I wish I was a nosier gardener. So many beautiful garden perfumes get completely missed as I clatter past, wheelbarrow full of tools, clothes and hair tinged with the odour of my last bonfire.
Flowering Cordyline - A New Zealand Smell
A visiting friend, exercising her nose in my garden, drew my attention to the beautiful perfume of the flowering Cordylines (which we affectionately and oddly call Cabbage Trees). She remembers their perfume on the west coast of Scotland, calling her in mind and body back to New Zealand, her home. I had never really noticed them. You beautiful things - I'm so sorry!
Clary Sage and Rose
I can smell bad things in the garden. I know when Rusty the dog has rolled in some delectably dodgy piece of nature's detritus - particularly when he comes into the house. Clary Sage, such an interesting perennial, always reminds me of my cats in their most disgraceful in-house moments. I just don't have a very good nasal imagination for the delicate, beautiful, or subtle.
Take rose fragrances, for example. They are tricky to describe, and some rose nurseries stretch the truth regarding the fragrance of their wares. The word 'moderate' seems cover everything from 'hardly noticeable' to 'none'. Roses must be the most sniffed-into flowers in anyone's garden. Even the most rugged of men, brutally indifferent to their own body odour, will lurch into a red rose nose-first and sniff noisily. Yes - there's a faint touch of something. They wouldn't ever consider doing that to a daisy...
Double Delight and Margaret Merrill
Another friend has just marched me around her small garden to smell her best scented roses - Double Delight and Margaret Merrill. She's right. They are both extremely sweet on the nose. This would be a good way to identify any Margaret Merrills lurking in my own garden - if I could just remember that delightful whiff...
My Most Fragrant Roses
The most fragrant roses in my garden are both David Austin English roses - Sharifa Asma and Othello. Let's see what the official David Austin website has got to say about these two. Sharifa Asma has a 'distinctive and beautiful fragrance with fruity notes reminiscent of white grapes and mulberry'. Wow - that must smell nice.
Othello has a 'rich old rose fragrance', which doesn't really help me much. It means the Damask rose scent is present? I don't know what that smells like. No, wait a minute, it smells like Othello... And I mustn't forget Westerland, whose fragrance is strong and light at the same time, if that makes sense. Hmm... I need some nose lessons to improve my sniffing skills.
It could just be a garden issue - a case of fragrance overload when outdoors. For example, I can smell immediately if Tiger the senior cat has behaved disgracefully on the hallway carpet. Hmm...
Serious Footnote on Rose Fragrance
Allow me to offer this link to The Rose Man, Dick Streeper. He cites an article by Neville F. Miller, listing 'seven primary elemental odors needed to describe, at least in part, the fragrance of most roses. They are as follows: damask rose, nasturtium, orris, violets, apple, cloves and lemon. In addition, he names 26 less common odors, including combinations...'