Bluebell Forest of The Hallerbos

In Japan, there is a practice of shinrin-yoku or forest-bathing, which is a leisurely walk in the forest to reduce stress and improve one’s well-being. It’s like aromatherapy, but instead of inhaling a blended oil, you inhale the natural scents of the forest. But what if you forest-bathed surrounded by millions of bluebells? It’s something that you can experience every spring as the wild hyacinth bluebells turn the Hallerbos, a forest in the municipality of Halle, 30 minutes south of Brussels, into a blue colored, intensely perfumed fantasy.

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Bluebells have a delicate scent of green leaves, cloves and lemony roses, but when all of the flowers burst into bloom, the fragrance in the air is rich and heady. Imagine the fragrance of hyacinths at your local florist, dilute it with green tea and rainwater, add a dash of autumnal leaves, and you have the perfume of the Bluebell Forest.

The Hallerbos in Flemish, or Bois de Halle in French, is a nature preserve and one of Belgium’s best kept secrets; it’s worth coming to Brussels in the springtime for a visit. Access is free of charge, and in exchange, visitors simply have to abide by the rules–not to wander off the marked paths and not to pick flowers. 

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Our enjoyment of the Hallerbos today is due to the perseverance of people and nature. The forest was destroyed during the First World War–Belgium was the first country to be occupied and much of the heavy fighting took place on its soil. Between the 1930s and 1950s, major replanting efforts took place reintroducing the native beech and oak trees. The wild flowers, on the other hand, have regenerated on their own, surging forth with nature’s powerful message of memento vivere, “remember to live.”

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In the early spring before the forest canopy is covered with leaves, sunlight pours through the branches and turns the pale blue of flowers into a vivid bluish purple. If you select the right weekend, the bluebell carpet spreads as far as the eye can see, circling around the slender trees, running into the valleys and massing around the creeks. Up close the flowers look slender and exquisitely delicate; from a distance, they form a blue haze that gives the forest a fairy tale quality.

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After wandering the narrow paths of the Hallerbos, I return home feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. The blooming season for bluebells is fleeting, and we usually enjoy it for only a couple of weekends before the forest dons its usual plush green coat and wipes out all traces of blue.  The memory of bluebells, however, is enough to sustain me until next spring.

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Of course, for a great forest bathing experience, you don’t need bluebells. You just need an enclave of nature and some time during which you promise yourself to empty your mind of all worries.  This is one instance when I encourage you to forgo perfume completely, because even in a city park, you’ll find enough interesting scents–leaves, bark, flowers and wet soil. Nature is still the best perfumer of all.

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*The Hallerbos can be reached by public transport: TEC bus 115A travels between Halle and Braine l’Alleud, and your stop of choice is Vlasmarkt.  Take Vlasmarktdreef into the forest. Otherwise, it’s a 20-30 minute car ride from Brussels. You can obtain information about Halle by consulting the website or by calling the tourist office at (32) 02 356 42 59. The usual blooming times are between late April and early May, but this year, the bluebells are two weeks ahead of schedule.

I would love to hear of any parks or nature preserves in your area!

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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110 Comments

  • Lydie: I’m speechless. It looks magical! April 9, 2014 at 7:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Lydie. It’s such a beautiful place, and one of my favorite Belgian discoveries. April 9, 2014 at 9:22am Reply

  • Caroline: Wish I was there right this minute, your photos are calming yet uplifting. In addition to the vast & majestic Lake Michigan, my area has a couple of wonderful nature preserves. In the spring, the trillium are beautiful and abundant, and in the fall the gentian and fall asters add tremendous color. It’s still too muddy to enjoy the preserves, but I’ve been walking to the lake regularly. You should have seen it about a month ago, with the enormous broken up and oddly shaped icebergs–looked like a scifi movie set. All gone now… April 9, 2014 at 8:03am Reply

    • Victoria: This sounds fascinating! I grew up in Chicago, so the memories of Lake Michigan in the spring are very strong. And nothing is more uplifting than to see the snow melt away and smell spring in the air. April 9, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

  • Bea: What a lovely description, Victoria! I feel like I am right there with you.

    I grew up in the countryside in Sweden and spring to me is when the ground is covered with wood anemones, usually in mid May where I come from.
    After months of snow and then brown dry grass and old leaves, it is magical when everything becomes light green and you can see a white rug of anemones between the trees.
    I am very new to scents, so this year I am looking forward to sticking my nose into the ground and discover what anemones smells like.

    Yesterday I had a magnificent experience when I opened my window and for the first time noticed how cold rain combined with spring air smells like. It’s a new world that I am discovering, much thanks to you and your wonderful blog. April 9, 2014 at 8:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Your description is enough to make me long for a trip to Sweden. I love the northern type of forests for their sudden transformation in the spring. For months, the soil is cold and hard, and then suddenly, it all bursts into bloom.

      And how wonderful is your observation! I can just imagine the smell of spring and cold rain. April 9, 2014 at 1:21pm Reply

  • Ann: I can smell it through the screen. I agree with Lydie, looks magical. My family just relocated to a new town and we still need to find parks or forests nearby but in my old town there was a pretty forest preserve where you could take a picnic. April 9, 2014 at 8:05am Reply

    • Victoria: I found the forest by googling, since no guidebook mentioned, so I hope that you can find a place nearby for long strolls and picnics. Good luck with settling into your new home. April 9, 2014 at 1:22pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Wonderful article and magical pictures! ”Nature is the best perfumer of all”–so true. My favourite nature: the cornfields in Limburg, the south of the Netherlands. The smell of fresh corn is unique ( an echo of it is in a glass of Pilsner beer).Some flowers in the fields don’t smell (cornfowers, poppies) but the ”leeuwenbekjes” smell delicious. (I need Austenfan for the English word).

    Now I live in Amsterdam and the watery nature of the North doesn’t speak to me.
    But there is Artis, the Zoo. The fate of the animals is a subject for discussion, but the plants, the flowers and the trees are wonderful. There is a tree with perfumed, lily-like flowers, there are shrubs with yellow, smelling flowers (not mimosa, but Champs Elysées, my Artis perfume, comes near), there is jasmine, and in the ”Butterfly Garden” there is more jasmin and ylang ylang. And they have roses as well.
    The most beautiful smell comes from the ”Clerodendrum Trichotomum”-sweet, overwhelming.
    My absolute favourite is alas a memory: the jasmine with big flowers in Rotterdam, disappeared.

    In Amsterdam streets you can smell magnolia, fig trees, lilac and jasmine with little flowers and a rather sharp, a bit sour smell. And tulips, of course. April 9, 2014 at 8:09am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Of course perfume is superfluous in nature, but sometimes I want some Champs Elysees in Artis. April 9, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

    • Mals86: Just looked it up: Snapdragons, in English. April 9, 2014 at 12:17pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Thank you! I didn’t find it in my dictionary. April 9, 2014 at 12:32pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Well I am glad you looked it up for me as I’ve been away on a short holiday. April 13, 2014 at 1:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for all of these scent vignettes. In Brussels, there are many of the same plants–and yes, I was surprised to see so many fig trees, which I’ve associated with the Mediterranean. I usually pick up fallen green fruit and crush it slightly to smell that sappy, sharp aroma. Makes you realize what exactly inspired Diptyque’s Philosykos. April 9, 2014 at 1:26pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: I collect the fallen leaves and lay them on my bookshelves to profume them.
        I have Philosykos, love it! April 9, 2014 at 3:43pm Reply

        • Victoria: Fig leaves contain coumarin, as do tonka beans (and coumarin is used a lot in Guerlain perfumes). If you have enough fig leaves to spare, you can try wrapping fish or mushrooms in them before roasting. They impact such a wonderful flavor. April 9, 2014 at 5:44pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: that’s interesting information, thank you!
            I am wearing Liù today–Jacques Guerlain was probably a Puccini fan. April 10, 2014 at 4:19am Reply

            • Victoria: I’m not curious who made up the stories and names for Guerlain perfumes. I’m not sure if it was Jacques himself. April 10, 2014 at 9:57am Reply

  • Sandra: This article comes at a perfect time for me-though I can’t get here-just reading this makes me feel peaceful.
    Amazing!
    Here in the concrete jungle, there is not too many places like this.
    In the bronx, there is Wave Hill which is nice. Fort Tyron park, has a great view of the hudson.
    When I mentally want a place to feel more grounded and have a forest bath, I think of when I lived in San Francisco, I use to travel to Vajrapani in the santa cruz mountains, the smell of the red woods, driving through eucalyptus trees, bathing in the outdoor showers, the burning insense in the temple. Ahhhh..bliss!
    I visited there last summer actually- Hope to always go back there for my forest bath! April 9, 2014 at 8:30am Reply

    • Victoria: San Francisco is definitely a scented city, and nicely scented at that. I remember the smell of eucalyptus, jasmine and ocean breeze. And of pickled mustard stems near the groceries in Chinatown, the smell that instantly made me hungry. April 9, 2014 at 1:27pm Reply

  • Carol: In Britain, Bluebell woods are to be found all over the country. Most people, unless they are in the centre of a city, are never far from at least one Bluebell wood. Forest-bathing sounds wonderful, woods are the most restful places to be. April 9, 2014 at 8:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Britain does have so many interesting nature preserves, and of course, lots of gardens. I watched a documentary on rose gardens once, and it showed a few private ones that were nevertheless open for visitors. It makes me want to explore them too. April 9, 2014 at 1:29pm Reply

      • Ashley Anstaett: Ohhh, do you happen to remember the name of the documentary? I’d be interested in watching it! April 9, 2014 at 2:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t recall what it was called, but it was BBC and it had to do with rose gardens. If I find it, I’ll let you know. April 9, 2014 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Zazie: shinrin-yoku: love the idea!
    But I’m still speechless from your pictures…
    Amazing! April 9, 2014 at 8:53am Reply

    • Victoria: This place is really incredible! And imagine this is still not at its bluest. This weekend, there should be more bluebells. April 9, 2014 at 1:29pm Reply

  • Sapphire: Just enchanting. In Texas, we have wildflowers blooming this time of year (delayed a week or two by freezes this year). The central part of the state is carpeted with bluebonnets, which look a little similar to the bluebells, but are a much deeper blue. They are wild lupines. Not much smell, but they are gorgeous. We also get scarlet Indian Paintbrush mixed in for contrast, and blanket flowers, which are more variegated oranges and yellows. I can never get enough of spring! April 9, 2014 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: A friend is traveling through Texas right now, and she sent me a photo of wild lupines the other day. They look beautiful individually, but a whole field of them is spellbinding.

      I’m going to google the names of other flowers you mention, because none of them are familiar to me. And like you, I can’t get enough of spring! April 9, 2014 at 1:31pm Reply

  • Jennifer: This made me very happy. Growing up in the Midwestern US, we had acreage, and behind our property, nothing but wild woods. It made me very happy. April 9, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s amazing! You were so lucky to grow up with so much nature around. April 9, 2014 at 1:32pm Reply

  • Anna in Edinburgh: Beautiful theme, Victoria, and superb photos to accompany it.

    I agree about leaving off perfume when visiting such fragrant places – that’s what I do when I go to the Royal Botanic Garden here, where there’s always something scented to enjoy.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh April 9, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Anna! All of the commercial perfumes, especially the ones that try to mimic florals, just don’t smell right in this context. April 9, 2014 at 1:34pm Reply

  • Kathy Bible: Wow, what an amazing and beautiful place. I hope to visit it someday. It must be absolutely magical. It looks like a forest that Snow White or Sleeping Beauty would walk through.

    The story about the blubells rejuvenating on their own makes me teary-eyed. WWI was so terrrible with such awful losses for all the countries involved. It’s good to have a living monument to beauty and the victory of life over death and destruction. April 9, 2014 at 9:56am Reply

    • Nikki: Ditto April 9, 2014 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I was thinking of Snow White too! :)

      WWI left so many scars here, and while it seems like it’s been such a long time ago, people still remember and preserve the memory of those who’ve fallen as they defended their country. There was a fascinating documentary on the Belgian TV about a group of Belgian journalists traveling on foot along the frontline, from Nieuwpoort (Belgium) to Gallipoli (Turkey). It’s called Ten Oorlog, and it’s in English. April 9, 2014 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Michaela: Beautiful article and amazing pictures… I would love to be, just for one day, the fairy of this bluebell forest :)
    The story of the preserve is touching. I admire these people who gained back their forest, and keep its beauty with patience, love and respect. April 9, 2014 at 10:06am Reply

    • Victoria: It really touched me too. Apparently, most of the forest, apart from some ancient oaks, was completely decimated, and it took some concerted effort to regenerate the trees. But today, it looks quite wild! Yes, you can play the fairy of the bluebell forest there. :) April 9, 2014 at 2:07pm Reply

  • DelRae Roth: Thank you so much for this amazing post.
    It’s on my list to visit. April 9, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that you can visit it. Even when the bluebells aren’t in bloom, it’s a beautiful place. April 9, 2014 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Jillie: What beautiful, atmospheric photos. I can almost smell the woods, and feel the cool, moist air on my skin.

    I can never see bluebell woods now without thinking of the scene in Howard’s End in which Leonard Bast walks through them; E M Forster’s book is great, and the film captures its very essence and is lyrical, melancholy and true. That particular moment is the one that will stay with me forever.

    Thank you for sharing your woods with us, and for the uplifting story of their survival. April 9, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

    • Nikki: Yes I remember that scene, too! Such a contrast between his desperation and the new growth and spring all around him… April 9, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Can you believe it, I have never seen Howard’s End, but now I really should watch it!
      Thank you, Jillie. I was struggling to take them, because I feel that the reality is much more beautiful. April 9, 2014 at 3:02pm Reply

    • OperaFan: Jillie – I was thinking exactly that scene in the movie when I saw Victoria’s pictures. It was truly an unforgettable scene. And I thought that England was the only place to find such scenery for it has become one of the images I have of the English countryside.

      Do try to see the movie, dear V – excellent acting, beautiful cinematography, and a great story. April 9, 2014 at 9:11pm Reply

    • Austenfan: I remember that scene, and the film as a whole. It was actually the first time I saw Emma Thompson on screen. I remember mistakenly thinking that she was Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter. She isn’t of course, but they share those piercing light blue eyes. April 13, 2014 at 1:30pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: Thank you for reminding. It is time to go. :-) April 9, 2014 at 11:03am Reply

    • Victoria: This weekend should be really spectacular, so it’s a good time to go. April 9, 2014 at 3:04pm Reply

  • maja: That place is just magical! The Mother Nature’s design is till the best, you’re so right. A bluebell forest, wow! I can totally understand how it helps you feel rejuvenated. :)
    I have been doing my (heavy) spring gardening for the past few days and as I pick the freshly cut grass I am enjoying all the fragrant wonders of the earth. Today it’s windy and I get whiffs from my fig tree in the backyard that is starting to bloom. Every now and then I stop to admire the whole picture. There is so much beauty in the world. April 9, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

    • Victoria: The first time I visited, I thought I was dreaming. It was completely unlike anything I’ve seen before.

      What are you planting in your garden? April 9, 2014 at 3:05pm Reply

      • maja: I don’t intend to plant much ( apart from those wonderful pink carnations I couldn’t resist the other day) – I am more concerned about removing the sort of jungle that created itself during our very rainy winter so that our perennial plants can actually be seen. :)

        OT: You are a fellow honey lover so I must inform you about a wonderful type of honey I bought from my neighbours yesterday – asphodel honey. The plant is quite ordinary but the smell of the flower is just amazing, first bitter floral and then orange-blossomey which translates into a wonderful citrusy but creamy honey. :) April 10, 2014 at 9:42am Reply

        • Victoria: Asphodel honey sounds amazing! You’ve reminded me that I recently spotted it at a local Italian store, but since I have an embarrassing quantity of honey at home, I (uncharacteristically) withstood the temptation to buy it. Now, I’m regretting it. After all, honey can be used in some many delicious ways in the kitchen. :) April 10, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

          • maja: Embarassing is good. :) You can always go back. ;) There is also a good Italian variety of thistle honey from a flower of edible purple artichoke thistle. So fantastically aromatic. Cardo is the Italian name. April 11, 2014 at 4:03pm Reply

            • Victoria: Mmmm, I have a jar of cardo honey, and it’s delicious. It has the most unusual bittersweet flavor that took some getting used to, but now I love it. April 11, 2014 at 4:14pm Reply

  • Alicia: How very beautiful! Thank you, Victoria. Here, in Upstate New York, I live in the woods. Actually, I bought my house because in the back there is an oak and pine wood, full of trilliums, wintergreen, muguet (which I planted), and asters in the fall. Save for winter time, when the snow is too deep, I have a daily forest bath. I planted bluebells, but by now only a few have survived, alas! If I were to return to Belgium in springtime I will remember to visit this magical forest. Thank you! April 9, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Your woods must be beautiful, and with all of those wild flowers, I can imagine many amazing smells. Muguet seems to grow really well. My mom noticed a few clumps on the property of their new houses, and without much care, they’ve taken over everything. April 9, 2014 at 3:06pm Reply

      • OperaFan: Muguets Do tend to take over everything. We have a corner of the house where muguets thrive in abundance (among the equally abundantly sprawling ivy) beneath some old shady oaks. They give such a show each May, then I have to beat them back as they try to invade areas beyond their borders.

        They do smell lovely for about 3-4 weeks though… April 9, 2014 at 9:21pm Reply

        • Victoria: Those 3-4 weeks probably make it all worthwhile, plus the green leaves still look pretty after the flowers are done blooming. April 10, 2014 at 9:53am Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: What a magical place. Thank you for sharing those beautiful photos! I can’t imagine how peaceful it must be to wander in those woods.

    Weather is getting better here, so I’ve been out poking around in some of the woods in Missouri. It’s a bit early for many things, mushrooms will start popping up soon, but there are loads and loads of daffodils! My house is loaded to the max with daffodils cheerfully perched on almost every table. The smell is intoxicating. Hyacinths are now starting to bloom in my neighborhood, along with the pink magnolias, and the green of the peonies is starting to show. April 9, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Forget about the forest, I want to visit your house! :) It sounds like you’re creating your own garden of paradise inside. April 9, 2014 at 3:07pm Reply

  • Tora: What a beautiful scene! I have never smelled bluebells, although I know they grow rampant in Texas. I have seen friends photos of the bluebell fields and it is just magical. The idea of a walk in the forest to cleanse the soul is such a lovely concept. I agree completely that Nature is still the best perfumer of all. April 9, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Isn’t it? When I first heard of this concept, I immediately loved it. Although I spent most of my life in cities, my summers and holidays until I was about 15-16 were all in the countryside. So, getting away from the city is essential for me time to time. April 9, 2014 at 3:18pm Reply

  • Nikki: Such an amazing forest….nature is at its best healing us, and copying some of the healing qualities in perfumes and essential oils is a real gift.

    Blue flowers were symbols of Romanticism, the “blaue Blume des Gluecks”, translates the “blue flower of fortune/luck”. I find blue flowers very exceptional, they seem to belong to the sky more than to the earth, therefore the relationship with spirituality.

    Penhaligon’s has a sweet perfume called Bluebells…in a lovely etched flacon.

    May everybody have a blue flower of happiness from time to time… April 9, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Nikki, I bet you are a Novalis reader! April 9, 2014 at 12:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a beautiful symbolism, Nikki! I had no idea, but even the color itself is so serene and calming. April 9, 2014 at 3:18pm Reply

    • Alicia: Nikki, I tried Penhaligon’s Bluebell, and I am sorry to say that to my nose it smelled just horrid. April 9, 2014 at 10:24pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: A walking meditation! Thank you for sharing your “back door” discovery of awesome beauty and tranquility. April 9, 2014 at 12:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! It’s such a unique place, and I try to visit as often as possible. April 9, 2014 at 3:19pm Reply

  • janebkrn: So many eloquent comments already. I will simply say Thank You. April 9, 2014 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m very happy that you enjoyed it! April 9, 2014 at 3:19pm Reply

  • patricia borgenon: Dear Victoria,

    As you know I live in Belgium (Flanders) and I’m truly touched by the fact you were impressed by this magnificent forest.
    Hallerbos means Hallerwood. I know this forest because of the fact many horseriders I know go exercise their horses in this marvelous place. It’s very popular amongst horse people you know. They even have their own trajects in it, to preserve the other beautiful things of mother nature.

    I know that you live in Brussels, so you can also go to the Forêt de Soignes, another enourmous wood very close to Brussels.

    As I received today an invitation from our Belgian Agency of Nature and Woods I will send it to you by mail. I often receive such invitations because I’m a “green journalist” in Belgium.

    It’s an invitation for the ‘ouverture’ of a new Bed & Breadfast at the entrance of the Forêt de Soignes. I will join a little translation for you. It takes place in the afternoon, so you can easily combine it with a walk in the magnificent Forêt de Soignes. After the official part their is a drink with delicious tapas made in Belgium. If you are interested let me know, so I will tell them that you go in my place.

    As you are asking about other preserved areas, their is also a great wood named “Bulskampveld”, located very close to Bruges in Flanders. They have an enormous garden full of aromatic herbs. I often go in summer just to smell them and to pick out ideas for my own garden. The Woods are full of marvelous old trees and there is even an old castle in it worth à visit.

    Also in the Bruges’area we have Tillegembos. A little juwel of his own, with also a little castle in it. These two Woods are public and very well kept by the Flanders government.

    Let my know if I may send you the invitation for the Forêt de Soignes.

    Kind regards,

    Patricia April 9, 2014 at 1:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Patricia! All of these extra recommendations are great, and I appreciate them. More to discover in Belgium! April 9, 2014 at 3:21pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: This is lovely, Victoria. I have thousands of bluebells in my garden (none of which I planted) and they really do turn the place into a fairyland.
    Unfortunately, they’re very invasive, so once you have them they never go away. The bulbs settle themselves very deeply into the soil, so even trying to dig them out doesn’t work if you’re trying to clear a small spot to plant something else. Luckily, it’s easy enough to simply strip away the greens once they’re done blooming, and plant something on top of them.
    But they always come back… And then some.
    So if anyone wants to replicate something like this in their garden or lawn or woods, it’s very easily done.
    Anyone want any bulbs?! Just drop me a line. :-) April 9, 2014 at 1:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: I had no idea these delicate flowers were so hardy! I know from my mom’s experience that lily of the valley is very invasive, but I didn’t know about bluebells. My one invasive plant experience was with mint. And it grew in a pot! But it somehow managed to overtake all neighboring pots too. So, we had lots of mint tea and chutney. April 9, 2014 at 3:25pm Reply

      • Annette Reynolds: My worst invasive plant story is with something called Oregon Shamrock. Beautiful plant. Impossible to get rid of once started. I bought one little plant and put it in a shady area in the back of the garden. Of course, our Northwest climate is the perfect breeding ground and it’s now carpeted a good portion of that back garden.
        Oh well. At least it’s pretty.
        I’ve heard about Mint’s propensities, but haven’t had to deal with that yet! April 10, 2014 at 11:33am Reply

        • Victoria: I grew nepitella, an Italian variety of mint that smells amazing. The taste is also more aromatic like rosemary or oregano and less minty. I started growing it, because I miss my Italian host mom’s rice stuffed tomatoes flavored with nepitella, but later I found many other ways to use it in the kitchen. It was invasive, but I didn’t mind. April 10, 2014 at 12:15pm Reply

    • OperaFan: Annette, are you Stateside? If so I may take you up on your offer. Since I already have 2 highly invasive vegetation cohabiting in my yard, a third won’t make much of a difference.
      :) April 9, 2014 at 9:29pm Reply

  • May Ling: Lovely post, thank you. In The Hague (or actually Scheveningen) we have a lovely Rosarium. I read that un zeste de rose by Rosine was inspired by this Rosarium, where you can smell the salty air of sea nearby. April 9, 2014 at 2:49pm Reply

    • May Ling: I meant to write: Ecume de rose, not Un zeste de rose. April 9, 2014 at 2:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! This is now on my list to visit, especially since The Hague is an easy trip for us. I love Ecume de Rose! April 9, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: Yes, it’s like a fairy tale indeed – an enchanted forest. What a peaceful, atmospheric place! This blue carpet is absolutely amazing. Our forest is full of white anemones now but they don’t look as spectacular as bluebells.
    I lived close to the mountains as a child and I’ll never forget the endless fields of purple crocusses we admired every spring. April 9, 2014 at 3:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: The anemones have a delicate scent, and it’s very lovely. Of course, to smell it, you really have to get down on the ground. But I risked a few muddy streaks on my knees anyway. :)

      The fields of crocuses sound like a dream! April 9, 2014 at 3:29pm Reply

  • George: Near to where I grew up there are lot of Bluebell woods on the North Downs and we used to go for a lovely long walk around them, to the plague villages of Dode and Paddlesworth, and also to this beautiful natural amphitheatre known by the locals as the happy valley, where you could see out to the Medway estuary. It’s one of my favourite places. I remember seeing lots of orchids as well, but they were very intermittent. April 9, 2014 at 4:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: This sounds really beautiful. Many small English villages have so much character to them. April 9, 2014 at 5:53pm Reply

  • Mary K: The bluebell forest is amazing! Thank you for posting the article and including the wonderful pictures. April 9, 2014 at 5:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: We always enjoy visiting there. I wanted to write about it last year, but by the time I came around, it was too late for the blossoms to take photos. April 9, 2014 at 5:54pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Stunning post and pic’s and so many shimmering recommendations for basking on a flowery mead! Check out the Unicorn tapestry at the Cloisters in Manhattan http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/467642.
    My recent sort of forest bath actually came in a courtyard in Savannah Georgia inside the Massie Heritage Center. A gigantic wisteria climbing up the three story iron fire escape created a pungent cloak around us that we almost couldn’t leave. It had no leaves just flowers. April 9, 2014 at 5:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I love this unicorn tapestry! The Netherlands and Belgium were famous for their tapestries in the Middle Ages (and there are still factories and artisanal shops operating), and there are so many beautiful examples. But this unicorn tapestry as well as the The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at Cluny Museum in Paris are my favorites. Thank you for reminding me about it.

      A wisteria bath sounds positively ambrosial. April 9, 2014 at 6:00pm Reply

  • kate: what a beautiful place! it isn’t a nature park or preserve, but i live near the rose garden in oakland, CA, and it is nice to go there on a warm day and inhale the scent of the roses.

    it has steps and circular walkways and a fountain with the bottom painted blue like a swimming pool.

    http://www.gardenvisit.com/assets/madge/morcom_rose_garden/384x/morcom_rose_garden_384x.jpg April 9, 2014 at 7:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: It looks so beautiful, like a Persian style garden you find in India or Granada! April 10, 2014 at 9:50am Reply

  • carole macleod: Over the years you have posted many beautiful images, but I think this is now my favourite. It’s mesmerizing-unreal!
    There are some old growth forest in New Brunswick, and it’s a treat to be under their canopy of leaves. It seems as if there is more oxygen there than anywhere-plus there are wild violets. Even one tiny violet is noticable, amongst moss and green trees. I think it’s one of the reasons Dans Tes Bras means so much to me-it’s like that image, in a scent.
    Thank you for these images. April 9, 2014 at 7:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Carole! The contrast between the blue and green is mesmerizing, especially when the sun is shining. And yes, it’s amazing how much you notice even the tiniest flowers like violets on the bed of emerald green. The variety in this forest doesn’t have any scent, but the leaves have a beautiful cucumber like aroma. April 10, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

  • OperaFan: I do remember the first time visiting the SF / Oakland Bay Area and experiencing the smell of eucalyptus trees everywhere. But an even more beloved place of smells for me is Yosemite, with its variety of pines, sequoias, cedars, and hemlocks, not to mention waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and sun baked granites. Every different area and elevation is its own ecosystem and has its own smells. It’s the one place where I refuse to wear perfume in order to maximize the olfactory experience.

    What a great topic – thanks for sharing the lovely photos! April 9, 2014 at 9:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: I visited Yosemite once with my dad. Since moving to California, he wanted to travel nowhere else. “Why would you go anywhere? There is absolutely everything you’d want here!” he would say. And Yosemite was one of his favorite places. I was there years ago, but I still remember the scent. April 10, 2014 at 9:55am Reply

  • Kandice: Forest bathing – what an incredibly lovely thought and what a beautiful way to describe a stroll through a forest. A forest of bluebells sounds just magical. You’re so lucky you live close enough to visit it. Thanks for sharing it through your pictures! April 9, 2014 at 10:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: When I first heard about forest bathing, I thought that it was a terrific way to describe the forest walk.
      It takes us 30 minutes to drive there, so with some planning, we can (and should) go more often than we do. On the other hand, there is a park not too far from where I live, so I get my fix of green and trees that way. :) April 10, 2014 at 9:56am Reply

  • MaureenC: We are vey lucky in Devon to have several famous ‘bluebell woods’ as they are called here. This is a fantastic time for walks as we also have lots of wild daffodils and anemones, the beautiful long spring in the south west is has created particularly wonderful blloming as all the bulbs benefitted from the warm summer last year. April 10, 2014 at 2:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucky you, Maureen! Wild daffodils have such a rich aroma, different enough from the garden variety. April 10, 2014 at 9:57am Reply

  • Patricia: What beautiful photos!

    I’m looking forward to Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. The smell is just overwhelming with more than 370 lilac plants of 176 different varieties. April 10, 2014 at 8:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I can just imagine how beautiful it must be! And how fragrant. April 10, 2014 at 11:56am Reply

  • Andy: What a magnificent place to visit! Whenever I can, I like to take walks in natural places, hard as it can be to find them in the middle of suburbia. Nevertheless, I find, just as you’ve said, that it’s the best to visit these places without any fragrance. There are always so many magnificent smells to experience, and the scented story changes as the seasons do. This article in particular makes me long for the smell of a particular bramble patch I walk through, which smells best on a hot, humid morning: honeysuckle, aromatic young sassafras shoots, an underlying decay of peat. April 10, 2014 at 9:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Andy, this is another scented vignette to add to my collection, in addition to what others have mentioned. I’m also thinking that it would make a great perfume. April 10, 2014 at 12:02pm Reply

  • Erica: When I was planning my wedding I booked it for when the bluebells would be in bloom. I got married in a lovely country park near Nottingham and the photos in the bluebell wood were stunning. April 10, 2014 at 4:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Erica, how gorgeous that must have been! April 11, 2014 at 8:06am Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely pictures of beautiful flowers. I won’t have time to visit this year, but will bear it in mind for another year. As I live more or less on the edge of a town, the countryside is only a short bicycle ride away. As it has been very dry the woods themselves don’t have much of a smell at the moment, they are much more fragrant when wet.
    In my own little garden I planted a lot of different daffodils last autumn, and fortunately they have all made an appearance. Everything is early of course this year, and flowers don’t last very long. But a few of my daffies smell. Peppery, slightly animalic, and reminding me of Le Temps d’une Fête. April 13, 2014 at 1:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Whenever I think of a perfume that embodies spring, Le Temps d’une Fête is one of my first choices. I’m now imagining your garden all awash with daffodils!

      Hallerbos is worth a visit, because it’s really quite spectacular. In some parts of the forest, you see nothing but blue in all directions, and it feels dream-like, like it simply can’t be real. If I had time, I would have gone there even more often this season.
      Thank you! April 14, 2014 at 8:05am Reply

  • Gentiana: Wonderful enchanted forest!
    Hyacinhts are extraordinary – their smell in natuer is one of the most beautiful. April 14, 2014 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: It felt like an enchanted forest, totally otherworldly. April 14, 2014 at 9:19am Reply

  • Georgianna: Beautiful post, Victoria! We spent the morning at Hallerbos today and, although the bluebells are just starting to fade, they are still filling the forest with color and scent. It was truly a glorious experience. April 26, 2014 at 12:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Georgianna. I’ve never seen anything like it, and like you, I couldn’t believe what an incredible experience it was. April 26, 2014 at 2:39pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Wow, the photos are spectacular! Thanks for the pictures and the info, V. Forest bathing is also a common practice in Korea. The health benefits are known to come from Phytoncide, which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds emitted by plants and trees. Now there are commercial products with phytoncide that you can spray in your room. My dad actually brought one for me recently. I’ve been spraying it on my bed before going to sleep and it’s wonderfully relaxing. Nonetheless, nothing is like the real forest bathing.

    Many of the trees in Korea are coniferous so I immediately link the smell of pine, fir and cypress trees with forest bathing. As much as the wonderful smell, walking in a serene forest of tall, green trees and hearing the birds sing is almost a spiritual experience for me. Even here, I try to go for a walk everyday in the early morning in the nearby forest and during the weekend, I go hiking in the Alps. April 28, 2014 at 8:36am Reply

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