In 2009, I went to Sheffield to visit my aunt Georgina. One of the conditions of my going on the trip was that I bring back plenty of plants. My aunt recommended the online nursery, Crocus, which is truly dangerous- whatever we looked at we wanted. In the end, I brought back, among others, the amazingly scented red rose that now scrambles up the side of our house (Etoile de Hollande), asparagus root crowns, and a peony, paeonia lactiflora “Duchesse de Nemours,” that was apparently both snow white and scented. Well, it flowered for the first time this year, and all that and more: it is just an impossibly beautiful thing to behold, with a scent like lily of the valley and vanilla ice cream. I think it says, “Look, the world is a beautiful place after all,” but Ali thinks it’s saying to us, “You’re ugly and you smell.”
It’s got a cage around it for two reasons. One is a little lesson that I learned last year: if you want to have free range chickens, you can’t have free range plants. The other, more pressing reason for this particular plant is that we are having another house built, and the peony is right behind it. Lest this sound very grand, let me point out that the entire footprint of the house is 15 meters squared, and the interior of it is 9 meters squared, so it is more accurate to think of it as another room, with a terrace. Still, it’s a welcome addition, and it’s almost finished.