botany lesson: what spring smells like


Soap. The kind that used to come in a small round metal container with a picture of a tiny bouquet, tied with a white ribbon, on the lid. The soap itself, wrapped in paper, was so fragrant, so creamy and perfect, you never used it except to place it in a sweater drawer. Or pyjama one.

Sundays at the Vineland Experimental Farm, which has changed somewhat. Or maybe we just didn’t know it was part of the U. of Guelph. In any case, to walk the grounds on a Sunday was a destination worthy of my dad wearing a jacket and tie; my mother in matching purse and shoes—there was likely a large hat involved, certainly a dress cinched at the waist, stockings and a girdle. And me in knee socks, white patent leather shoes with a giant buckle, pleated skirt and matching, stiff, faux linen jacket over a sleeveless blouse with frills down the front. All topped off with a pilled, nylon hairband and tiny new brown leather shoulder bag containing pennies and a hankie and worn crosswise over my chest like the hipster I was. I dimly recall someone instructing me to stand still, smell a blossom or something, and for god’s sake smile!

Click.

The resulting photo—black and white but I distinctly remember the outfit was cotton candy pink—is me beside a giant lilac bush yanking on a branch and scowling at the camera. (I would have preferred being left to commune with them alone over a mustard sandwich, but alas, there were more pictures to be taken…)


Hay. Easily one of my favourite things in the garden. Used to flavour wine (surprisingly, I haven’t tried this yet) and to make hay scented sachets and pillows (and mattresses too). So far all I’ve done with it is enjoy its loveliness.

No question. Bubblegum.

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