10 April 2015

Wake up and smell the flowers!

Scientists who know about these things say that our memory for taste and smell is far more acute than for words, faces or places we've been. Marcel Proust, in his ‘Remembrance of Things Past’, wrote that a bite of a madeleine vividly recalled childhood memories of his aunt giving him the very same cake before going to mass on a Sunday.  The phenomenon which is known as 'olfactory evoked recall' is most often associated with scents experienced in childhood and I came across one such scent earlier in the week.

Flowering currant

I was working at one of the National Trust's currently vacant cottages near Coniston, cutting back some climbers which were threatening to engulf the cottage. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and butterflies and bees were busily feeding up after the long winter. The object of their attention was a large flowering currant bush (Ribes sanguineum) and as I walked past, the scent of the flowers transported me back nearly fifty years to the playground of my primary school, where a large flowering currant grew in a tiny border surrounded by tarmac. I didn't know what it was called back then, in fact I was still grappling with the mysteries of the alphabet ('A is for apple so rosy and red, B is for baker who bakes buns and bread, C is for.....well you get the idea) but I vividly remember the scent of the flowers, obviously associated with blissful childhood memories of playtime at my first school (or maybe not, I never really liked school)! 

There are a few scented plants in Hill Top garden at the moment, the most striking of which is a small clump of 'Delft Blue' hyacinths which I planted last Autumn. They smell great but you'll have to get on your hands and knees to really get a good whiff.

Hyacinth 'Delft Blue'

I also planted some scented daffodil bulbs last year (varieties Scilly White, Pencrebal and Geranium if I remember rightly) and these will be coming into bloom in the next week or two. Then it will be the turn of Rhododendron luteum the wonderfully scented yellow azalea, followed by lilacs, old-fashioned sweet peas, roses...there is always something to smell at Hill Top, even if it's only the tantalising aroma of a full English breakfast wafting over from the Tower Bank Arms next door!

I've been busy away from Hill Top this week; as well as the climber pruning in Coniston, I've been working at another NT cottage not far from Hill Top which has been vacant for a few months while it received some much needed building work. The garden was rather neglected and I was tasked with creating a lawn area in front of the house. It seems a simple enough request but the ground was a mass of raspberry canes, nettles and docks and would have been a nightmare to dig over by hand so I hired a rotavator to make things easier. 


Or so I thought! The ground was so rooty and compacted and laced with stones that all the rotavator wanted to do was skip over the surface and it took a considerable effort to get it to dig in and churn up the soil. By the time I had finished I felt like I had spent four hours wrestling with an enraged grizzly bear!

After - phew!

Anyway, it is as near to a fine tilth as it's going to get and the next step is to rake it over, tread it down, level it off and lay the turf. If it looks good when it's finished I'll post a pic up next time.
That's enough for now, the sun is shining and I should be in the garden, I'll leave you with my musical link which could have been 'I Just Came to Smell the Flowers' by Porter Waggoner (unbearably cheesy) or 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana (great song but not really relevant) so in the end it had to be this .

See you next time.

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener.