Since there have been a dozen rose posts, this might a good time to take a breather, go back, and re-cap.
For all the complaining that perfume consumers do about the industry these days, one thing is inescapably true: there’s more variety. Once upon a distant time, Perfumer’s Workshop produced Tea Rose and Houbigant sold A Rose is a Rose.
That was about it in 1976. Now you have entire lines devoted to the flower in all its variations. Les Parfums de Rosine is one such house, and besides its twenty or so perfumes, there’s a slew of mainstream releases popular with the public such as Stella, or Valentino’s Rockin’ Rose.
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well, and she hasn’t a pain,
And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
Some perfumers put a decidedly sweet spin on roses. It’s a perfectly viable strategy. After all, get east of Athens and you’re as likely as not to find rosewater flavoring your deserts and candies. Rosewater is in Turkish Delight, and in Mahjoun, also in a tremendous number of other confections, so many in fact, that you might be pardoned for thinking that rosewater is a denizen of the pantry and not the dressing table – but you’d only be partly right.
In the beginning, all roses were white. It took Aphrodite’s pricking herself on a thorn and bleeding to put a touch of pink into the bloom. (There’s a Christian story to the same effect, the rose bush in question being beneath the cross.) Aphrodite appropriated the flower for herself, making it a standard for all things love related. She had her son Eros (aka Cupid) deliver a bouquet to Harpocrates, the god of silence, as a bribe to prevent his blabbing about Aphrodites’ decidedly sex positive private life.
Roses can be big drinkers. They certainly are in gardens, where you can easily go through gallons of water for thirsty roses on hot days, but perfumers have discovered the affinity that roses also have for alcohol. Perfume roses can belly up to a bar with the best of them. There are rose liquors out there, and I’m sure that somewhere some ambitious bartender has come up with a rosatini, but in the perfume world, the contenders for the booziest rose on the block are rather few.
The cat, a creature of refined sensibilities, likes to lie under our rosebush. There is a small hollow in the cedar mulch underneath it which is her favored resting place, and at first my assumption was that she chose this spot because it provided cover. Cats, of course, adore near invisibility, but there are plenty of other places which give her better cover than what she commands there, and so my conclusion is that she chooses that spot based on smell. Charcoal literally does what the rest of us only dream about. She stops and smells the roses.
Parisian fashion loves to impose structure and absurdity on beauty in about equal parts. Don’t ask me why.
Oh well, go ahead. Ask me why.
Maybe it’s the French love of logic that requires the structure, and possibly the fondness they have for the offbeat that imposes the absurdity, cf Frenchie Bulldogs, the whole concept of the Jolie Laide, and Jerry Lewis.
The cumulative effect is at once mannered and a little strange, and so it is with that most Parisian of florals, the rose bouquet. To be French the bouquets must be extravagant in their rosiness, but to be chic, they must impose just a little peculiarity on their inhalers. Continue reading
“When I consider every thing that grows Holds in perfection but a little moment;”
Shakespeare on beauty, probably human beauty, since it seems to have been a frequent melancholy observation of his that it’s fleeting.
However, the observation’s just as applicable to the rose. Even long blooming hybrid teas have a day, at most two, when their bloom and fragrance are at their most intense, and that’s the moment that I always want to find in a rose perfume.
This may be an oddball ambition. Lots of people find that soliflore perfumes really don’t settle in well on their skins. There’s a fundamental mismatch going on along the lines of ”We’re members of different kingdoms, you and I. You’re from the Animal and I’m from the Plant and we have got to stop meeting like this.”
Is certainly blood, in whatever form, followed by certain flowers. While living in Vermont, I once grew a hybrid tea called Precious Platinum that, despite the name, was anything but silver. Platinum was a saturated scarlet, so intensely red that a local boy stopped by the garden one day and successfully petitioned for a rose to take to his girl with whom he’d had a fight.
I never heard if they made it up, but he couldn’t have found a redder rose if he’d trekked from one end of the state to the other. That rose, that particular rose, was the epitome of redness.
Roses and apples are cousins of sorts. They both belong to the Rosaceae group (along, I might add. with all sorts of other fruits like strawberries and quinces and blackberries, whom you wouldn’t figure would hang with apples. But I digress).
The classification goes roughly like this for the pippins: Family Rosaceae, Subfamily Maloideae, and Genus Malus, and then you get either apples or crab-apples. These tend to get classified depending on how big the fruit is. If the fruit is small and tart, it’s chiefly ornamental, and therefore a crab-apple; if the fruit is large and suitable for eating or pie making, then it’s an apple. The surname of these siblings, as it were, is the same no matter what their respective sizes.
Men once had buttonholes. Hard to believe, but they actually did, and what is more they really put things in these buttonholes – flowers for preference. Which flowers? Well, the gardenia was once called the “opera flower” because of being worn by gentlemen in their button holes to the opera. Other gentlemen chose other buttonholes: carnations, lily of the Valley, possibly a geranium (if they were Charles Dickens whose favorite flower it was) or a rose.