After the recent wet and grey days I have been thinking about summer. It isn’t difficult since the wet days drive me into the greenhouse where I am concentrating on all the young plants that will be bringing the garden to life in summer. So I thought I would put together five of my favourite scents of summer. If asked tomorrow I would pick another five, I am sure, and there are lots of vegetable smells, and new mown grass that could be included here too.
But I would hate to be without carnations and pink of various kinds. In case you wonder what the difference is, apart from a sort of instinct that carnations are bigger, it is because pinks should have notched petal edges, as though cut with pinking (pynking) shears. The more clove there is in the scent the more I love them.
A bit more controversy here because I adore the smell of lilac. I know a lot of people think it is old fashioned (that is no problem since scents and memory go hand in hand for me) and I know lilacs (syringa) are pretty dull after flowering. But the big heads of fragrant flowers in shades of white, purple and – er – lilac are a treat of early summer.
And the best smell of summer? Well perhaps I would say it is heliotrope. A century ago the best were grown as perennials and from cuttings and, if you can find named varieties they are worth the effort. But most plants are grown from seed these days and while they may not have the finesse of the antiques they still smell amazing. Their common name of cherry pie is very appropriate. They like a warm, sunny spot and are usually at their best pampered in a patio pot.
Essential in any garden, philadelphus (mock orange) has the most sublime scent and it is easy to grow and please. But pick one that is the right size for your garden since you cannot easily keep them small and flowering well. This is ‘Belle Etoile’ but for small gardens I would choose P. microphyllus, which smells of pineapple or ‘Manteau d’Hermine’ which is semi double.
I have not put a rose in my top five and that is a serious omission but that is simply because I had to include sweet peas. I feel a physical lift in spirits when I bury my nose in a bunch and inhale deeply – pure heaven!
What are your favourite scents of summer?