As a child, when on holiday on the island where my parents grew up, I used to stay with my favourite Aunt Lily. I have vivid memories of helping her as we stood at her kitchen table, singing along together, while kneading a batch of loaves made with barley flour, or mixing up ingredients to make fruit and plain scones or rolling out pastry for an apple pie. The aroma of the bread, coming from her blackened stove, never failed to whet my appetite.
Outside my bedroom window, were the sounds of bumble bees buzzing around the vigorous honeysuckle growing up the walls of my Aunt Lily's cottage. The heady perfume, wafting in the open windows, seemed to fill every room, while outside, its scent followed me around the garden.
Here at Barleycorn, we have several species of honeysuckle which climb over arches, up through supports in front of the barn, along the walls of the house, as well as up through a crab-apple tree, and along a fence we share with one of our neighbours.
Periclymenum Belgica, whose roots prefer to be in shade, has flowers which are red on the outside and pale primrose within. The aphids which love them are gobbled up by flocks of hungry sparrows which come throughout the year to my husband’s bird-feeders. The Autumn berries are eaten by blackbirds and thrushes.
Along the front wall of the barn we planted Henryi, a vigorous evergreen species, with its tapered dark green leaves and tubular purplish-red flowers. After sixteen years, it has reached a height and spread of three metres. Halliana, supported along one wall of the house, has pale-cream flowers which turn yellow before fading.
It was inevitable that I would want to make room in our garden for plants I associate with my beloved Aunt. So strong are my memories of her, that, to this day, whenever I close my eyes and breathe in the scent of honeysuckle, I am drawn back in time, a little girl once more, standing outside my Aunt Lily’s cottage.