The Sensuous Wallflower

Wallflowers from Unwins UK

Wallflowers from Unwins UK

Wallflowers are not supposed to be sexy, I know, but the flower Cheiranthus Cheiri has a wonderful rich scent that is sensual.  Usually their fragrance is described as being halfway between lillies and carnations, which is a hard notion to get your head around.  Carnations can be green and sparkling and spicy, and lilies are green but creamy and with that big old white flowered whiff that makes them an irresistible choice for Spring, but few people think of walflowers in that capacity at all.

However the scent has made a few appearances in perfumery, though not very often and not very recently.  The all time famous one, if anything regarding Wallflowers can said to be famous, is Dior’s Dune, that monster hit from 1993, which among its wood and floral notes also contains wallflower.Since then as far as perfumes are concerned, wallflowers have been behaving like  wallflowers.  This seems a shame.  Not many flowers have the kind of sweet pervasive scent that wallflowers do and their mixture of pepperiness and smoothness lends itself very well to floral orientals.

As flowers for the garden they are relatively easy.  You can sow them in place after frost and while they will do as annuals in New England, they are hardy to 0 farenheit, and will survive winters and naturalize in the US South or in Europe where they are frequently wildflowers.

Heirloom seeds English wallflowers

Heirloom seeds English wallflowers

Wallflowers like crumbly old limestone and sand, with only a thin mix in of garden soil, and given this, will sprout and even flower indoors for you in November in the North, or you can save the display until summer.  The only caution is that wallflowers don’t care for acid soils or for too much heat.  LIke Sweet Peas or Delphineums, they are fondest of moderate temperatures and coastal conditions.  In Europe you can find them growing in ruins, where they enjoy the crumbling masonry, and indeed some gardeners tuck them with a trowl full of sharp soil into pockets in old garden walls.

If you just want to smell them without all the work you may have some difficulties. Dune has the note but more recently Si Lolita does  as well, and that peppery little floral oriental may be one of the best ways to experience wallflowers.  My own feeling about Si Lolita is that the dry down is too synthetic, but I do enjoy the earlier parts of the scent, especially the sweet pea and wallflower bouquet.  There is something sprightly and almost old fashioned about the perfume that comes off paradoxically as fresh, but then the synthetics come along to spoil the party.

Si Lolita from Lolita Lempicka

Si Lolita from Lolita Lempicka

Another option is MDCI Enlevement au Serail a Francis Kurkdjian composition which Fragrantica calls a floral oriental but which is much more like a fruity chypre to me. There his light style is moderated somewhat by the heavier weight of a chypre form,  and the peaches and flowers (including wallflower) arrangement recalls perfumes like Mitsouko or Femme but in a more lighthearted modern way.

I wish someone would match wallflowers with black peppers instead of pink ones and champagne notes plus lots of natural carnation in the heart, an opoponax  and sandalwood base. NO musk, no Iso E Super, possibly a smidgen of tonka bean.  There you would have something light as air, but tenacious. However, being  wallflowers, I doubt if any perfumer will ask the note to dance anytime soon.

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2 thoughts on “The Sensuous Wallflower

  1. Haven’t smelled wallflowers, but based on your description I would love to. Guess I ‘ll have to give Si Lolita a sniff. Sadly, MDCI advises on its website that Enlevement au Serail is no longer available due to IFRA guidelines, not even as samples. I suspect it’s the carnation aspect that causes the problem.

    • Oh honestly IFRA!
      Still have to thank you for the sad little heads up about Enlevement. You could be right that it’s the carnation or it could be the oakmoss.
      Will there be any chypres left I ask myself?

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