It starts in March, February if you are lucky. You are walking along the edge of woods in a bare and frosty landscape and suddenly… WHAM. A sweet floral perfume awakens your olfactory senses for the first time this year and the only flower in sight is a clump of Hepaticas. Hepaticas don’t smell of anything though, do they? You stick your nose in one and inhale. Nothing. But moments later another waft. It is magical and transitory.

Next the violets. I love them and hate them because I may smell the first one for a brief moment and then cannot detect a hint of the sweet violet perfume again. Apparently a trick our noses play on some of us. I envy people who swoon at the perfume they emit on a warm spring day.

Later, a bluebell wood in England. Then the lilacs in a friend‘s garden. The plum blossom on a neighbourhood tree.

And then the highlight of my spring, telling me summer has arrived and reminding me of the cordial, sorbet and pancakes I will be making – the elderflowers. The first hint of them in May crescendoes into a heady and intoxicating scent. I have never had elderflower champagne, but can imagine the taste. There are a lot of elder trees near us and their fragrance dominates for several weeks as plants in shadier spots open their flowers more slowly and later, lasting long into June. It sweetens on a warm day and in a very hot spell in early June it becomes almost overpowering. Mix that with the peonies and you are in heaven!

Oh yes, the peonies are nice too…

Another June delight: walking in the countryside on a warm day there is an occasional waft of a sweet scent similar to wild strawberries. It makes me look up and around and look again, really hard, at the wild flowers at the side of the footpath… Bedstraw? (Galium alba). Such an insignificant plant until it flowers. Like the Hepatica, if you go up to it and sniff, you probably won‘t smell a thing. Maybe you have to sneak up to it from behind to catch it!

I can enjoy the scent of roses, and like sweet peas too. But my favourite scent in spring or early summer has to be the elderflower.

What is your favourite scent on a spring or early summer day? Could you choose just one? 😉

37 thoughts on “Scentsations

  1. Lilacs, gardenias, paperwhites! Floral fragrance is rad. I remember more in Southern California, even though the climate is even more arid. Night blooming jasmine is the most excellent floral fragrance I can remember from warm nights in Los Angeles.

      • Night blooming jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum, is not really a jasmine. The fragrance is very distinct, and more sugary than strong. It naturalizes in some of the overgrown landscapes there. I do not grow it here though. It is sensitive to even mild frost. I could grow it, but it does not do as well.

  2. Yes, I agree, perfume wafting on the breeze is magical! I love Euphorbia melliferra, beautiful honey perfume that travels ever so far, Philadelphus, Daphne bholuha, dwarf iris,and peonies, we won’t mention the roses at the moment!

  3. It is crazy with turtles here today and the scents like yours are heady I wonder if that is what they all came out of the filthy river to pick a spot for their eggs today. Do you have them or hedgehogs and other cute visitors who love your garden may be too much 🙂

    • You have turtles? Wow! No turtles here. We have hares in our garden and plenty of small rodents too. The hares are the cutest though and I can forgive them an awful lot!

      • Yes along this river I have many varieties and years ago I had one cottontail bunny never more than that one. I know they all have to eat but I so wanted my own Strawberries 🙂

  4. The perfumes of the countryside are so important. We have a very special perfume at the moment, a bit strange but it is the strong scent of the sweet chestnut flowers. It makes me think of the sweet chestnut honey to come. It is so strong you can smell it in front of the bee hives when the bees are bringing in the nectar. Amelia

    • That is interesting Amelia – I have never heard of the scent of sweet chestnut flowers. Perhaps I will come across it one day. But since you mentioned honey, that reminded me of the wild robinia or false acacia flowers here which also smell gorgeous and apparently make delicious honey..

  5. Cathy, I love this post. I associate you with hepatica because I first learned of it from you. Same with elderberry. Just made lavender ice cream Saturday for friends using a recipe you posted years ago. It was a hit by the way. It tasted like lavender smells. Crazy. Gardenias seems still in bloom here with their delicious fragrance. My favorite must be Daphne in winter when we need some encouragement the most.

    • So glad you made the ice cream Susie! 😃 I must try and make a vegan version of it as my lavender is just starting to bloom. Winter scents are somehow special, aren‘t they. Like my Hepatica fragrance which is so elusive I feel elated if I detect it!

  6. Scent in the garden is so important, I try to have something fragrant to enjoy all year round. In June of course it is the roses, honeysuckle and Philadelphus. I never noticed the smell of Galium though, I must go and find some to sniff

    • Oh yes, Honeysuckle is wonderful too. It is a fragrance that reminds me of my childhood… there was a huge shrub just outside our back door which I walked, ran or cycled past hundreds of times a day as a child. And sometimes I would just stop and breathe it in. 😃

    • Thanks Michael! Gardenias must be lovely – I can only guess at the scent as I can’t grow them, but it is used as a perfume/ room fragrance here. 😃

  7. Huh. Your elderflowers look quite different from ours – the cluster is looser, and the individual flowers are bigger. I don’t think ours are fragrant, either. I do love fragrant flowers, though.

  8. I had no idea hepaticas smell nice. Even though I love the flowers, I don’t see them very often and even more rarely at nose level. The last ones I saw were behind glass! My favourite smell at that time of year is bluebells.

  9. I didn’t know elderflowers have scents. I wonder if you’re talking about the same plant we call elderberries. We picked them as kids and my Mom canned the berries so she could make pies out of them. I bought 2 tiny plants the other day, but it will be years before they produce enough to make a pie. But, I will go smell them, so I can experience what you are talking about.

    • Yours must be different then, and no good for cordial or pancakes if they don‘t smell of anything. 🙁 But pretty nonetheless and like you say, the berries are good too. 😃

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