On still days the garden, until recently, was near overwhelmed by the beautifully clean white floral aroma of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’. Defoliated in our unusually cold winter, its flowers arrived later than usual, but with their always unsettling purity and sweetness.
This scent has now been replaced by the headier and brasher hyacinth overload – those ugly bottlebrush flowers pump it out. With hyacinths, you have to tolerate their ungainliness by either opting for the pure white, or go full on with total saturation of colour, such as the beetroot purple ‘Woodstock’ that I grow.
Though I love the scents of winter – the honeysuckle, Christmas box, lily of the valley wonder of Mahonia – it’s spring that really brings the outdoors perfumed world alive for me. Last May, in Scotland, Matt and I were constantly laughing at the surprising juxtaposition of wild garlic and bluebells in the woods where we were staying. A contrast between savoury acridity and pure spring light. Quite wondrous.
And still to come: the rich warmth of wallflowers and sweet williams, the most scented of tulips (yes, some are quite scented) ‘Ballerina’, pheasant’s eye narcissus, the roses, the lilies, Hemerocallis lilioapshodelus and ‘Marion Vaughan’, sweet rocket, the cistus on warm days, its resinous dirty intensity stopping me in my tracks, honeysuckles, the cherry pie of heliotropes, the Sambac jasmine making the greenhouse almost too petroleum floral for delicate sensibilities, phloxes, nicotiana, night-scented stocks, the honey sweetness of the alliums, the palate cleanser of the lemon verbena, the salvias ranging from tom cat spray (nice!) to blackcurrant. And more, more, more. There’s never quite enough.
There’s plenty I’d grow in addition had I the right soil or conditions. Top of the list would be Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’, the Katsura tree for its comedy effect candy floss and apple wonder in Autumn, wisteria (I could grow this over the front of the house – and it is about time I reworked the front garden…), green coconut scented gorse, clove tinged carnations, custard-fuelled Azara microphylla. I’d also opt for the ladies of the night, had I but heat enough – the gardenias, tuberoses (never seem to last from one year to the next – viruses I think), plumerias and stephanotis. All together, they could overwhelm a sentient being, and I think that’s exactly what I’d like.
Tell me the scents you have in your garden, or on your balcony, or in your living space. And what you’d supplement this with, if only time and conditions allowed.