Thursday, June 20, 2019

Living Memories - Privet 2019

The privet is blooming.

To me, the scent of privet is summer, distilled.  It is the flower scent I remember the most from growing up in the Bronx in the 1950's and 1960's.

It seems to have become a tradition of sorts for me to blog about privet at the end of spring or the beginning of summer, so why mess with that theme?  Today, after all, is the last full day of spring.

I learned, recently, that privet is considered invasive in the southeastern United States.  But not here - not yet, anyway.

Here's a post from 2015, which incorporates a post from 2014.  In memory, I can visit my late mother in law's house - she sold it in 2015 and passed away last November - and, perhaps, sniff the privet one last time.  The neighbor I speak about is still there,though - one day I hope to go down and visit her.

The Last Full Day of Spring (2015)

Last weekend, we visited my mother in law's house.  The privet hedges were blooming, and the heady fragrance lay heavy in the warm, humid air.

Saturday night, my mother in law's next door neighbor came over to visit.  She let me look at her Facebook page and I saw something amazing - she went to my local high school, back in the Bronx.

We exchanged notes and I remembered we grew up less than 1/2 mile, and 20 years, apart.  But I never knew she had gone to my junior high school, or my local high school.  (I didn't go to my local high school, but I learned to swim in its pool, the pool she remembered so well.)

Ah, childhood memories.

Today is the last full day of spring, and I want to bring you back perhaps 60 years (OK, a teeny bit less than 60 years) for a special memory brought back by the scent of the old fashioned privet hedges in front of my mother in law's house.  This is a post I wrote after a different visit to her house some years ago:

Privet and Bees, Scent and Memory (2014)

I grew up in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, in a city housing project.  All green spaces in the project were carefully fenced away behind chain link fences.  We children would get into trouble with the maintenance men who cared for the project if we climbed the fences and dared to play in the greenery.  So, of course, we did it as often as possible.

It's a scent I love to this day.

The boys would catch the bees in glass jars.  That's not something we girls really got into.  Instead, we would look for ladybugs to catch.

Yesterday, I visited my mother in law, who lives in a suburb of New York City.

It was warm, and humid, and privet hedges were blooming in front of her house.

They were swarming with bees.

The heady scent brought me back over 50 years in a matter of seconds.  I was a little girl once again, climbing chain link fences while we looked out for the project maintenance men, so my playmates and I could have a few minutes of interaction with nature.

Scent and memory. A living time machine.

Has scent ever brought you back to a favorite childhood memory?


  1. Scent and’s a very strong link.

  2. I think your other white flowering shrub might be a variety of Pieris japonica.

  3. Scents can be so powerful. They evoke memories faster than anything else, I believe.


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