My column for the July/August issue of the Tetbury Advertiser is a whimsical post inspired by the classic scent of an English summer
At the start of the heatwave, I throw open my study window and am almost knocked over by the heady scent of honeysuckle immediately filling the room. On the first floor of my cottage, my study is at the same height as the vast drift of the stuff that has engulfed the old apple tree outside my back door.
Daily at my desk, I assess the passing of the seasons more by the state of the branches of tress than by shrubs and flowers at ground level. This is probably the closest I will ever get to having a tree house, which I hear is the latest trendy addition to the domestic garden, outranking in the cool stakes the previous must-have shed office, or shedquarters, as my friends call theirs.
There’s something magical about the scent of honeysuckle. The fragrance is so thick and heady that I’m almost surprised I can’t see it as it sneaks up and takes possession of me, holding me captive before I’ve even noticed that it’s about to pounce. But the associations are all positive, and I’m sure it lowers my blood pressure, makes me calmer, more reflective, and more content with my lot.
Straight to Sidcup
This perfume takes me straight back to my suburban childhood home, where we had a vast hedge of it scrambling over the wall by the back door. That’s why I planted this one in a similar spot in my present country garden. Next on my list is to establish a rose garden. I may be some time.
Roses have a similar effect on me to honeysuckle, although their assault is more subtle, and you have to meet it halfway. Having grown up in a suburb where nearly every garden featured traditional roses, I still cannot pass a rose in full bloom without the impulse to bury my face in its petals and inhale.
Sense of Swimming
A recent trip to the world-famous walled rose garden at Mottisfont, where the old warm bricks entrap and intensify the scent of thousands of roses, made me feel like I was swimming through perfume. No matter how glamorous or alluring the advertisements for modern designer perfumes, surely no chemical manufacturer will ever develop a product with such magical and transformative powers. I’m a naturally calm and optimistic soul, but such experiences always send me a few notches up the laid-back scale, to the nearly horizontal.
Scents for Sense
Living in a chaotic political age, when sometimes the whole world seems in turmoil, I can only draw hope from the knowledge that the grounds of both the White House and 10 Downing Street include a rose garden. I can only hope that this summer our leaders spend more time in such grounding and redemptive places, emerging stronger, saner, and more sensitive for the experience. There, I told you I was an optimist.
PS If you love traditional English gardens as much as I do, you might like to know that one recent reviewer of my village mystery novel Best Murder in Show said “The book is worth the read just for Young’s description of gardens and hedgerows!” You can imagine how happy that made me!
Buy online here or quote ISBN 978-1911223139 to order from your local bookshop.