While some people might be of a persuasion to like raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, my favourite things in gardens or the great outdoors are almost always associated with wafts of delicious fragrance, carried on soft, warm breezes. It's always amazing to me just how immediately and vividly the recall of an olfactory memory will transport me back to a wonderful vacation, summer evenings with friends, childhood walks or a first love.
Here are just a few of my favourite things when it comes to plant fragrance and the triggering of remembrances of things past........
The sweet, almost tropical coconut-like smell of gorse, in the Western Highlands of Scotland - a complete surprise when encountered in such northerly climes and coming from such an impenetrable, ragtaggle, barbed and spiney thicket. Memories of my summer job at the Isle of Raasay hotel, before the final year of my undergraduate degree, and the joy of hiking for miles in complete isolation, with some of the most breathtaking views imaginable.
The overwhelmingly intoxicating fragrance of provencal jasmine, never cloying and always creating an insatiable appetite for just one more sip from that delicious star. Enjoyed on a perfectly still May evening, whilst sitting on an ancient, hand hewn stone bench, listening to the distant chatter of twelve of my nearest and very dearest, muted to a contenting murmer by the delicate splashing and gurgling of water flowing from a lion fountainhead, punctuated by sounds of swallows swooping past, and the quarter hourly chimes of the centuries old village church clock. Memories of bliss on my 40th birthday in the village of Cabrieres D'Avignon in the Luberon.
Clouds of gingery, lemon tang, swirling past as I cycle home to my Summertown student digs, past the floodlit dreaming spires of Oxford, drunk on the thrill of warm, moist, fragrant air bathing my skin as I whizz along, drunk on the spine tingling, tummy twittering sensation of an, as yet, unreturned and undeclared first love. Memories of magnolia grandiflora clothing the quads of ancient Oxonian colleges.