The poskim write that the minhag for Ashkenazim is to always make the bracha borei minei besamim at havdalah, regardless of the type of smell used. Although one is generally obligated to recite the most specific bracha possible (similar to shehakol versus other brachos regarding foods), since havdalah is done by all, including those who may not know the intricate details of these halachos, they may recite the wrong bracha and not be yotzei. Therefore, the poskim write that it was better to enact that everyone recite borei minei besamim, which works for all types of smells, in order to avoid the issue.
Rav Karp adds another point. Even for someone who is knowledgeable, there are many arguments between the poskim regarding the criteria for borei atzei besamim and borei isvei besamim. Thus, even for a knowledgeable person it is better to use the bracha of borei minei besamim to avoid any issues.
One can recite the relevant bracha on a smell even if the item producing the smell is still connected to the tree or to the ground. However, we have learned that it is lechatchilla in halacha to hold an item while making the bracha. Additionally, we learned that the item needs to function primarily for smell. The argument can be made that a tree does not function primarily for smell, and therefore a bracha cannot be made on it. However, the Chazon Ish writes that by walking over to a tree and smelling it, one is designating the item for smell for that moment, and they do make a bracha.
The argument of the Chazon Ish works for a tree or other foliage which is not planted for a specific purpose. Since it does not have a specific function either way, one may designate it for smell even without picking it up. However, a garden planted for beauty or crops grown for food are planted with the clear intent that the item is not for smell. In order to make a bracha, one must take it in their hands, in order to redesignate it for smell, as we have learned previously (shiur 1174).
- The minhag for Ashkenazim is to always make the bracha of borei minei besamim on the item used for besamim in havdalah, regardless of its actual bracha.
- One may recite a bracha for smell on an item while it is still attached to the ground, as long as the item was not planted with a specific purpose. If the item was planted for a specific purpose other than smell, one must detach and pick it up in order to redesignate it for smell before making the bracha.