A subtle shift, a scent in the air signals the true arrival of spring. The harsh, dry air of winter gives way to the soft, rich perfume of soil and rain and plants -- fragrances that evoke a different place and time.
No cottage garden would be complete without a lilac (Syringa vulgaris) at the corner. Fragrant white varieties include 'Madame Lemoine' and 'Krasavitsa Moskvy'. Dark purple 'Charles Joly' and blue 'President Lincoln' add sparks of color as well as perfume.
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) takes me back to my grandmother's tidy, picket-fenced garden where we picked handfuls of the emerald green stems with tiny, nodding white bells. This tough, slowly spreading groundcover thrives in sun or shade.
Pot up the old-fashioned scent of summer with annual stock (Matthiola) and heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens). Deep purple, vanilla-scented heliotrope 'Marine' attracts butterflies by day, while spicy clove-scented stock flowers release their heady perfume in the evening -- a welcome greeting at the end of the day.