In the garden

It’s been a month since I moved back into the house-house and I finally managed to start work on the garden this past Saturday. Mostly filled the green bin and took a load of stuff to the recycling centre. Interestingly, since the first lockdown last spring the garden refuse bay at the centre has grown exponentially in size to be the biggest one.

I’ve whined a lot about our autumn weather here – that it is mostly wet and grey and dreary. We don’t do proper winter most years (we had two snowstorms a few years ago and everything, and I do mean everything, stopped for around four days – it was beautiful and eerie). Around 10 years ago we visited my father in New York in December, leaving the UK right before a big storm was due on the East Coast. We got diverted to Minnesota, spent all day in the airport, finally arriving at Kennedy and getting into a taxi at around 3 AM. The taxi driver (who got a huge tip) navigated us safely through heavy snow to Park Slope. The next day my son got to go sledding for the first time. He still talks about it.

Autumn here has its specific smells (damp, silage when muck is being spread on fields) – and the garden, which has received no attention at all for eight months, seems to be rebelling. My idea of good garden smell is turned dirt, flowers and herbs.

Right now, mine smells of rotten apples from the little tree; standing water and rotting leaves; and rotting wood (I pulled out a wooden post to discover the base had rotted away – going to have to be careful with dog around that till I dig out the wood bits). So, a lot of rot. It doesn’t smell great out there, and it’s going to take another month to get everything cut back, removed and moved around – at which point I’ll be able to look at the garden and start thinking about what to do. Gardeners’ World ended two Fridays ago and won’t be back till the spring. So, I’m down to my gardening books now.

I like my garden best spring through summer and into early autumn, before the deluge. I’ve got enough stuff that sings during that period to make the place really lovely. And part of my plan for changes is to add to that fragrant array. My lily of the valley arrived. It will go in a pot this time as I’ve learned my lesson from the past – LOTV doesn’t like the clay dirt in my garden. The tuberose from last summer will also move from one pot to another. I’m hoping with enough grit in the compost and good drainage both will perform next spring and summer.

I’ve never come up with a perfume that smells the way my garden does at its best – or a candle for that matter. I have a great l’Artisan candle which is meant to be the fresh green sappiness of springtime and it smells very good, but it doesn’t smell like my garden during April to May.

I have had jasmine perfumes – they aren’t quite as both strong and fresh as the jasmine bush that blooms in high summer (and still has flowers on it now). And on and on with roses, etc. I guess that’s why I favour perfumes that don’t promise ‘natural’ but instead tell some sort of abstracted story, and also why I mostly steer clear of what are supposed to be single note wonders.

But today what I’m smelling most are Sara’s pastries (from Sara’s Petite Cuisine bakery in Topsham — couldn’t get pics from her site as they work as a moving gallery). We needed a few out-of-the-ordinary celebratory things this weekend, so the house smells of warm blueberry and buttermilk cake; cinnamon and cardamom buns; almond croissants; and pain au chocolate. Reminds me of the magic you read about in the Joanne Harris book Chocolat and Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

Have a good week.

  • Ariel says:

    Cinnamon, I just want to thank you for reminding me that food-centered literature is a thing. That is some beautiful, low-stress reading.

  • Dina C. says:

    Back in September my daughter and I cleared out our garden for the fall, and now it’s collecting fallen leaves from trees further afield. It’s a tiny rowhouse backyard with no trees of its own. I like the sound of your plans. Love the smells of real jasmine and tuberose. My daughter and I visited an arboretum last Friday which was gorgeous (Lewis Ginter in Richmond, Virginia), and their plantings are lovely. The orchids inside their conservatory are just exquisite — and the scent was glorious.

    • Cinnamon says:

      We have big country house gardens here. Also, in the past regular people around here have opened their gardens to visitors — an open gardens scheme which usually takes place in summer into early autumn. I miss that. You can get all kinds of ideas about things to do from those visits.

  • March says:

    What a lovely post. I’ve stepped away from gardening for the past few years but I hope to return at some point, and I always love reading about it.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Given we’re yet again in lockdown the garden stops my head from spinning. Being able to plan something–ie, having a focus beyond work–makes me feel calmer.

  • Musette says:

    I enjoy the planning of the gardens almost as much as the flowering! We’re having some insane weather – 70s(F) so I’m able to finish cleanup in relative comfort – a few short days ago it was in the 30s!
    I’m not a huge candle-lover but! one of the few ‘realistic’ candles (for me) is Malle’s 1er Mai. There was a silk floral arrangement next to that candle and I actually thought it was a vase of live flowers!

  • Portia says:

    The ever present excitement at the possibilities of a garden are something I miss for the house. Also the happy surprise when things come up, bloom or grow perfectly. We had a kooky gardener for years who would put these odd visual surprises into the garden like a 20 meter camellia and azalea hedge with the top done in waves or putting two large and very wide, dark conifers in the front garden bed that always looked slightly ferocious and seemed to give the garden life. We also planted multitudes of bluebells in the front and every year they would make a fabulous display.
    Good luck with yours, Autumn is a great time to get the organisational bits of the year done. Wish I could come help you.
    Portia xx

    • Cinnamon says:

      Part of the pleasure, I think, is having a project. What a lovely thing for the gardener to do. Surprises in a garden are great. Alas, bluebells, which are ubiquitous here, aren’t happy in my garden for some reason.

  • KimB says:

    You have your work cut out for you but it sounds exciting!
    To get a garden scent indoors I burn a few Diptyque candles at the same time. Usually Jasmine and Lily. They are so realistic it’s amazing!

    • Cinnamon says:

      Over 20 years ago I splashed out on three Diptyque candles from the main Paris store. I vaguely recall getting jasmine, fig and saffron (I don’t know if they do saffron any longer). The jasmine is glorious.

  • Tara C says:

    Mmm, almond croissants! Your baked goodies smell great. Looking forward to having my very own garden in the next year or two. Been living in a second floor flat with a tiny balcony where all I could have were a couple of small flower boxes.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I think almond are my favourite. I’m not partial to pain au chocolate, which my son likes. Good wishes on getting a garden, though a balcony allows you to do something nature-ish.