Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fragrance Is A Magic Carpet Ride To Sweet Memories

Western Daisy (Astranthium integrifolium)...absolutely no scent, but a keeper anyway

It was on the breeze this morning.
The indescribable scent of a warm summer day.
Earthy with the slightest hint of sweetness to it.
A fragrance that was over laid with the sound of birds and city life.

Before I know it, I am a little girl again,
sitting on the ground, making a mud pie.
The day is already warm as I
carefully add water to the dirt.
I reach into the pan for a handful of mud batter,
lay it on the ground, patting it gently, to make the perfect pancake shape.

It was a sweet memory that arose from a fragrance on the breeze. A scent memory that instantly transported me to another time and place. Lucky me to have a powerful and positive memory associated with this scent.

The first fragrant flower that I fell in love with was a peony....
I don't remember where or exactly when,
but, the scent was wonderfully rose like. When I found General McMahon many, many years ago, he had to be in my garden.
The fragrance is wonderful!

Wouldn't you love to be able to put your nose

right into the monitor and smell the deliciousness of this peony?
I wish you could!
I know you can imagine the scent...just think roses.

Peonies ought to have fragrance. It should be mandated!

But, peonies are not the first flower scent I remember.

That honor goes to this grape juice scented iris.
It always makes me think of elderly ladies with a slight blue hair tint!
Each and every one one that I met
had grape juice iris in their gardens! It will always be in a garden I create..
the memories the scent evokes are important to me.

There are flowers that have to be in my garden.
Grape scented iris and roses scented peonies have to be included!

So will Phlox pilosa...

Today was warm enough for its sweet fragrance to brush past me as I worked.
I sat on the steps and let it wash over me.
The warm sun and the sweet scent were intoxicating.

How could you not love it! Or, the bees and butterflies that visit it all day long.

The rain has battered it,
but, it's still blooming a month after the first flower opened.
Now the days are warm enough to feel the full impact of the sweet phlox perfume.
~Just breath~

Mock Orange...beautiful, but not fragrant, sigh

There is one other scent that is wafting about now.
It always makes me think of my first summer in Nashville. I had moved here from my university town to start my grownup life! Brave girl! Several friends were already here, so it was a safe place to land. But, that June, with the entire contents of my life in a small trailer hooked to my mom's station wagon and me with Tilly the cat in my little sea foam green 128 Fiat headed down the highway. The interstate hadn't been completed yet, so we drove on two lane roads for part of the journey.

The windows were down and the fragrance of Japanese honeysuckle was everywhere~~
A strong and overpowering scent.
Back then it smelled of home in Missouri and now it smells of home in Tennessee.

It's a noxious weed, but
I secretly enjoy it!

It makes me think of my son and how he loved picking the flowers and sucking the nectar out...
I will spend countless hours spent trying to eradicate it from every bed and hedgerow!
But, the sweet scent makes me feel safe at home.

Just in case you wondered.
The yellow flowers taste best!

Sweet scented Salmon Tapien verbena moved into the garden

So tell me my friends, have you scent memories?

Have a delicious day and remember to stop and smell the memories! Gail

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat. ~Beverly Nichols


  1. Hi Gail, how funny that you said Japanese Honeysuckle was a fond childhood fragrance!! As I was taking photos on Monday of what had bloomed over the weekend, I was thinking the same thing! We have a large hedge of honeysuckle on our side yard that just draws you to it. As kids we would pluck the blossom and suck the nectar out. I will have to check out that General MacMahon peony, I love fragranced blooms. Rugosa roses are a favorite of mine, their scent waffes on the breeze. Heavenly. I am a serious fragrance checker-- have pollen on my nose more often than not! ;-)

  2. Very nice scent post which evokes memories in me for sure. Peonies do it for me. My grandmother grew them and they are a must. Yes, I wish I could smell yours. My mock orange does not smell either:(

  3. Oh Gail, I got my first whiff yesterday too. They have taken over the fence behind the arborvitae hedge, not my property, and I have to fight to keep them from attacking the evergreens. But oh my, that scent. As for the mud pie, were you able to decorate with dandelion blooms? I always did or it wasn't considered finished. I love your positive memory! :-) (Another beautiful day to work outside here, I am out the door!)

  4. Morning Gail, the fragrance of lilacs is everywhere now. One of my five favorite flowers probably due to my memories of it throughout my life.

    This is a time of abundance. The wild woodland phlox is blooming (phlox divaricata) lovely smell. Very soon our iris and peonies will begin to open. All these plants evoke memories of my childhood. Iris remind me of the grape Koolaid Mom used to make us.

    That's too bad about your mock orange. The old fashioned ones are known for their fragrance.

  5. Hello~~Thank you for popping over...but the painters are here and they are throwing me out of my office! Tina, Janet, Frances and Marnie...thanks for being early bird commenters!

    Have a delicious day and remember to stop and smell the memories!


  6. Isn't it interesting how powerful scents can be when it comes to memories? Wild honeysuckle and mountain laurel always reminds me of my childhood. We would always run around pulling off the honeysuckle blooms to taste the nectar and jump into the thick vines from high in the pecan trees. (It’s a miracle we never broke our necks!) During the summer we would walk down streams in long cascading tunnels of mountain laurel, it was incredible. Funny how we were never afraid of snakes and stuff back then.

  7. Hi Gail, smell is the sense most closely related to memory! I'm bummed to say neither my peonies or iris have fragrance, though I have a friend who has the irises you describe. I think in the effort to breed stronger, bigger, more colorful "modern" plants, the fragrance was left out! My PPPP seeds still haven't sprouted, but it's not really been that warm here. Glad they'll have a smell!

  8. Good Morning, Gail! How wonderful a post - a fragrant post. Not only the beauty of the flowers but even your words flow with a sweet fragrance to them.
    Grape juice scented iris! Wow, the name itself has an attractive scent. How I wish I could have it grow in my scorching hot climate too!

  9. Honeysuckle will always remind me of North Carolina. I used to walk back from the bus stop to the house smelling the honeysuckle that was everywhere. The irises are very fragrant here in our yard right now although I don't remember when I first smelled them.

  10. Gail, I am with you on the honeysuckle! I don't have any here, but I always associate that smell with the first days of summer. I did a post last summer, too, about the scents of the garden and realized I need to add more fragrant flowers to my garden. Either that or my sense of smell is not as powerful as it once was:) It's amazing, though, how a particular smell can evoke such strong memories.

  11. It is amazing how memories are strongest with familiar scents! Lovely post.

  12. Isn't it funny how almost all daisies look alike, except for a few subtle things? The western daisy is so beautiful. I was walking in a park the other day and I picked this white daisy, but it had the most disgusting smell ever! But it was quite beautiful, so I put up with the smell.

    I'd love to smell the peony! It's so beautiful!

  13. My childhood smell of preference must be lilac. In Sweden, where I grew up, it always flowers at the same time the spring semester at school was finnished – and 2,5 long months of summer holidays lay ahead. I can recall the smell even without a lilac handy. As an adult, I think my favourite smell must be Basil. You buy a pot in the grocery and you bring this smell around the shop, at the cash point, on the walk or bus back home. And everyone can smell it as you go.

  14. Gail,

    Yes, yes, yes to peonies, especially the old-fashioned white 'Festiva Maxima'; irises; and Hall's honeysuckle (not quite as weedy up here, but with potential for it). Yes, too, to lilacs (just getting ready to pop in Toronto), many types of phlox, mock orange (mine is strongly scented), lily of the valley.

    I'd add lemon lilies (Hemerocallis flava -- the grandparent of all scented yellow daylilies). Flowering nicotine (not the short ones bred for containers) and hesperis aka dame's rocket are great for evening scents.

    And don't forget the scented leaves. I must have some feline blood, because I'm crazy about catnip -- Nepeta fassenii. Rober's Lemon-rose geranium -- aaaaah.

    Now I have to go outside and sniff.

    Helen, of Toronto Gardens

  15. Delightfully written, my dear. Grape juice scented irises. I need to go smell my blue irises after I write this comment. I have that exact same peony, and it does smell sweet.

    Now, about Japanese honeysuckle. I still have it and can't eradicate it no matter what I do. It's now growing on a trellis next to the gas grill. I didn't put it there, but ssh . . . I like the scent.~~Dee

  16. Gail,

    As always your photography is just outstanding. I love the first one of the Western Daisy - dreamy!

    As for scent, probably pink Jasmine and Pittosporum - both extraordinarily sweet in the spring.

    Chloe M.

  17. Sigh. I grew up with Japanese honeysuckle in Nashville as well and the scent is intoxicating! My memories of my maternal grandmother are inextricably linked to the scents of nasturtium flowers, (original) Jergens lotion, and Ivory soap. The fragrant daylilies, irises, and peonies (esp. 'Sarah Bernhardt' and 'Festiva Maxima'), and the foliage of so many herbs, as well as marigolds and chrysanthemums, also delight me. In fact, there are few unscented flowers I'm willing to tolerate in the garden, baptisias being one exception. Loved this wonderful post!!!

  18. I wish I could smell that peony, I can just imagine it!
    Lilacs are definitely one I remember from being a kid, I could just stand and smell them all day.
    The strongest scent memory is pelargonium, it's not a sweet scent, kind of strong actually, but it brings me back to being 6 or 7 and the house we lived in.

  19. My dear Gail.....as someone who has so many memories connected with the sweet perfume of flowers, this most made me swallow that little bit harder....

    I drifted back to my childhood....working with my Dad in the garden.....we had no money, but I had a lot of love......you brought back the smell of the peonies and honeysuckle that grew there........me and my Dad.....

    But the bloom that really does evoke memories is lavender.....it is connected to my childhood, teenage years, raising my children and now my little grandchildren......it has been in every garden and I can truthfully say I could not live without it.......

    A beautiful post......

  20. I love the smell of zonal geraniums because they remind me of my grandmother. Funny how strongly fragrances bring back memories!

  21. I think some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around scents & smells. You have some wonderful fragrant plants in your garden. The grapejuice scented iris is one of my faves too and I agree that it should be mandated that Peonies always be scented! ;) Thanks for reminding me of simpler times Gail...it was a delightful trip down memory lane today.

  22. Such a gorgeous post! Beautifully written and amazing photos! What a treat! :) -Jackie

  23. Gail,

    The fragrance of wild honeysuckle is everywhere right now. We were running errands (and picking up poor Charm from being boarded) with the windows down in the truck -- we both kept mentioning the fragrance.

    Wonderful memories you have associated with the fragrances. Perfect!


  24. The fragrance of Japanese honeysuckle is remarkable and overpowering. It enveloped me this morning (from our neighbor's yard) as I left on my normal walk.

    I have a wonderful scent memory of Chinese wisteria (a huge climbing patch) near where my sister and I took piano lessons in Austin (TX). It was amazing.

    It's not surprising that these two were horticultural favorites, even though they've descended to invasive purgatory!


  25. Your iris are gorgeous!

    Actually, my favorite scented plant of all is Japanese Honeysuckle. Yes, it's a thug, but the fragrance is delicious!

  26. So delightfully written and photographed, I smelled all the good smells with you, Gail. For me, especially as a child ~ heady spring scents of Lily-of-the valley, lilacs and peony. As an adult I must add the smell of sweet woodruff, fresh cut herbs and lemon.

  27. gail we had a honeysuckle growing all over our mailbox. all the flying creatures loved it...sometimes i think the mailperson was afraid to deliver mail fearing being stung.
    i will always remember the heady scent of gardenias growing.

  28. Astranthium integrifolium! I think you may have inadvertently identified the mystery daisy in daisy trail cedar glade, ours are a little more pink and less purple, and it's the pink that the camera has a hard time picking up under direct sunlight, but thanks a lot anyways! i looked everywhere for info and couldn't find any,and what there even is on this species is obscure, ox eye daisies as far as the eye can see in some places and i have never before seen these.
    they are abundant with all this rain we Nashvillians are getting this year too!! I LOVE your garden so,and im jealous, all i have in the dry ridge of preist lake is literally white clay and limestone,lol,and dead clover, but i have my glades nearby to entertain me until i move back into that good old lakebed soil of east nashville where you can grow a 20 foot castor bean(those were the days).

  29. May is such a good month for happy scent memories, isn't it? My first memorable scent is not so much of a scented flower but of the earth and how it smelled after a light May shower of sun and spring and happiness. It's not for nothing that I always opt for scented plants over non scented.

    Lovely post my dear, I enjoyed it a lot. Wish we had scratch and sniff on the internet.

  30. Okay...my husband walked into the room while I had my nose smooshed into the monitor smelling the "delisciousness" of your General McMahon Peony. I had a lot of explaining to do. Lovely flowers and lovely post.

  31. Gail, good morning! What a beautiful way to start this rainy day - to read your post and remember all those smells. For me, it's peony and lily of the valley. The smell of my childhood. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

  32. what an absolutely lovely post, gail. it brought back some memories of my own, especially playing under the lilacs next to the backyard field of lily of the valley. I always associated lavender with the "blue rinse" set. now that i'm getting older, lavender is a fragrance i adore.

  33. Gail~
    What a wonderful post this is! I felt as if I could smell each flower you wrote about. My favorite scents as an adult are of the night blooming jasmine and gardenia, they are both so incredibly intoxicating. As a child I seem to remember being enchanted by the spicy smell of the stock blossom.
    Thanks for this enjoyable post!

  34. Oh yes, Gail. The fragrance of lily-of-the-valley, lilac, iris, peony and the smell of soil freshly plowed and fresh mown hay and the grass.....thanks for the memories!

  35. nice post. yep, scent is so powerful! even the evil lemon balm smells great as I pull out another bunch so it doesn't take over! And my absolute fave, lilacs, are blooming now. ummmm.

  36. What a beautiful post, Gail. I've posted on the aroma of lilacs, but I also adore sweet peas, honeysuckle and the smell of dahlias sends me right back to childhood - not the flowers but the cut stems. My father used to grow them to show. smell is such an amazing sense, which has the ability to link so deeply with your emotions.

    I'm now eagerly awaiting my first peony bud to open so I can drink in its aroma!

  37. "Scent memories" have always been strong for me. Evoking things I couldn't always visualize. Just knew there was something tugging at the strings of my memory. Yes, irises and elderly ladies showing you their pert pretty gardens full of them. Yes, I remember.

  38. Dear Gail,
    You conjured up a scent memory with your talk of sucking the nector from honeysuckle... hadn't thought of that childhood thing in years. My Grandma had it and we never passed it by that we didn't pull the blossom off and do that very thing. Thanks.

    This is a wonderful month in gardening with so many scents wafting through the air. Love all your photos and your peony must be such a delight. I will have to imagine rose fragrances as, I'm sorry to say, I've never smelled a peony. Your irises are stunning, too. You must be in heaven these days in your beautiful garden.

  39. Hi Gail! What a wonderful post! I absolutely adored making mud pies as a child (don't tell anyone, but I played in the mud with my kids and now my grandkids too!) I love the smell of freshly turned earth in the Spring, and Lilacs and Lilly of the Valley have such strong childhood memories along with Peonies. Thanks for taking me back--it was a nice trip down memory lane.

  40. Lovely post. Old memories are magical, new memories keep us living.
    Seeing your verbena just reminded me to get some.
    Wonderful pics as usual.

  41. Any post that begins with a Gaura has not only got my attention but some love! It may well be my second most favorite growing thing. I plant them with some abandon, lol. I love your blog, Gail. Simply delicious!

  42. Oh, how I have great memories of sitting on our front porch swing and sucking honeysuckle nectar out of the flowers (blooming on a vine behind the swing). I haven't done that since I was a girl but maybe this summer, I'll try it again. I don't even think my daughter has ever tried it?? I definitely should rectify that!
    I think roses were my first fragrance ~ from my grandmother's garden. But peonies are right up there too. My Mom used to pick bunches and send us to school with them (to give our teachers). The whole bus ride to school, that's all I smelled. :-)
    Lilacs are perfuming my garden right now. It's a little early for roses or iris (or even peonies) but soon they'll join in. I sure enjoyed the scent tour with you. It was a great topic to post/reminisce about....

  43. Hi Gail, what a beautiful post! It brought back memories from childhood and adolescence...of fruits and flowers...of summer and rain and...oh, you've touched my soul!!!

  44. Your lovely post on fragrance brought back memories for me, too, Gail! Hall's Japanese honeysuckle grew on the iron railing leading down to the basement at my aunt's house, and the lilacs, peonies and fragrant double Mockorange grew at my parent's house.
    Like you we tried to get the drop of sweetness from honeysuckle and also by plucking out the individual florets from the big heads of red clover.

    My mockorange here has no fragrance because it's the native kind, Philadelphus inodora. In our IL gardens my parents and I grew deliciously scented Philadelphus coronaria. Wish I could trade and get it back.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  45. Ah Gail....

    As one of those friends that greeted you when you arrived in Nashville, I got nostalgic butterflies in my heart reading this post! Oh Nashville...I'm so glad you still live there because it gives me an excuse to go back and visit now and then!

    My earliest scent memory is of a rose my grandmother brought to St. Louis from Germany. We called it a wine rose and it had a delicious tasty scent! I don't don't remember it being that beautiful; it was a deep red color, but not perfectly shaped. But OH! I just wanted to take a bite of those roses; they smelled so delicious.

    We went back to my grandmother's apartment in U City (suburb of St. Louis) several years ago, hoping those roses were still there, but alas they were gone.

    When I google wine roses I either get something called a weigilia, which isn't it at all, or rose wine!


  46. If only our computer monitors could receive fragrance and our camera lenses could project it! Lilacs, peonies, roses...all invoke memories of my childhood and my grandfather's garden. I still haven't gotten myself the peony bush! It's a must do. Thanks for your aromatic post.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson