BURYING your nose in a bunch of lavender or running your hands along a hedge in full flower is one of life’s pleasures. Whether it’s an old-fashioned rose, a small bunch of freshly picked violets or a pungent herb, the heady smell is a reminder of the joy that nature – and gardening – bring to our lives.
Lilac trees hold a special place in my heart. My mother grew them in Nottingham and she picked the flowers in spring to bring inside so we could enjoy the delicate blooms and revel in their beautiful perfume. Likewise with sweet peas, which she grew in abundance every year.
An Australian friend got quite teary in the 1960s when he came across some gum trees while in the Canary Islands, which shows how evocative a fragrance can be.
No garden is complete without something exuding an aroma, be it a tree, vine, shrub, ground cover or herb – unless, of course, you’re highly allergic. So let’s start from the ground up.
Obvious flowers that have a delicate smell are violets, but they can be a curse when they multiply, unless you go for native violets (Viola hederacea), which aren’t quite so prolific. Dianthus or pinks (smaller relatives of carnations) have a very sweet smell. Lily of the valley has a lovely perfume and flowers on Caulfield Cup Day, but I find them tricky to grow. Then there are the many heavily scented spring-flowering bulbs such as freesias and jonquils.