Whenever I get to Edinburgh, no matter the weather, I try to make my first point of call the riverside walk along the Water of Leith.
Of all the seasons here, Spring has to be my favourite. Stepping down from the street to water level, the fresh smells of spring are there to greet me. Here, it is the strong scent of garlic that wins over all others. For me, this smell evokes spring like no other and brings back back fond memories of other river walks, especially along the Wear in Durham, as a student.
The banks here on the Water of Leith abound with these dainty white flowers and tiny yellow bulbils.
Wild garlic is native to Britain and often grows along river banks together with our beautiful bluebells. More often than not, though, the evocative garlicky smell comes not from wild garlic but from Few Flowered Leek (Allium paradoxum). It bears many similarities to garlic – it’s white, smelly and likes riverbanks – but this one is non-native and highly invasive. It grows so happily in these habitats that it forms a dense carpet that smothers other species; as a result it’s on the “wanted list” of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it an offence to plant it in the wild. I wish I didn’t know that: it seems too pretty to be a pest and now I won’t be able to think of it in quite the same way.