This is the view as one steps from the inside to the outside at the Fairegarden. The sight never fails to bring a smile. But right now, there is something else that brings a wide, goofy grin as it envelops us like a shawl of sweetness.
Highly invasive, on the list of bad guys in nearly every state, growing on the neighbor’s fence behind the Arborvitae hedge along the veggie garden, trying to strangle the Arbs, growing by leaps and bounds no matter how many times it is cut back, the Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica is in full bloom. There is no denying the scent, perfumers have been using it for centuries.
Fifty feet of fruity fragrance permeates the atmosphere here. But this patch is merely a small bit of a larger whole. Our entire neighborhood is covered with it. Most people find it reminds them of their childhood, as it was a plant viewed with less hostility back in those halcyon days. The scent clings to our clothing and can be detected even when we are inside the house.
Our block is very old fashioned in the plantings around the homes. Most of the houses were built mid-twentieth century, very modest in size with mature trees and shrubs allowed to grow freely with no pruning. The dominant garden, the very reason we bought this property for offspring to live in while attending college here was Mae and Mickey’s five city lots of lusciousness. These two people, Mae passed away a few years ago and Mickey is moving away soon, shared the bounty of their lifetime of plant collecting with anyone who admired any flower. Their generosity can be seen in each front yard on this street. Mae and Mickey loved the herbaceous peonies, a plant that lends itself to sharing. Names were not given with the grocery sack full to the brim of peony roots full of eyes, but this is believed to be Paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’. Fragrant and beautiful, few flowers are as photogenic as these.
Gardeners are the most wonderful friends and we miss the morning coffee on their back porch before the chores of the day in our respective yards were tackled. My garden is filled with the old fashioned flowers they so willingly gave, and they are treasured beyond measure. The peony plantings by the side of the main house remind me of times gone by, for their is no memory enhancement as strong as that of smell. The photo above might be of P. ‘Sarah Bernhardt’.
Of the gifted bag of peonies, most were the white, a few were the light pink and one plant was included of this darker pink. Does anyone know it? Added: Dear Annie at Transplantable Rose suggests this might be Monsieur Jules Elie. I agree. Thanks, Annie! Added later: Good buddy MMD at Mr. McGregor’s Daughter suggests Edulis superba. Could be!
The remake of the formerly known as the Flat Bed into the Gravel Garden, the story about it can be read by clicking here-Redefining A Bed From Flat To Gravel, has resulted in the germination of forgotten Dianthus barbatus, Sweet Williams. Each stem ends in a bouquet of various colors, quite sweet smelling. We are so glad to see the return of these precious plants and will spread the seed to ensure its longevity.
Mae and Mickey loved the Vols of the University Of Tennessee and sported orange clothing on game days. They would jokingly poke fun at the Penn State Nittany Lion flag that adorns our front porch during football season. Personally, I root for them both. The color of this iris is like no other we have ever seen. This one is a keeper, even if it is only lightly scented. The maroon is I. germanica ‘Spartan’, one purchased in acquisitive activity a few years ago. The iris sometimes get mixed up here, that should read the iris always get mixed up here. When not in bloom the foliage has a way of moving about and tags get lost in the shuffle of mulching and weeding. Fearing to discard a one of a kind, the unknowns are planted in this spot by the raised box planter, their fate determined when and if blooming occurs. The orange wonder may have to be moved to a spot where no other iris reside, to be sure of its identity.
Old fashioned plants will never go out of style, no matter what the glossy magazines or plant breeders trying to sell us the newest, hottest trend in gardening would have us believe. Make friends with a neighbor who gardens, and your own space, even a brand new, cleared by a backhoe bare earth canvas will fill quickly with flowers that have withstood the test of time, lovingly shared. Some might even have a sweet fragrance that will fill you with nostalgia, and bring a bittersweet smile.