I am a bit late this month with my contribution to the Scent in the Garden Meme. I have been away with my lovely friends: the ‘Women who Weed’ to the ‘Gardens in the Wild Festival’ in Herefordshire. Here we saw some amazing gardens and listened to such illustrious speakers as Anna Pavord, Tim Richardson, James Hitchmough, Derry Watkins and Alys Fowler.
Everywhere I have been this June, on my journey from the East of the country to the West, I have been struck by how amazing the roses are this year.
Do you know the kitschy painting by the Victorian artist, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus‘? He was an artist renowned for his depictions of naked women and marble. He attempted to make nudity respectable by giving it a classical theme. This painting depicts one of the orgies of the debauched, psychotic young emperor, Elagabalus; the one where he thought it would be fun to sit and watch as his guests were smothered to a scented death under a deluge of rose petals. The scent of roses is so sensuous and delicious that it is not surprising that the uptight Victorians seemed to associate the rose with decadence. At the moment, on a walk round the garden one feels rather like those unfortunate guests, drowning in fragrance.
The most scented rose I have is the old Bourbon ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’. It is a luscious, deep red/pink colour and is well known for its wonderful fruity fragrance. Unfortunately, it is an untidy bush and suffers from black spot, but still I keep it for its scent.
David Austin said that one of the most fragrant of his roses is the lovely apricot ‘Evelyn’. It has huge flowers which unfortunately hang their heads under the weight as they mature. The scent is delicious though.
I love peachy or apricot roses. I have the wonderful climbing tea rose ‘Lady Hillingdon’. She hangs her heads, but they are a lovely deep apricot which look as if they have been dipped in tea. They are fantastically fragrant.
I also love the popular musk rose ‘Buff Beauty’ which makes a large bush and always has healthy foliage.
The David Austin rose ‘Grace’ is a gorgeous deep apricot colour and has an intoxicating warm fragrance.
Much deeper in colour is the David Austin ‘Summer Song’ which he describes as burnt orange. I love this rose and it is fantastically fragrant.
Amongst the yellows my favourite is another David Austin rose, the climbing ‘Teasing Georgia’
We will be here all day if I list all my roses so here is a mosaic of some of them.
A wonderful frothy background for the roses is provided by Crambe cordifolia. The flowers smell deliciously of honey and bees love it.
Philadelphus has such a delicious orange blossom fragrance that it is a good idea to have it dotted about the garden. I grow it by my gate and at the end of paths. The golden leaved form shows up beautifully in a shady corner.
Peonies don’t last long but they are a wonderful sumptuous June flower. Have you ever smelt them? I have a wonderful book written by the French writer, Colette called ‘Pour un Herbier‘ She writes beautiful descriptions of flowers and I was intrigued when she wrote that peonies smell of peonies or in other words- ‘le hanneton’. I had to look this word up and found that it means ‘cockchafer’. These are beetles which are called May bugs in Suffolk. My son lives on a boat, (I showed you his jetty garden last year.) He has May bugs crashing onto his jetty in May and early June, although I never see them here. He is delighted by them and when he holds up his finger they land on it. I find it odd that he likes them so much, given his horror of cockroaches, which look pretty similar to me. He says they are adorable because they have cute eyebrows. When I asked him what they smell like, he said that he had never thought of sniffing them. So we have to take Colette’s word for it that they smell of peonies.
I think Colette must have been referring to Paeonia officinalis which has a rather rank odour. By the way, if you would like to read a translation of her book, there is one called: ‘Flowers and Fruit’, edited by Robert Phelps and translated by Matthew Ward. It is not a particularly good translation, but it gives you some idea of her lyrical writing. Actually I don’t know how reliable she is at describing flower scent. She said that Lilac smells of scarab beetles. How on earth did she know?
Some peonies have a wonderful fragrance. I love the creamy white Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’. It smells delicious.
I will finish with some lovely scented pinks which don’t smell of beetles of any kind.