Growing up, I have always been lucky to have a garden to play in, not something everyone can claim now sadly, even if it was just grass and the ubiquitous foxgloves and lupins (god they were in EVERY garden in my street). It was only during our family’s frequent moves to Kent (we moved back and forth from Kent to London about 4 times!) did we experience a proper country garden, my mum was in her element.
Mum is an avid gardener and for the past decade has made it her profession also (well, the Flamenco dancing took its toll – all that foot stomping and castanet clacking), but I have fond memories as a pre-teen of the lush, wild beauty my mum created, not always by design but nethertheless there was always something to discover and smell; Lilacs, jasmine, night phlox and roses featured, herbs such as rosemary and thyme ran a little wild (nothing changes – see pic); splashes of poppies, broom, bluebells, climbing clematis, honeysuckle – you get the picture.
Check out this mahoosive Rosemary specimen, it should be re-classifed as Rosmarinus Monsteralis. That’s a lot of lamb cutlets mum..
These days, I have a terrace with a fabulous view but alas I am no gardener – my flatmates are very dedicated though, we had a bumper crop of tomatoes and squash last year and this year it appears we have a herbal ‘Little shop of Horrors’ growing on the windowsills! So every now and then I take some time out to escape the concrete jungle and immerse myself in someone elses’ garden.
On a roast dinner promise, my mum invited me down to Selling to visit the gardens at Luton House as part of the Kent Gardens open weekend (May 13th).
We spent about 2 hours wandering and inhaling the wonderful air, land smells, dry grasses, lush greens ….
.. and then this absolutely heavenly fragrance hovered in the air; a dense sweetness like honeysuckle dipped in double cream and nectar – devouring the air like a truffle hunter, I could not locate where this maddening scent was coming from, it kept ebbing and flowing, a mistress to the little capricious breezes buffing us. But, eureka .. we found it courtesy of my mum who informed me this is an Azalea luteum (Family Ericaceae, Genus: Rhodedendron, Species: Rhodedendron Luteum):
As you can see it has gorgeous yellow, funnel shaped blooms with mid green leaves that turn a vivid bonfire shade in the autumn, I looked it up online (link) to find out that despite the strong, sweet perfume the nectar and pollen are toxic (grayantoxin) – poisonous beauty indeed.
So our nostrils tantalised and stimulated quickly followed by a gustatory response (funny that) signalling ‘cake-time’ respite. So a little detour to the gorgeous kitchen to sample a giant, lemon drizzle cake – warm from the oven, and a slice of chocolate brownie with ganache topping (well, it would be rude not to) … we then waddled home, chez ma, through farmland (blighted by polytunnels) to take up the promised roast dinner.
There are some lovely places to visit in London why not check out the following for some botanical inspiration, lush smells or just some green therapy!
Its also Open Garden Squares weekend on 9 & 10th of June, lots of beautiful private and public spaces open for your exploration, I shall be checking out some hidden gems in North London.
Please share any of your favourite green spaces, gardens or botanical places of interest and let me know what you find (fragrant and otherwise!) – share some pics if you can!
I am off to pen some ideas on recreating that SCENT – honeysuckle, double cream and nectar .. dipped in late spring sunshine – it’s almost edible!