Sunday, 31 May 2015


Smells are so evocative, aren't they? I'm very fond of old fashioned flowers, especially scented ones. This post is a bit of a retrospective one because the flowers in it have pretty much finished blooming now, and the garden is tumbling into summer. However I want to pause for a moment and look at (and smell) a few favourite blooms. I find that modern perfumes often smell rather synthetic, and I can't identify the flowers in them. As a result I buy quite traditional ones which have the sweet, fresh, powdery scent of flowers which seem to evoke times gone by. 

Many years ago I collected a set of books which were produced by the very traditional perfumier Penhaligons. (One day I plan to buy some of their Bluebell Scent - it's rather pricey, though, so I may have to wait a bit longer!) The books are beautiful, filled with floral illustrations and, best of all, with scented end-papers. Here are some of my favourites.

They are treasures which I like to sit and peruse in spring and summer with a cup of tea when I've got a few moments. One of life's pleasures.

Now to the flowers. My all-time favourite has always been lilac and I mentioned it in this post last year. This is the lilac bush in our front garden, and I love to just stand and inhale its perfume, almost trying to store its memory for the coming year. In the Victorian Language of Flowers it signifies 'First Emotions of Love'. 

I was looking forward to putting it into the green spotty jug which I had for my birthday last year, and I wasn't disappointed. I recently crocheted the mandala underneath it with a bunch of lilac in mind.

Last summer I bought this lovely French lilac soap which scents my bedroom drawers,

and I've had this lilac perfume bottle for more than 20 years now. P gave it to me when I was pregnant with B and once the perfume ran out I kept the bottle because it's so pretty and still smells of lilac. Sadly it was discontinued soon afterwards - I do wish they'd bring it back.

Another old-fashioned flower I'm very fond of is the violet. It's synonymous with Victorian and Edwardian times and violet-sellers in Covent Garden in London, like Eliza Doolittle in 'My Fair Lady'. Violets were grown in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in the first part of the last century and sent up to London to be sold in little bunches on street corners and in markets. They signified Modesty in the Language of Flowers, and are depicted as shy little flowers which hide their beauty.

I've always been rather partial to Parma Violet sweets because of their floral taste . They are thought of nowadays as a 'retro' sweet but still seem to be as popular as ever with their sweet, flowery flavour. I think that they're an acquired taste, though. A colleague once tried one and wondered why you'd want to eat sweets that taste of soap!

Another old-fashioned scented flower is lily-of-the-valley, or convalaria. Such a pretty, delicate little plant with elegantly-shaped green leaves, revealing rows of tiny white bells. In France it's called muguet and is traditionally given to loved ones on May Day. It's often thought of as a wedding flower and its dainty blooms feature in bridal bouquets. They signify Return to Happiness in the Language of Flowers.

In March I spotted a pot of lily-of-the-valley in a supermarket and eagerly snapped it up.

Outside the garden was still quite bare but on my windowsill dainty little bells of white were flowering away.

They smelt wonderfully sweet, a foretaste of late spring.

As I carried it from one room to another I caught sight of its shadow on the wall and stopped to take a snap. The flowers' delicately traced outline looked very striking, making me think that they'd make a lovely stencil or print. I planted it in the garden soon afterwards. I do hope it'll come up again next year.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed my little nostalgic reverie - perhaps you have your own favourite flower scents? I'd love to hear what they are x.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

This Week

Hello! Here's a snapshot of my half-term week so far. We've had a quiet, lazy couple of days; I have been resting my foot and doing a bit of pottering, and D and I have spent as much time as possible in the garden as the weather's been lovely. We've been :

eating ice lollies

 trying rosehip drinks (delicious!)

and eating strawberries - yum!

And I've been relaxing with some crochet

repairing my rather faded peg-bag which I made a couple of years ago

smelling the sweet honeysuckle, which is the best it's ever been

taking photos of creatures, here a huge furry bumblebee ...

and here a shiny-backed ladybird

enjoying our verbascum's first ever flowers, at long last

smelling the French lavender with its elongated purple bracts

loving the way that Oriental poppy buds open, revealing a flash of bright, crinkly petals

marvelling at the delicate streaked markings on these morning glories

and feeling glad I grew this honesty plant - I'm looking forward to its pretty dried seed-heads. 

It sounds like the weather's about to become more changeable, so I'm glad we've had so much time outside. It definitely feels as if I've recharged my batteries, and it's been lovely to have the time to post as well as keep up with all my favourite blogs.

Hope you've been able to get out and about this week and enjoy a bit of sunshine x

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A Breath of Sea Air

Yesterday we went off on a little jaunt to the seaside. P, D and I got up a little earlier than usual and headed off for the south coast. Past Somerset orchards and on into Dorset through soft, rolling hills and red-earthed fields full of growing crops. Swallows and swifts swooped overhead as we drove past meadows glowing with buttercups and along country roads lined with lacy cow parsley. As we neared the coast we went through leafy lanes edged with native bluebells and passed gardens full of brightly-coloured rhododendrons. It felt good to be alive! 
We arrived in Lyme Regis at mid-morning and headed for the beach, buying take-away coffees on the way. Once there, we spread out our blanket on the pebbles, looked around us at the view, breathed in deeply and relaxed.

It was an overcast day - warm, and with occasional bursts of sunshine which were very warm indeed. Looking at these photos it looks quite grey, but the light was actually bright. As we were at the seaside I'd worn my fishy bracelet - one I made a while ago from blue and green glass beads.

Gulls were everywhere and, like some of our favourite places in Cornwall, they are quite aggressive, stealing people's chips and pasties as they eat them. However, they are synonymous with the seaside and their cries are part of the soundtrack of the beach.

The skies were full of fluffy cumulous clouds, many of them quite grey, but no rain threatened.

As is traditional I'd taken my yarny things along with me ready for a bit of crochet, while P swam (too chilly for my liking) and D went shopping.

I made some little flowers in shades of blue and emerald.

As I crocheted I took in the view stretching away to my left. The cliffs of Dorset's 'Jurassic Coast' undulated along the horizon and were lit up every once in a while as the sunlight caught them.

I had brought with me my seaside journal in which I've been recording our coastal visits for 7 years now, detailing our day trips and holidays. There are little sketches in it too, including a couple done for me by the children when they were younger. It's fun to look back at it, not just to marvel at how much our family has grown up, but also to see a common pattern of beach-visits: the sights, sounds and smells of the coast and the way I feel when I'm by the sea are all repeated in those pages. They have a rhythm which is reassuring in its repetition.

After pasties for lunch we had ice-creams on the beach, blackcurrant and clotted cream for me - a real treat.

Soon a gentle stroll was in order, so we set off along the seafront, and I looked at the houses and cottages.

A mix of styles, including thatched cottages, they rambled along the beach in light-reflecting pastel colours.

We had been sitting on the stony part of the beach which is painful to the feet but closer to the shops and covered in interesting pebbles and hag stones (stone with holes in them). However there is a sandy part which is much busier and full of families.

We passed this and headed for the famous Cobb, immortalised in two novels: Jane Austen's 'Persuasion' and John Fowles' 'French Lieutenant's Woman'. A long, curving sea defence and harbour wall, a stroll along it enables you to view the town from the sea.

By now the tide had gone out and the little boats all lay on their sides in the wet sand.

At points along the Cobb there are sets of stone steps which enable you to walk along the top of it and look down at the sea on the other side.

I have mentioned before that I do not have a head for heights, and know from experience that the top of the Cobb is not for me, so I left P and D to wander up there while I took a look at the Granny's Teeth steps. I had to wait to take this photo as some children were climbing down these precipitous stairs which are very photogenic, but not user-friendly 

Towards the end of the Cobb there's a wonderful view of the cliffs and sea. It must be quite a different scene on a stormy day.

It was time to go home, and we wandered back along the rows of beach huts. I tried not to be nosy, but it's almost impossible not to look inside the open ones as we passed. Many had little tables and chairs with breezy curtains and seaside-themed accessories. It all looked very cosy and appealed to the shed-decorator in me.

It was miraculous that I managed to get these shots as there were lots of holiday-makers around. Looking at them now, it looks deserted! I do love the ice-cream colours of the huts - so pretty and fresh.

Thank you for joining me on our day-trip - I hope you enjoyed the sea air and lovely views. I'm off to make a cup of tea now and finish my crochet.
See you soon x