My history of houseplant husbandry has been characterised by failure and misfortune. I brought home my first two plants Sid (a yucca, named after Sid Vicious) and Syd (a weeping fig named after Syd Barrett) to the student flat I shared in Wimbledon, ca. 1989. While Sid lasted a couple of years (thanks more to my flatmate’s attentions than my own); Syd’s time with us was all too brief. Next was Susan the dragon tree, who may have had great potential had I not been obliged to abandon her in Bristol when I moved overseas in ‘95. And so the sad stories have sporadically continued.

My only current indoor vegetation is a snake-plant (or Sansevieria) I call Ray - a 50th birthday gift from my niece. Ray has done remarkably well to withstand four and a half years of my inept care, meanwhile steadfastly photosynthesizing and sprouting the occasional new leaf. A few weeks ago, however, Ray brought forth a new stalk bearing buds that promised to open out into flowers. And that’s exactly what happened: the first blooms appeared while I was away at a wedding last weekend; the marriage, moreover, of the same niece whose birthday gift Ray had been.

Snakeplants seldom flower (I have read), and their doing so tends to be a sign of their being “mildly and continually stressed” (i.e. it has to live with me). The spindly little white blossoms are nothing much to look at, but their perfume is exquisite, somewhat lily-like but subtler, less strident: a very beautiful surprise.