Heaven Scent

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Fragrance is a vital feature of any garden, don’t you think?

I’ve often bemoaned the sacrifice of scent in new varieties of roses for blowsy showiness. Bred for shape or colour characteristics over old qualities, like how divine they smell, is a disappointing trade-off sensory wise.

In these first heady days of Spring, one of the delights my tiny garden offers is my Jasmine vine. There are around 200 species of the Jasminum genus of shrubs and vines (family of Oleaceae) native to tropical and warm temperate regions of Eurasia, Australasia and Oceania.

The one I’m growing on a small bamboo trellis is Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides), a favourite for its glossy green leaves and wonderful fragrance. The tiny buds have been preceeded by bright green new leaf growth. In the next couple of weeks, the leaves will disappear behind a flush of star-like flowers with the most heavenly scent!

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Sometimes I think sight takes precedence in sensory hierarchy – for various reasons, including economic ones. Think fruit and vegetables developed and grown for appearance over taste; and the roses I mentioned before.

Is smell being relegated to the sensory back seat then?

One of the first senses to develop in a new born baby, the olfactory system forms a kind of ‘super-highway’ to memories or emotions. Our brains are hardwired to translate the different smells that we experience daily, into feelings, thoughts and actions. For this reason, it probably isn’t surprising that of all the senses, smell is the most directly connected with memory (ref).

The heavenly smell of Jasmine evokes happy memories of my childhood garden, along with others, like the smell of freshly cut grass. If I close my eyes, I can picture my dad pushing the old hand mower and almost hear the rise and fall whirr of its blades. I can hear the bees buzzing around the Jasmine draped on our veranda. If well-being had a smell, cut grass and Jasmine would be part of it.

To address the question of smell being relegated to the sensory backseat; well, it seems the marketers are onto it and have been for years. One fragrance creator asks what the future of fragrance looks like: ‘Will exam rooms be filled with focus-sharpening scents? Could we quash arguments with aromatics? Perhaps the answer to some of our pressing problems is right under our nose.’(ref).

I say, perhaps we need more fragrant gardens.

“Scents bring memories, and many memories bring nostalgic pleasure.  We would be wise to plan for this when we plant a garden.”
–  Thalassa Cruso, To Everything There is a Season, 1973 

 

 

20 responses to “Heaven Scent

  1. My grandmother had a wonderful garden, and the scent of old-fashioned wallflowers always takes me back there. Another evocative scent is a mixture of creek, damp earth, and leaf mould, from favourite play areas where we were young.

    At the moment the daphne bush by my front door is flowering heroically, but alas – we’ve had so much rain the front door is sticking badly and I’ve been going in and out through the back one, which means I’m not being greeted by wafts of scent.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh Denise, now you are taking me on a ride down memory lane. Yes, our play areas were the same. No wood shavings and planned playgrounds for us. As for the daphne, it evokes memories of my Nan. We are very dry here at present – could do with some of your rain. You’ll just have to cut some flowers and bring them inside.

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  2. scents are the main difficulty in my life. I have spasmodic dysphonia and my vocal cords spasm and I become mute – well apart from a soft whisper – when I smell certain perfumes , aftershaves, cigarette smoke etc, it isnt just confined to artificial scents though. The first smell to induce the condition was lavender which I love and is so useful a medicinal plant. Whenever we go anywhere, I take a mask so that I can keep speaking – nit always successful though. Otherwise I am fit, Strange how bodies react. I love to see very colourful gardens though and roses don’t seem to trouble me.

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  3. I’m in total agreement. I seek out fragrant plants, bees seem to like them too, but it’s best not to have too many!! I grow sweet peas as they hold fond memories for me of my childhood.

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  4. I do love Christmas lilies, so flamboyant! But they bring instant recall of Christmas services and the thud of sensitive people fainting from the overwhelming scent. In choir, we’re always reminded not to wear perfume or aftershave when performing. Even short of the extreme reaction of spasmodic dysphonia, that can spoil the experience (and the singing) for many people, I understand.

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  5. Christmas lilies are a favourite Rachel. I didn’t know they caused such an extreme reaction – especially for the choir. And all those swooning people! Too much of a good thing is never a good thing! My mother couldn’t bear white Arum lilies because they reminded her of funerals.

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  6. Oh, you’re quite right on certain scents bringing back memories. A certain type of English Lavender always reminds me of the seaside. I’ve never been quite sure why but think it may be either because my mother used to wear Lavender hair oil and possibly used more of it when we were on holiday or, perhaps there was lavender growing outside the hotel where we usually stayed. Either way, we have a lot of it in our garden and I adore it. Like you, I also love Jasmine but for me it always reminds me of the late 60s as I used to wear Jasmine oil as a perfume and I drank Jasmine tea.
    Here in the UK scented flowers are celebrated and a lot of people go out of their way to grow them, from roses to honeysuckle. There is one plant in our garden that has a fairly short flowering season, but has a heavenly scent, and that is a Magnolia (called, I believe, Magnolia Susan, though I couldn’t tell you the latin name for it) and as soon as it comes into flower, I’m out into the garden like a shot to sniff it… to me, it’s like a dream, just wonderful!

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    • Val, it seems like me you’re transported to another time and place by flower fragrances. I don’t know that particular magnolia but the perfume of the solangeana always reminds me of a special time and place. Thanks for the memories!

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