Today whilst walking the Dogs, I spotted some Lilac breaking into flower in a hedgerow. I stopped and breathed in its scent. And was instantly transported to another time and place. As we ambled on I started thinking about the memory jogging plants. Those that mark particular points in my Life, and began to mentally catalogue them. Some plants have happy associations, others not so good. The sense of smell is supposed to be one of the most powerful memory joggers we have. For me, the sight of a plant has the powerful ability to remind me of the time/place/person where I first saw it.
Memories of Candles and Lanterns
For example the orange seed case of the Chinese Lantern Physalis alkekengi. It will always remind me of the garden of the cottage where my four maiden Great-Aunts lived. They had, what seemed to a seven year old, a huge patch of them growing at the foot of a wall. I have yet to succeed in getting any to grow for me. But whenever I see any I am reminded of that garden.
The beautiful white “Candles” of the Horse Chestnut are at their best here in Dorset this week. Earlier possibly than further north where it was the set subject for my Art exam many years ago! Determined to work from a living specimen rather than a photo, I had to use the later-flowering pink form. However, it must have been acceptable, as my exam result was good.
The Rose of Sharon Hypericum calycinum grew along the boundary of a garden near my Childhood home. It always seemed to be covered in Bees much to my sister’s dismay. She had been stung whilst walking past it one day.
A huge Monkey Puzzle Araucaria araucana stood in the garden of the home of the old lady across the road. She invited us once to ride our bicycles around her garden. Her lawn was incredibly lush and soft. I am sure she must have regretted inviting three rambunctious kids to play in her garden!
Other Memory Jogging Plants
And what of the Dandelion clocks my Father taught us to blow upon? But NOT in our garden! How about the Daisies on the School playing field? We played “He loves me, he loves me not” regardless of whether we had a beau.
As small children we had picked wild garlic and regretted, on the stinky way home?!
Our first encounters with certain plants leave an indelible mark on our memories. The Lilac I mentioned at the beginning of this post reminded me of the solace I found in scent and beauty at a time in my life which was far from happy. Today, as I breathed in a deep draught of its light scent, I felt the sun shining on me in that garden of memory. Life has changed hugely for me over the years. Today I live in a different county, a different home and in a very different garden.
If there was room to plant a Lilac here I would……….