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The 7 Scents of Heaven

July 18, 2020

… In my humble opinion of course! We are in the height of Summer now, and I was recently reflecting on how the changing seasons bring with them the memories of years gone by. One thing I often find myself saying is that (of the five senses) fragrance, for me, is the one that connects strongest to emotion. I must spend hours, throughout the year, with my nose and heart pressed against the flowers; letting my soul wander. How easy it is, to get lost in those moments of nostalgia and beauty. When you forget your surroundings, just for a minute, and become so enthralled in that intimate space. That being said, it always surprises me how quickly those fragrances are forgotten as the seasons move on. Well not forgotten, per say, but the scents are so illusive and ethereal that they are incomparable once the blooms fade. I guess in some ways, it makes them all the more magical when the year comes round again and you reconnect with that sacrosanct once more!

Scented blooms, of course, are not necessarily for our benefit; but, instead, to attract pollinators. The insects most sensitive to smell are moths, as they use this element to navigate at night – when they are active. Similarly, you will find many moth-pollinated plants to be white or bright coloured, so that they stand out in the moonlight. In contrast, tepals are the key visual cue for pollinators active in the day time. Plants are fascinating in their evolution. The varying shape & size of flowers, is all part of attracting and accommodating the respective pollinator. So recently, I’ve been thinking that in my next life, I’d like to come back as a moth; spending my warm summer nights fluttering around in the moonlight, taking in the sweet smell of honeysuckle and foraging for my next meal from the beautiful Earth. Divine.

Alas, I digress. So without further or do (and in no particular order), the 7 smells of heaven ..

Hyacinth

One of the early ‘strong smells’ of the year, hyacinths absolutely fill the air with the feeling of spring. I adore the scent of garden hyacinths, as well as their more dainty relatives – the bluebells. In fact, I recently learned that the UK is home to around half of the worlds bluebells! The springtime transformation of our deciduous woodlands in the northern hemisphere, is a thing of marvel. Truly, a natural phenomenon in its’ own right and that gentle, dainty smell of the hyacinths are a complete testimony to that.

Phlomis

Such a subtle one, it actually took me a little while to figure out where the smell was coming from – because I didn’t realise that Phlomis had a particularly noticeable smell. But, my goodness – it does! And I am absolutely taken by it. The thing I love about gardening with the seasons is that each year, your brain allows you some wiggle room to take on new plant idents; and for me, this year has been all about Phlomis. I’d even go as far to say that it has become my favourite plant for its’ year round structure as well as fragrance. No wonder the bees go crazy for it!

Lime Tree

Summer, majestic, happiness, safe, fun. Words I would use to try and describe the smell I get from Linden. Tilia blooms are short, but sweet. I find that a lot of these fragrances are similar to each other, in that – their illusiveness and transporting nature leaves me with an inability to pin down their scent. I like to think of myself as a romantic person, I tend to romanticise life – past, present and future – and the smells are a manifestation of this romanticism I think. They’re beyond words, it is more of a feeling.

Rosa Seagull

Again, the only way I can describe this smell is like childhood holidays and happy memories (x100). It makes me well up almost instantly and I just don’t know why. We used to have a Rosa Seagull climbing up the rose arch at Brodsworth. And when it was break time, I would purposely take the long route back to the yard, so that I could walk down through the rose garden and stand taking in the air until the kettle had boiled. Some beautiful and precious memories there.

Lonicera

At work, this week, I’ve been cutting some Buxus hedges that are positioned right next to a huge climbing Lonicera. With the mix of rain and warm sun, humidity has filled the space; bringing with it the smell from the blooms and transporting me into an absolute daydream. Honey suckle is one of my favourite plants of all time! Every time I pass one by, I’ll make whoever I’m with smell it. Like genuinely, push their nose right in – hay fever or not! Plus it is edible too. Although, like most foraged foods, it doesn’t hold its fragrance very well. I have the same theory about fish and chips – they never taste like they smell. But who knows, maybe it’s just me?!

Philadelphus

This reminds me of happy memories in Hidcote gardens. It’s quite a playful fragrance and certainly very unique. I hear people band the ‘tutti frutti’ comparison around a lot – and it is very apt! Another one that I genuinely cannot pass by without stopping to smell. Even if it means jumping up and down until my nose reaches it, peeking through the hedgerow.

Daphne

Just wow. So strong, so full, so beautiful. Earlier this year, I was talking to my grandma about Daphnes and she reckoned that she had never seen one before (ever!). I thought to myself that she must be wrong, so I showed her pictures and “nope, never seen it”. The only option then, was to hop in the car and drive her to a garden where I knew they had Daphnes – because of course she had to experience this! We pulled up at Whinfell Quarry and as soon as she put her nose to the flower, she remembered it in a way that she just could not articulate. And that, is exactly how I would describe a Daphne. Nostalgia, memories and extremely emotional.

The similar looking Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Speaking of nostalgia, I’m actually going to add a cheeky 8th one … Viburnum bodnantense β€˜Dawn’. Whilst I was writing this post, I came across a beautiful garden blog by ‘The Gardeners Eden’. And, on the topic of this particular plant, she writes:

“The scent is feminine and familiar, yet hauntingly, almost maddeningly elusive. It smells like a memory; something from childhood; something you know and long for, but can barely remember; something you can almost visualise, but can’t quite pull into focus; something you ache and reach for, but can’t quite touch…”

Ahh, how that both fills and breaks my heart at the same time. Wonderfully written.

And that, is my take on the 7 (or 8) best fragrances in the natural world. The more we learn about plants, the wider our ‘plant vocabulary’ grows – so to speak – and I look forward to learning and extending these beyond my present knowledge. Even so, I know that these scents will never be displaced, because they are beyond any tangible measure that I could ever try to express. I am certain, that they come from heaven and go straight to my heart. Blessed. x

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