Sunday, August 21, 2005


I was weeding my sun bed when I caught a familiar scent and was flooded with memories of summers at my Grandma Cookie's house. I followed my nose to the bloom of a butterfly bush. The panicles have a dusty, faintly floral odor. Then, I realized that the bush I had always thought of as a lilac in my grandmother's backyard was a butterfly bush - a name I had never heard until this spring, when I began my gardening adventure.

Putting a new name to my grandmother's flowering bush made sense of my memories. First of all, the "lilac" bloomed in July, when we were visiting over our summer vacation. Second, I don't believe I've ever smelled an actual lilac until this May, when Miss Kim knocked my socks off. Had Grandma Cookie's enormous butterfly bush been a lilac, the whole neighborhood would have been saturated in its perfume.

I paid little or no attention to garden plants when I was young, but I am surprised by how much I remember of my grandmother's yard. Besides the butterfly bush, the back yard was also home to an apple tree that yielded a crop of wormy apples each year. I was always struck by how ugly that tree was, with its secondary branches extending straight into the air from the limbs, as if it were a frightened cat. Outside of the front door, which we rarely used, an enormous holly occupied most of the yard. It persisted in growing over the sidewalk and scratching any pedestrians who dared pass by. Most of all, though, I remember the patch of mint and lemon balm she grew beneath the kitchen window. I often plucked a lemon balm leaf, crushed it, and inhaled its lemony fragrance. She grew the mint to deter ants, but they made their highways through her kitchen anyway.

I haven't been thrilled with my butterfly bush this year. Until it matures and gains some height, my garden looks a little lopsided. Rather than attracting hords colorful butterflies, I've seen only cabbage whites. I was hoping for a fragrant bloom, but the scent is very faint. However, now that I recognize its kinship with my grandmother's "lilac" bush, it has endeared itself to me. Every time I smell its dusty fragrance, I recall plucking blooms from my Grandma Cookie's bush and placing them in tiny vases on the kitchen windowsill. I imagine the ache from a day spent riding horse with my best friend, Melissa. I remember the smell of the annual burning of the mint fields. I relive the many summers I spent in Junction City, Oregon. Some plants have a place in our landscape simply for the memories.


Blogger Gary said...

Like the nose. Pick it yourself?

10:32 PM  
Blogger OldRoses said...

It took a couple of years before my butterfly bush was large enough to have enough blooms to attract butterflies but it was worth waiting for. Hang in there, you'll see some amazing butterflies. Or maybe I am just easily impressed!

12:50 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Azaleas remind me of my Gran Gran and Pa, who lived on the Gulf Coast.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

What a lovely read today! Especially at the end, when I realize you spent your childhood summers only 40 minutes south of where I live! What a small world,indeed...

1:54 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Thanks for the memories.
My grandmom lived with us and we had a lilac bush right in the back near the powder room and it was a nice thing to have the window opened when it was blooming. We also had an ancient apple tree that we would climb in. Also next to the house was a cherry tree which was so pretty all in bloom,
but when the cherries were ripe it sounded like a scene from 'Birds' the Alfred Hitchcock movie. My room was right next to the cherry tree too. There was also a quince bush or something like that.
The butterfly bush should bloom nice for you next year. I have a purple and a newer white one. The white smells nicer than the purple. To me, they smell like grape jam.

6:22 PM  

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