Scents restored Posted on December 31, 2010

When the thaw, sudden and complete, gave us back our garden this morning and I walked on green grass again, I had a flashback to arriving in harbour one summer morning after a week at sea, when I could hardly believe that the earth and its plants have such an all-pervading smell. It was still cold and misty, very different from the balmy summer air that almost chokes you with the scent of hay and honey, but the green/brown scent of growth gave me a surge of joy, and the sight of leaf, twig and bud in all their intricacy, after the dull shroud of snow, made me rush to touch them.

This is what I garden for: the infinity of familiar forms, the sense of potent, complex life in every plant, even in winter-dormant twigs.

Already the elasticity of branches that were prone under snow is restoring their old posture. A few have snapped. The principal swooping bough of an old arbutus in the walled garden has split, and the weight of snow has levered its bole half out of the ground, so that six feet of its trunk is lying on the bare brown border. The cinnamon sheen of the trunk is the main attraction of this tree. Its leaves attract mould in spring and most of its flowers fall off. This is my invitation to do away with it. But no, in its truncated shape I can see the promise of a new tree, more compact and vigorous, possibly even layering itself and forming a splendid strawberry-bearing bush.

Can that be the smell of crown imperials already permeating the sodden soil, or did a fox brush by, or is it just the box hedges ? The cold air is sweet and heavy ; mist has risen from the grey ice covering the moat. Three pigeons clatter out from the grey flint church tower. The grey sky in the west is gashed to reveal its apricot silk lining.

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