Country diary: fill your nose with the cornucopia of July scents | Environment

The hottest day of summer time to date, in an exceptionally advantageous week for haymaking. Long windrows of mown grass sample the meadow, shimmering in the warmth haze, and the nonetheless, humid air is saturated with the perfume of drying hay. A day to have fun one’s sense of scent, particularly now, when its loss is recognised as an early symptom of Covid. We take deep, reassuring breaths.Fifty years in the past, after I was a botany undergraduate, a lecturer taught me {that a} nose well-attuned to the odours of plant species could possibly be a helpful asset. Compare crushed hedge woundwort (nauseating) with marsh woundwort (pleasantly fruity), he suggested, and their identification won’t ever be doubtful once more.But the language for describing subtlety of plant scents to others, with broad-brush adjectives equivalent to fetid, pungent or fragrant, is simply too imprecise. Often, conveying perceptions depends on comparisons with one thing unrelated, from shared frequent expertise. The stench of flowers of Alexanders, a broadly naturalised pot herb, was as soon as memorably likened to that of an overflowing public urinal on a sizzling summer time day.Haymaking in the North Pennines, filling the air with the perfume of grass drying in the solar. Photograph: Phil GatesSometimes these experiences will be very private, even generation-specific. Crushed tansy leaves remind me of a long-discontinued model of flooring polish utilized by my grandmother. The oil of wintergreen scent of meadowsweet leaf sap is reminiscent of inexperienced therapeutic ointment utilized by a sort main college trainer to a bleeding knee grazed in the college playground. The perfume of meadowsweet blossom, perfuming the air on the edge of the meadow right here right this moment, connects me with the face powder utilized by my late aunt Pat.Each month in the countryside has its personal bouquet of scents. This afternoon, the base perfume of drying grass was lifted by citrusy notes of oil launched by ripening hogweed seeds after I rubbed them between finger and thumb. And in the shade of timber alongside the riverbank, the cool, reviving tang of aniseed from crushed candy cicely seeds and foliage put a spring again in our step simply when our vitality was starting to flag in the summer time warmth.Maybe Covid nervousness, with its risk of olfactory loss, may make perfumers of us all. Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary

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About the Author: Jessica