Nostalgia among the flower beds

Christmas cactus.
Christmas cactus.

Certain plant-related activities and individual plants can evoke instant nostalgia for seasoned gardeners.

The latest vase of chrysanthemums was cut from outdoors last week and the combination of their scent, form and traditional cold, damp conditions conspired with hairs on the neck as if to say – you’ve been here before.



And they were spot on. I have always loved growing and harvesting these flowers, the later the better.

There’s a similar feeling pre-spring when a tray of seeds is showing the first hint of germination.

It’s the same when a light shower of rain highlights a row of tiny lettuce or radish seedlings emerging in an outdoor bed.

Even though there are still hurdles to negotiate on the way to a successful crop, the sense of achievement is strong.

Solanum capsicastrum.

Solanum capsicastrum.

With that comes reassurance that your green-fingered touch, first encouraged by a kindly relative, has not vanished.

There’s nothing quite like the fragrance of plant foliage to carry a life-long enthusiast back in time.

It can be as simple as the smell of newly-mown grass at the first cut, the musky fox-like outpouring of crown imperial (fritillaria) or the stunning fragrance of lemon-scented verbena (aloysia).

Each in turn is capable of conjuring memories.

Pelargonium Happy Thought.

Pelargonium Happy Thought.

Scented geraniums in pots, especially pelargonium Graveolens, take me straight into earth orbit and thoughts of the pleasure it has given over the years.

Last autumn, I planted three cuttings each of it and the variegated Happy Thought around the inside edge of a two litre pot filled with gritty compost.

The result has been a super combination of scent and colour that is set to continue throughout winter indoors. Instant Karma no less!

The provenance of a special plant can have a similar effect. Three fragrant specimens in the garden came from departed friends.

Aeons ago, my gardening mentor suggested I should root the stem cutting of viburnum Dawn he offered.

Dr Matthew Ryle was equally insistent that I have a rooted cutting of the sweetheart rose (Cecile Brunner) and Dr John Johnson gave me a Crusader rose, one of three he’d propagated after rescuing stems from the rubble of a friend’s medieval manor house garden.

It was documented in the deeds as having been brought back from the Holy Land by a crusading knight.