Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: A good fragrance

Oleaster hedge in flower

The author may have been referring to perfume in his novel, but I've been musing on the very same thing lately whenever I walk past the pictured oleaster hedge (aka Eleagnus x ebbingei) on my daily walk. Most of the time it barely merits a second glance as it looks pretty dowdy (in my view) which serves its purpose perfectly as a tough plant bordering a public footpath and requires little in the way of maintenance. All that has changed over the past few weeks due to its knockout scent which I can smell at least 50 yards away; from even further if the wind blows towards me.

Close-up of the oleaster flower

It brings back such a powerful memory as it's just like the smell of the suntan lotion mum used to rub into me on our summer holidays. It was a tropical scent which came out of a white bottle with an orange cap, I forget the brand, but ohhhhh the smell. One waft from that hedge and I'm back in Cornwall or The Gower, itching to wrest myself from mum's grasp and explore every pebble and rock pool the beach has to offer. That's not bad going for such a tiny flower.

Apparently* the anatomy of our brain is wired for this phenomenon, with the regions associated with smell, memory and emotion closely intertwined. The development of our sense of smell goes back to in the womb, and we learn about the world's aromas via the amniotic fluid. There is also evidence that the loss of the sense of smell can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.

It makes me grateful I can still smell that hedge and all the memories it stirs within me, thankfully happy ones in this instance. Which scents bring back childhood memories for you?

* = apologies for not linking to the sources of the information I've pulled together here, but there were tons of irritating popups to wade through before getting to the text 😞 Google scent and memory and you're there.


  1. I have a large Elaeagnus x ebbingei plant in my garden. It only has a few tiny flowers but the smell is amazing.

  2. I used to feel that way about the scent of Russian Olive trees, until I found out what a pest they are! But I still love that scent.


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