Heliotrope Forest

heliotropeHeliotropes are such a pleasure for the nose.  I’ve had one around the house most years, even in wintertime.  They’re really perennials after all, and can go on for season after season if you live far enough south.

Here in northern New Jersey we are definitely not far enough south, so long before the first frost, I go out and rescue my heliotropes.  This particular plant has now given me some offspring.  They arrived by the rather simple method of rooting in water.  It turns out that heliotropes, just like basil, will root in water quite easily, and so my one heliotrope has turned into three heliotropes, and this gives me a feeling of accomplishment (an idiotic one, since the heliotropes managed the operation on their own).

All you have to do is select a likely looking branch, cut it on an angle, pinch off any buds,  remove the lower leaves, then put it into clean water and in a few days you will see small white roots forming.  Then pot them up and feed them Quickstart or some other plant food with vitamin B in it for a week or two.  Heliotropes are heavy drinkers, so check your pots every day.  The results are generally pretty good, and the plants are blooming fools.

When they flower in winter, their flowers instead of being the intense nearly black purple they are in summer, are pale lavender to mauve, but the scent is still strong though perhaps more floral and delicate than in July when their smell leans more towards sugar.  They are dotted about our bedroom, which has begun to take on their distinct cherry/almond/floral fragrance.  They are particular pets of mine, but no one else seems to object to them, although the cat likes to eat them and has to be distracted by catnip.

Given this population explosion of heliotrope, I am now spoilt and picky when it comes to fragrances that feature the scent.  Since all I have to do is pick up one of my plants and inhale, a bad version is pretty easily detected by yours truly, and the result is, that I no longer bother wearing heliotrope perfumes, even the great Apres L’Ondee.

If you like to wear your heliotrope rather than grow it, L. T. Piver used to make a rather good scent called Heliotrope Blanc (the proper edp is now about 76 USD which is unfortunately, not all that cheap online).  Blanc was a gentle evocation, nearly as good as the Molinard version of some years ago which was also a very life like- though more spicy- mockup of heliotrope.  The recent version that I enjoy, because it smells half way between flowers and candy, is De Nicolai’s Kiss Me Tender.  Because the scent is not so literal, Kiss may actually work for me around my plants, I want a scent that gets along with that of the flowers themselves.  It’s one of my peculiarities- since I always have flowers around- that my fragrances have to get along with the real thing and even harmonize with it.

Heliotropes though, since the plants are non-stop bloomers, are one of life’s more abundant, and reasonable pleasures. Either you pick one up for a few dollars, or plant them from seed for $ 1.99.

Heliotrope perfumes too, ought really to be reasonable, since heliotropin is one of the oldest synthetics, around since forever, and derived from pepper of all things.  This makes me wonder why Apres L’Ondee and L’Heure Bleue should be so expensive?  You pay for the Guerlain artistry, and those fabulous bee bottles.  But I save my money now and simply root another plant.



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10 thoughts on “Heliotrope Forest

  1. Heliotropes are lovely. They smell even better. (Cherry jam-filled doughnut, anyone?)

    Kiss Me Tender is pretty darn wonderful. But Apres l’Ondee is too.

    I am disdainful of “heliotrope” fragrances that smell like Play-Doh. Because That Is Just Wrong.

  2. Where does that horrible play doh smell come from?

    It’s not a question that keeps awake at night- nevertheless I do wonder. Had Caron Farnesiana edt once that was play doh for a good ten minutes in the middle, and that was almost enough to make me abandon the bottle. Meanwhile Christian Lacroix’s Tumulte, which is much cheaper and features a lot of heliotrope, has NO play doh at all. What up with that?

    Apres L’Ondee is so beautiful on other women and smells like heaven on self for fifteen minutes, then smells like old coffee grounds. Too sad.

  3. I like your attitude. Sometimes it’s better to just grow the real thing. I recently bought a gardenia plant and have it in a pot. I’m not tempted to chase the world’s best gardenia perfume because I suspect that road may lead to disappointment. (I’d love to try Une Voix Noire one day though.) Same with lilacs. I’ve smelled some nice lilac perfumes and some disappointing ones. In the end I’ve decided to just enjoy the lilac in my garden for the few weeks of the year that it flowers.

    I might give heliotrope a go. We get severe frosts so I would need to adopt your method of growing it afresh each year.

  4. Kudos to you if you can keep a gardenia flower alive! That was my first failure in a pot and it haunts me. But I think that growing the occasional thing rather than trying to wear it sometimes does work better-gardenias being a case in point. Does anything really smell like a gardenia? Outside a gardenia? Ok maybe Un Voix Noir does (lovely name for Billie Holiday’s favorite flower) but all my gardenia perfumes turn into vanilla and chemicals.

    I do like lilacs, but the white ones intrigue me the most with the touch of clove in their perfume. Really must get around to planting some!

    1. Oh darn, you have me worried now. I’ve only had my gardenia a few weeks. I bought it with a few blooms on it, which have faded, but more seem to be developing and the plant looks healthy …

  5. Gardenias have to find the Ideal Spot, which is some sun but not direct, temperatures in the 50sor 60s overnight and some nice humidity. If your plant is looking healthy then maybe you have gotten that sweet spot for it. If so my only advice is DON’T move it. They hate that and drop all their buds just to get their point across. Happens to me every darn time.

  6. Piver’s Heliotrope Blanc was a rare find thirteen years ago. I wore it for years, as if i knew, i wouldn’t find it again once the bottle emptied. I was right. It had an indolic fragrance and in it’s heart … a hint of salt. I couldn’t have enough of it. I am not good enough at descriptions, but it is really worth trying. A romantic, with a natural feeling perfume. Goodnight to all.

    1. Hi Efi,
      Thank you for mentioning an LT Piver perfume! Not too many people know the house, and it’s a very interesting and old one.
      Here you can still buy Heliotrope Blanc and a few others, but the house deserves to be better known. At least when you wear a Piver you aren’t likely to come across anyone else who wears “your” fragrance.

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