Tuesday, 07 August 2018 15:27

A scented garden - at last!

I had imagined this blog was going to be about the race to flower in May – a catalogue of the first of everything suddenly appearing and the amazing wonders that have been unfolding in the garden every day and sometimes hour by hour. But the most astounding, different and wonderful thing that happened in my garden in early Summer was been the scent.

As many of you know I seek flowers and scent all year round and, whilst individual plants have been scented beautifully, the whole garden or parts of the garden haven’t been – until this year.

Many things work against “scenting” this garden, particularly the lack of walls or solid fences to encapsulate it and the winds that fly through and eddy round it, surrounded as we are by the commons to the front and the open vistas at the back onto the dairy cow, oak tree and jackdaw-filled fields beyond.

And honestly, a terrible admission, last year I sort of gave up on having whole areas of the garden scented (like I had achieved in London) and resigned myself to smelling individual plants. A “scented garden” seemed beyond the possible in this particular, somewhat open and windy spot.

However, the extraordinary weather we have had in the early part of this year seems to have been loved by the plants. Yes, we had very low temperatures and snow and Spring was late but we didn’t have last year’s killer late frost at the end of April. Everything that sprung to life in May looked healthier and happier than it has ever done. Plants that failed last year suddenly showed me they love to be here. Plants I had forgotten I had or was about to remove came up and said “Hi, look at me, I’m great.”

This rose (above) for example, which I think is R. "Falstaff", has hardly flowered before but this year has been aboundant - and still is. It has repeat flowered non-stop.

Indeed all the roses, Clematis and honeysuckle were bug and black spot free and threw themselves into bud and flower in an abundance of un-called for exhuberance that was almost embarrassing. I have never seen them all look so happy.

But most excitingly (and somewhat amazingly) the whole garden smelled wonderful. I can’t tell you what a surprise this was and thus how exhilarating.

Strangely it started with the Cistus. The flowers don’t smell but the leaves do. They give off an aromatic scent and I have three around the terrace area, in light shade, including an increasingly enormous C. “Alan Fradd” (below). In May their leaves started to ooze scent into the garden.

Then the two white and one blue Wisteria on the rose arch parade came into flower properly for the first time and walking through and weeding around them suddenly became a heady experience.

(And the Wisteria at the front was fabulous too after its "bud execution" by frost last year.)

Then yellow Rosa Arthur Bell (the non climbing version that is supposed to be 20 x 30 cms but was up and over the 2.5 metre arches in the first year) came into massive scented flower followed swiftly by R. Gertrude Jeykll (below) and a whole host of others and now the whole rose arch tunnel is a scented experience. I always hoped it would be of course when I designed it and have been disappointed for the last three years. But this year it is more than fulfilling my wildest dreams. For the first time since I created this garden just standing or walking or working in it has become a glorious, scent-filled experience. And the two Lonicera came out a few weeks later just adding to the experience. Wow!

Is the scent down to the plants’ maturity? Is it that they are now old enough, tall enough and large enough to start covering the arches and create their own mini microclimates of scent? Is it that it is simply less windy? I don’t know. I just know I love it whilst it’s available to me.

Even now, as I write late at night with the doors open, wonderful wafts of scent tantalise me. It turns about to be both white Dianthus and Nicotiana which opens in the evening to be pollinated by moths.

Talking of insects, the lack of greenfly has meant a complete lack of ladybirds which is a shame but, on a positive note, I have witnessed my first huge dragonfly ‘casks’. There were four initially on the dinosaur grass in the pond and they were shortly followed by many more. It’s hard to tell if they are coming or gone because they are almost see-through and very papery looking. But they grip onto the stalks and seem to climb up from the watery base below so I assume they are alive and not “vacated” shells.

It turns out that most of them were broad bodied chasers (below) and a couple were red/brown dragonflies (possibly darters amd chasers) and at least two were the huge blue and green Emperor dragon flies. They exploded into life around the pond and I spent ages trying to identify each.


But possibly the most welcome new visitors to the garden this Summer have been a family of thrushes. They are quite shy (hence no photos) and I saw a couple a few times but the major evidence has been the enormous number of empty snail shells. Bless the thrush and its taste for garden snails! Between them and the toads they are doing a grand job and the early slug and snail devastation in the garden seems to have been arrested by them.