Saturday, August 01, 2009

Be sure to smell the flowers along the way. Well, most of them.

Emma over at Baklava Shed Coalition recently blogged about the Titan Arum flowering at Kew. It has, she suggests, the perfume of a 'fishbox'. This is to attract pollinating insects such as sweat bees. Perhaps not the sweet perfume you want to suffuse your garden on a warm, dry August evening (should we ever get one).

Having just been doing a little bit of pottering in the garden, I was reminded that other flowers, which are more likely to be found in the average British garden, can also have a bit of a stomach-churning smell to them. At least to me.

Calendulas (pot marigolds) are what made me think of this. I love their vibrant colours no matter what the weather throws at them and they have reliably self seeded since I sowed one packet five or six years ago. And I love photographing them. But when I deadhead them - yuk. A vague nausea rolls over me, and not in the sense of existential angst. Well, maybe a little bit.

Another plant which brings on this feeling is privet. The smell briefly reminds me of childhood and then starts to make me feel queasy. I try and hold my breath when walking past it when it's in flower.

Box allegedly smells of cat pee but I'm not daft enough to stick my nose anywhere near mine - our two cats do pee on it to mark their territory to marauding felines.

And lilies - I just can't face being cooped up in a room with cut lilies. At least in the garden I can stay upwind of them.

Are there any plant perfumes that make you hold your breath and hurry past?

10 comments:

Esther Montgomery said...

Recently chopped off all the Jasmine flowers. They were making the garden smell of bubble bath.

Spanish Broom - smells lovely in the garden but something happens to it if you bring the flowers indoors - they stink.

Flowering blackcurrant is a cat-reminder - unless one concentrates on bringing out the more pleasant tones.

I like nettles. The smell reminds me of country holidays.

Don't like the bitter smell of bindweed sap.

There are lots of roses with smells I don't like. (But roses have lovely scents, as they are meant to.)

Esther

Julia said...

See, I adore the smell of jasmine, but of course that's the point - some of us love particular smells and some don't.

For me it's pelargonium leaves. I really cannot abide them.

HappyMouffetard said...

ah, Esther - you've just reminded me that I had the smell of fruiting blackcurrant bushes. I have Jasmine in the garden and it's a bit overpowering, but they can stay.

Julia - I quite like the smell of pelargoniums - it reminds me of iron.

Ryan said...

I feel rather strange as I love many of the scents mentioned! My favourites generally come from herbs: chamomile, lemon verbena, rosemary, thymes, salvias, etc. Others favourites include Jasmine, lilies, roses, honeysuckle, etc.

My one hate, however, is Achillea (Yarrow). I absolutely hate cutting back the stems ready for the compost bins. I do love the plants though.

Ryan

chaiselongue said...

Fig trees smell a bit dank and cat-like, but otherwise I can't think of anything. Lots of favourites, though - thyme and rosemary, of course. And the tomato smell when I pinch the side shoots out is always the first smell of real summer for me.

VP said...

Salvias - yuk! :(

Arabella Sock said...

I'm with you on the lilies - I find the overpowering sickly smell of them quite disgusting indoors and they are often included in bouquets.

We are in the middle of greenhouse construction so there is a waft of red cedar all around, good job I like it.

HappyMouffetard said...

Ryan - I will have to rush out and sniff my achillea, just to see.

And I'll have to sniff the fig, Chaiselongue - I hope no-one sees me going around sniffing everything.

Ditto Salvias, VP. I was growing salvia sclarea var turkestanica from seed this year but now they've been planted out I think the slugs weren't put off by the smell and have eaten them.

Red cedar is a delightful smell, Arabella. Our garden smells a bit 'agricultural' at the moment and I can't figure out why - it can't be my sheep-dropping covered walking boots which are drying out on the patio - it's too pervasive. Some neighbours must have been manuring.

Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

I think that Marguerite's have a disappointingly revolting smell. Privet is horrid.
K

Juliet said...

Wallflowers, chrysanthemums, and sweet peas give me awful hay fever so I hold my breath and hurry past those! A lot of other scented plants give me hay fever too, but those are the worst and I can't bear them near me.

Generally I love the smells of herbs, but I'm with VP on the Salvias. And Santolina's pretty yucky too!

I don't know about Pelargoniums, but I love the smell of hardy Geranium leaves - Geranium maccrorhizum in particular is just wonderful.