Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sweet Perfume

Flowers of Russian Olive

Red Clover

Pink and white clover


Russian Olive [elaegnus angustifolia] is now considered a weed, although not so many years ago it could be found in the pages of respectable nursery catalogs. This is from the Weed US database of plants invading natural areas in the United States. "Russian olive is a deciduous tree or shrub growing to 35 ft. (10.6 m) in height. Russian olive is easily recognized by the silvery, scaly underside of the leaves and slightly thorny stems. Leaves are alternate and 1/2 in. (1.3 cm) wide. Small, yellowish flowers or hard green to yellow fruits are abundant and occur on clusters near the stems in the spring and summer. Russian olive invades old fields, woodland edges, and other disturbed areas. It can form a dense shrub layer which displaces native species and closes open areas. Russian olive is native to Europe and western Asia and was introduced into North America in the late 1800s. Since then it has been widely planted for wildlife habitat, mine reclamation, and shelterbelts."

Russian Olive wouldn't be considered much of a tree in New England where we are accustomed to the splendour of oak, maple, beech; it is more along the line of scruffy shrubbery that still crowds the edges of dirt roads there and is routinely whacked down by road crews and fed into enormous and noisey "chippers." It is an untidy tree, but each year for about two weeks in late June and early July the sweet, clean scent of those insignificant yellow flowers carries on the wind and steals through every open window.

We have all had the unwelcome experience of being too closely confined with a person who moved in an aggressive cloud of scent, as though every atomizer on a perfume counter had been tested in one session. A more pleasurable moment is when we catch the faintest ghost of an essence which brings to mind a particular person. An elderly friend once told me that after her mother's death, it was months before she could give away her clothing. Opening that closet door released just a whiff of the familiar perfume and gave her comfort.

As teenagers, my girlfriends and I shopped the affordable aisles of Woolworth and at Christmas we exchanged the predictable little bottles of Evening in Paris and April Showers. Later we discovered the Avon Lady and her samples. A summer boyfriend once sent me a precious flask of Arpege at Christmas time. My husband presented me with a pricey gift which almost exactly echoed a once-favorite perfume which has long been unavailable. "I just liked it best of the ones I sniffed," was his explanation.

As I grow older I find myself wearing simpler scents--rose, lavender, sandalwood and vanilla. Perhaps these are the ones which remind me of old beloved gardens or walks in a meadow, bouquets of blossom in a McCoy vase or a tiny nosegay tucked into a delicate china teacup.

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