Heliotropes 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.