Think About It: Stop and Smell the Roses

Dr. Don Meyer, PhD, is the President of Valley Forge Christian College
Dr. Don Meyer, PhD, is the President of Valley Forge Christian College

“To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.”

Beverley Nichols

There is no better time than during the summer to tell someone to “stop and smell the roses.” If you were here in my flower garden, however, there are not many roses to smell. I have tried growing roses, and I am not sure if it is the quality of the soil or the reduced sunlight from the big trees, but my efforts to grow them have been reduced to two small bushes with very few roses to smell.

But if it is fragrance that one desires, there are many other flowers to smell in my flower garden. The early green leaves of my lilac bush tell me that the pale blue/lavender blossoms are just around the corner. Each time I smell a lilac, I am transported back 50 years to the old bush in our back yard where I would cut a bouquet for my mother.

And since it is Evie’s favorite fragrant flower, I love cutting a few of them and discovering again how an entire room can be filled with that early spring smell. Although they do not smell, I always like to put in a few tulips for additional color.


I have always said that white flowers are a waste of a gardener’s time. There are two exceptions… the lily of the valley and the peony. Just about the time when the lilacs are fading, the little white lilies of the valley are opening up their tiny bell-shaped blossoms on a nice long stem. A handful of them releases an unrivaled smell that no candle or soap can match.

The other white flower that I love is the peony. I actually have two white bushes and two fuchsia bushes. Although I love the color of the fuchsia peonies, it is the smell of the white ones which transports me back to my childhood where, on the farm, we had a long row of them right next to our vegetable garden. They would bloom right around the time school was out and when I smell them today I am reminded of those carefree days of summer.

I could mention many other fragrances which I like to smell when I walk around my flower garden. I wish you could see the way the monarda or bee balm is growing this year. Just outside our front door are these tall stemmed flowers with pungent leaves which have been used for everything from antiseptics to mouthwash, and from treatment for headaches to seasoning for wild game by Native Americans.

Nearby is my herb garden with oregano, lavender and many different kinds of mint tea. I can hardly walk by without breaking off some fresh leaves, and after a quick smell, I pop them in my mouth for a fresh taste.

I even like the smell of some of the old-fashioned flowers like the marigolds and petunias. Most people would not prefer their fragrances, but I do.

But to tell someone to “stop and smell the roses” (or whatever flower one should smell) is not merely a matter of enhancing our smell. It really is a ways of saying, “Slow down your life and appreciate the small things that can give you a simple pleasure as smelling a rose.”

And, in the hustle and bustle of life with the demands coming at us like a never ending tsunami, that kind of enjoyment is always welcomed. If we don’t take time to enjoy life, our tasks can chew us up and spit us out with nothing of value left.

Perhaps the only thing better than for us to “stop and smell the ‘roses’” would be if we were to give some of those flowers to someone else. For as the Chinese proverb says, “Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them.”

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA

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