garden. How many years has it taken you to cultivate such a beautiful garden?
Having most of the book’s photos of my gardens allows me to share their beauty with everyone. Gardening is a labor of love! This garden took seventeen years to create, but I’ve grown a large selection of herbs and aromatic plants for decades. I originally thought that I was on a five-year plan to establish a design and have plants mature into a finished garden, but I still find myself recreating sections and expanding. It is the artist in me expressing design in a living form, which is exciting. I tried to keep the number of species and varieties down to a manageable 400, but there’s always another plant I can’t live without! I actually didn’t have the apothecary rose(Rosa officinalis) or Persian za-atar (Saturja thymbra), both important to my aromatic collection, until recently. At last count, I was up to 450 and just ordered more! I’m the same way with my library; there seems to be no end to the collections.
- Planning an aromatic garden of this size takes work, patience, love, and dedication – along with, no doubt, several success and “failure” stories! Do you have a particular story to share about your garden that may inspire readers?
Although my book offers suggestions on garden design for both visual and aromatic appeal, it’s honestly difficult to create a bad combination of color or scent in a garden. I used to fret that I wasn’t placing a plant in the perfect location for the best design or growing conditions. Nowadays, I don’t over think it, but follow my intuition instead. I learned in art school that too much thinking hampers creativity. If done just right, it’s easy to move even fairly large plants when they don’t work out in their original spot or a design inspiration strikes. Most important is to keep it fun and cultivate the garden with love that reflects wellbeing on everyone who steps into it. These healing gardens have many benches placed where the garden visitor can best enjoy the fragrance and view.
- One of my favorite parts of the book is the profiles of the aromatic plants, including useful information for gardeners such as plant zones, type of plant, and the mention (and use) of different species. Is there one particular plant that you have an affinity with more than others and, if so, why?
I don’t have a favorite. When I give garden tours, I hear myself repeating that whatever plant in front of me is my favorite! I will admit that, although I work with well over a hundred essential oils, I do frequently use the ever-versatile lavender (Lavandula spp.). I have the perfect climate to grow over a dozen versions of it. Right away, I am re-thinking that perhaps my favorite are helichrysum (Helicrysum italicum) chemotypes, and then, sambac jasmine (Jasminum officinale) comes to mind, and I soon include the entire garden on my favorites list.
- This book is not particularly targeted at either aromatherapists or herbalists but simply the person who has a passion for wanting to grow aromatic plants “for happiness and well-being.” In your many years of practice as an aromatherapist and herbalist, do you think that there is a growing interest in the plants themselves more recently than there has traditionally been?
This is my fourth book on herb cultivation and fifth book on aromatherapy, yet it is the first to focus on growing aromatherapy plants. Of course, you don’t have to be a gardener to be an excellent aromatherapist, but it does add another dimension. Plants also open up the exciting world of aromatherapy to many people who never considered using aromatic plants in healing. Anyone who has ever smelled a rose (Rosa spp.), enjoyed mint tea (Mentha spp.), or brought a bouquet of fragrant lilies (Lilium spp.) into their house has experienced a form of aromatherapy. In fact, the plant itself sometimes carries more of the scent’s bouquet. It also encompasses fragrant plants that are often not considered in aromatherapy because they don’t distill easily. Instead, they appear in the market as unpleasant-smelling, synthetic essential oils. I looked at both the chemistry and historic use of aromatics like lilac and carnation. An example of that is the eugenol compound that gives clove (Eugenia aromatica) its distinctive scent; it is a known relaxant. The same compound predominates in clove pink flowers (Dianthus caryophyllus) and it is why this fragrance has long been considered as calming. The Aromatherapy Garden not only delves into the relationship of scent to people’s emotions, but to other plants and beneficial and detrimental insects. It addresses how to increase the essential oil content in plants, and thus, their scent. This benefits the garden, but it also produces more potent plants to infuse into products or to distill.
- Not everyone has such a large space to grow an aromatic garden! If you were restricted to just a small patio or window box, which aromatic plants would you recommend for growing and why?
Choosing the best aromatic plants to cultivate depends on each individual’s intended use for them. I suggest the ones that a person uses most often. That may be to create a certain mood, for use in making aromatherapy products, a favorite essential oil, or simply a fragrance that bring back fond memories. Even though I have extensive gardens, I like having potted plants for garden accents or to bring their scent up to nose level—as discussed in the book’s garden design section. I also pot plants that are sensitive to my snowy winters, such as patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii), and Brugmansia species. They spend summers in the garden, but can easily come inside or go on my southern exposure deck over winter.
About Kathi Keville:
Internationally known herbalist and aromatherapist, Kathi Keville, has conducted seminars in North America and Europe for over forty years. Her Northern California home is surrounded by gardens, where Green Medicine Herb School offers year-round programs. She managed a commercial herb garden and wholesaled aromatherapy products for fifteen years and now is a consultant to the industry. She is the director of the American Herb Association, American Herbalists Guild founding member, United Plant Savers member, and she was granted honorary membership to NAHA and American Aromatherapy Association. Kathi’s fifteen popular books have been published in seven languages. They include The Complete Guide to the Healing Art with Mindy Green and her new book, The Aromatherapy Garden. Kathi has written 150 magazine articles and consulted for National Geographic, Newsweek, and Woman’s Day. She co-hosts the “Everybody Nose” aromatherapy show on Dish Network TV (Veria Network) and hosts a radio show KVMR (89.5 FM). To learn more about Kathi, visit her website at: www.ahaherb.com.
About Sharon Falsetto:
Sharon Falsetto is a UK-certified clinical aromatherapist. She has been living in the United States since 2006 and is the founder of Sedona Aromatherapie LLC. Sharon offers a home study aromatherapy education program in the form of the Linguistics of AromaticsTM Program, including NAHA approved level 1 and level 2 courses. Sharon has written professionally for ten years, and has written and edited books, courses, e-books, articles, and corporate literature for both start-up and established aromatherapy businesses. She has been retained as an aromatherapy consultant by many businesses. Sharon also offers a custom aromatherapy blending service from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, and has just recently started growing aromatic plants in her fledgling aromatherapy garden. Sharon’s aromatherapy book, Authentic Aromatherapy, was published in 2014, and is now available in paperback as a 2nd reprint. Sharon is the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal and the NAHA regional director for Arizona. You can visit Sharon’s website at: www.sedonaaromatics.com or email her at: email@example.com