a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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A story with a happy ending

O.K. a story starting with the photograph of a Butternut Squash does not seem to bode well for a riveting read, but wait there is a deeper message!

In August 2012 I wrote a blog “Pumpkin Perfume?” (yes, I was surprised too, that I’ve been writing my blog so long). I had grown a pumpkin that exuded a divine perfume!

I had no idea if this was something very common with pumkins or on the rare side. My friends who had given me the plant had no clue what they had given me as they grew different sorts every year and did not keep records.

Over the years I have had comments on the blog from other people who had occasionally had a whiff of this perfume while others had never noticed any odour. Then yesterday I had a comment all the way from Argentina from Carolina. She has grown butternut squash and like me noticed nothing in particular, but this year she is growing Uchiki Kuri squash and has noticed the wonderful perfume from the flowers in the early morning!

I quickly looked up Uchiki Kuri squash and found it is called Potimarron in France and is indeed a very popular squash here. It has a good flavour in soup with a hint of sweet chestnut.

I have already ordered my seeds for next year. Who cares if I get many potimarron, I just want to smell the flowers again. But here is the rub – the perfume is only for early risers. If you enjoy late morning rising you will miss this perfume.

What made me so happy was the thought of Carolina in Argentina contacting me. Often I have dark thoughts about the progress of technology and whether it has brought the benefits we hope for but I was so touched by Carolina reaching out to me and my cyber friend saying,

“Hi, I have got the answer to your question.”


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Pumpkin perfume?

Before I had my own garden I enjoyed visiting other gardens, my favourite being the walled garden in Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire.  I made a mental “wish list” of the flowers and trees I would plant if I had my own garden.  It was not only their colour or beauty that attracted me but also their perfume.

I used to walk in the Botanical Gardens in Aberdeen at lunch time and I remember searching for the flower along the path that had the heady perfume.  It took me a couple of days sniffing at all the flowers along the path before one day I returned on the other side and found the hedge of perfumed Skimmia.  I would never have imagined that a perfume could travel so far.

Similarly in Geneva I walked for ages tracking the heavenly perfume that was floating in the air.  I found the lime trees in flower and I could have stayed under them all day.  I have planted two lime trees in the garden which flowered for the first time this year.

The perfume of a garden is essential to me.  If  it is at all possible I plant a perfumed variety.

So I have chosen to plant the perfumed roses like , “Mme. Alfred Carrière”, “Mme Isaac Péreire” and “Mme Caroline Testout”

‘Mme. Alfred Carrière’

‘Mme Isaac Péreire’

‘Mme Caroline Testout’

Blue Wisteria

I have planted Wisteria along the front wall and it  perfumes the whole front garden when it is in flower.

Honeysuckle

I have to have several clumps of honeysuckle even though it can be invasive and needs a strong hand to control it.  Honeysuckle perfume is warm summer nights.

I also love the more subtle perfumes of the wild mint and thyme that grows through the grass and releases their essence as they are crushed underfoot.

Pumpkin flowers

However, I was quite taken aback by the perfume of my pumpkin flowers.

I noticed a couple of days ago a perfume drifting over the garden and I located it to the pumpkins which are isolated on a pyramid to enjoy the most sunshine.

Pumpkin pyramid

I do not know what variety they are as I saved the seeds from a delicious pumpkin given to me last year by my friends Patricia and Guy.

Have I got a mutant perfumed variety?  Do pumpkin flowers usually smell this good and the world forgot to tell me?  Am I particularly sensitive to plant perfumes?

Flowers fade in a day

The downside is that the flowers last less than a full day and the perfume is strongest early in a warm sunny morning.

I would love to know if other people enjoyed perfumed pumpkin flowers.