What's that scent?'' he asked as we wandered up the front steps.
''Well, it might be jasmine,'' I said, ''but the port wine magnolia is blooming just next to you - no, you don't notice the flowers, but the fragrance is wonderful. Or the perfume might be from the hybrid musk rose just above us. Or is it a curry scent? Because the curry bush sends out a whiff now and then. Or maybe...''
It was about then he lost interest.
Spring is when I can pretty much tell exactly where I am in the garden with my eyes shut. There's the mock orange blossom by the main vegetable garden, which also smells of mulch and broad beans; the genuine orange blossom on the orange trees, the mints and thymes and other herbs underfoot, the scent of pittosporum and wattle and ... shall we just say 'lots'?
Theoretically we have fragrance all year round, though not in a drought and bushfire year like the last one. The late mid-spring scent onslaught is followed by the more decorous fragrance of a dozen or so rose bushes, particularly Buff beauty, parchment coloured and able to waft scent over a hectare on a warm day, and climbing Souvenier de la Malmaison, which clambers up a post outside my study and is an excellent reason for keeping the window open. She is spicy rather than the classic 'rose scent', and glorious. The wisteria and black wattle are just beginning, and we have already had two bouts of 'freshly grown grass', which is one of the best scents in the world.
If I've remembered to prune back spent roses and have fed and watered them, their perfume will continue over summer. If not, the tomato patch is just outside, in easy gathering distance of the kitchen. The scent of hot tomato foliage and ripe fruit is unmistakably mid-summer, as are ripe peaches, apricots and the evaporating oils in foliage of lemon verbena et al, plus the odd fermenting lemon that has rolled off into the garlic chives. The vaguely lemon scent of magnolia grandiflora floats up to us - the flowers are too far above to smell or even see properly from below. Do not plant this unless you have a massive garden, or are sure you have found a truly dwarfed variety. Around about Christmas the liliums begin to bloom - or will if they survived last summer, and the star jasmine. Then comes the scent of English lavender.
Autumn brings lilac, though not if I get around to chopping it down - our old-fashioned one, variety unknown, suckers badly. Look for modern varieties that don't sucker nor are prone to downy mildew. The sasanqua camellias begin to bloom then, too - look for scented varieties - then rosemary, French lavender, Japonica camellias, daphne, wintersweet, freesias, earlicheer and paperwhite jonquils, the wild clematis, and we are back to spring.
But if you only have a courtyard, or even a patio? Think two climbing roses, whichever you fall in love with - I'd go for Climbing Papa Meiland or Souvenier de la Malmaison - and a potted jasmine, if you can be sure it won't escape into any bush nearby. Place two potted gardenias by the front door (they grow best in a sheltered spot in our climate), a potted daphne for winter scents, a lemon verbena for summer teas or possibly a makrut lime for its fragrant leaves, extremely necessary for Thai fish cakes, and possibly some pots of English and French lavender ... and you'll be properly perfumed.
Best of all, every single one of those can be planted now, except the freesia and jonquils (wait till February for those.). But every single month deserves its scent - and so do you.
The Proper Attitude to Cobwebs
There is a reason to leave all those cobwebs around your windows.
If you don't leave lots of cobwebs, the birds can't do this...
This week I am:
- Carefully depositing our daily coffee grounds on potted plants, to feed and mulch them; on the thyme planted near the eaves where the soil lacks structural integrity; and around newly emerged seedlings to ward of slugs and snails.
- Watching those corn and carrot seedlings emerge, and wondering which are pumpkins, melons or cucumbers. I have forgotten exactly what I planted where. I think they are melons...
- Pondering exactly why I planted so much rhubarb. It had something to do with comparing varieties ... would anyone like rhubarb? Lots of rhubarb?
- Picking broad beans, asparagus, parsley, and more asparagus, the last of the Tahitian limes and the first of the native limes, as well as the loquats Possum X knocks down for us each night, and many many mulberries. The first roses are sitting in the living room vases, too.
- Discovering that while last year the apples didn't set fruit because it was too dry, this year many have not set fruit because it has been too wet, drizzling and misty and not conducive to bees buzzing and pollinating. But given we have a vast excess of apple trees, this year we should have 'enough'.
- Thanking Bryan for mowing the lawn and realising I will need to get into it too if we're not to be knee-high in grass. For the first time in about four years the grass is not just green, but lush and far far too much for wombats and wallabies. I am actually quite looking forward to mowing.
- Mowing is excellent exercise and also quite meditative in a rhythmic push and pull way. It is also the best way to discourage lawn weeds, who don't like being decapitated, and encouraging grass, which evolved being chomped, and so likes having regular haircuts, but not close shaves. Keep the mower height on medium or higher. Short cuts don't mean you won't have to mow as often, as it's not grass's length, but it's lack of even growth, that makes a lawn look shaggy.