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Talkback: Plants that evoke memories

White heather reminds me of my childhood in Scotland - it's supposed to bring you luck. Like wise the seedheads of dock - we children used to strip them off the plant and put in matchboxes as "tea" in our pretend shops. Sweet William reminds me of my late husband - it was his favourite plant as they self seeded all over his mother's garden when nothing else would thrive. Red geraniums too, Kate, my father's last plant he cared for at 91 was a lovely red geranium. I love poetry and paintings so a lot of my plants are chosen for their names - roses called Shakespeare and John Betjemen (both red), another red one called Matisse. When I visit them their works come to mind. The whole of our world is wrapped up in flowers, Kate. Freesias, with their lovely smell bring back my wedding day - they adorned my prayer book. You are so lucky to have a good olfactory organ.


  • I always associate carnations with my paternal Grandfather, he grew then for his buttonhole. He was a proper gentleman. I also associate the smell of tomato plants with him as he used to grow them in his greenhouse.

    My maternal grandparents always grew geraniums on the entrance to my family's caravan park (Tree Tops Caravan Park, in North Wales). It’s the feel of the leaves and the fleshy stalks which takes back. Things have changed and our gardening team put in the most amazing display with over 15,000 bedding plants put out each year.

    It's funny how these things work
  • I've got several special flowers. When I was a child, we used to go to our family caravan in Anglesey and when we came back, the pinks were in full bloom as if to welcome us home - they smelled wonderful. Or the bluebells that my parents took with them from the family home to their retirement bungalow to remind them of the garden they had left behind. Or the beautifully upright delphiniums that I thought looked like little black rabbits' heads. Wonderful memories.
  • Every girl deserves a flower - that's what my grandmother believed. Rows of colorful pansies in the spring would line her garden on either side of her front door. I could see them from our window - they lived across the street from us growing up. She would pick a small bunch for me and wrap them in a damp paper towel, then "tin"foil - a fancy vase! I still smell their scent and see her face - beautiful!!
  • Ive got a beautiful Azalea, my mum loved it. Every time it is in bloom the scent just pours over the garden, she also loved Lily of The Valley. My dads favourite was Sweet William, but what reminds me of him is the smell of tomato plants, he always grew them in the greenhouse so he always came indoors smelling of them. Lovely Memories!!
  • My dad use to love blood red roses, never found out the name of them, but the perfume from them was wonderful. Memory came flooding back when visiting botanical garden in Durham and rembered dads curses when green fly attacked it.
  • I notice most of the bloggers here are ladies - I suspect they have a better developed sense of smell than we men! Personally it is people that my plants and flowers remind me of - the couple who gave me that dark red rose as a thank you present, the families who gave me the red rhodo and the two 'Ruby Wedding' roses, the variegated conifer cutting from a patient, and the colleague who gave me my first hardy blue geranium. Then there are the two, now very large, Eucalyptus cordata trees, which remind me of the late Jefferson-Brown whose article many years ago in 'The Garden'on Eucalyptus that might be hardy in the UK prompted me to buy in seed. They stand as a confirmation that this species really is hardy, as well as having splendid rounded pewter blue leaves. Something he didn't mention - stand under it in late autumn when laden with white flowers and it literally 'Buzzes' with thousands of bees! All of which brings us back to scent - now that eucalyptus scent I can smell!
  • Thanks for all your memories and comments.

    Happymarion – I've never considered that I had a better sense of smell than anyone else – perhaps it's just my big nose!

    Mandy – Thank you. I've not written a poem for years! Perhaps I'll give it a go.

  • Crocosmia are my memories and now favourite plants! I'm actually not 100% sure why I have memories of them but they remind me of my Granddad and Grandma so I can only presume they had them in their garden! My dad had Crocosmias in his garden whilst i was growing up and they always interested me...I now have about 15 varieties in my garden and plan to collect many more...only 200+ to go!!! LOL
  • Marigold is more attractive among the others. My wife love this kind of flower but I think it grows more in tropical places.
  • What a lovely blog post! Marion is right, Kate, you are lucky to have such an acute sense of smell linked to memory. It seems the stuff of poetry to me: have you ever tried writing about it in that form?

    Marion, I love the idea of choosing your plants according to their link to poets and painters. What rich associations!

    My associations are all visual ones.
    Sweet William reminds me of my grandmother because they were her favourite flowers. Ditto magnolia for my Mum. Daffodils always remind me of my first ever trip 'oop North' for an interview at York University, because they were all out around the city walls. (I got in, by the way, and never returned South).

    These are visual memories for me, though, not scent memories.
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