Poisonous plants are an unhealthy draw. Oleanders and Daturas are high on my list of flowers to be grown with caution. They’re death to the cat if she’s foolish enough to gnaw at the branches, but my cat is a wise cat, and has become an indoor cat since we moved, which seems to be ok by her. I think I can grow Datura next summer, and say, isn’t Datura that old Jimson Weed we grew up regarding as nothing in particular? Well, actually yes, yes it is, and liable to seed itself as far North as Boston. What I wonder is so exclusive and delicate about that?
I think of Jimson as being a Mark Twain plant, something to lay hold of at midnight and conjure to rid you of warts, kind of like spunk water. The reason most people grow the Jimson Weed is for its large downward facing trumpet flowers and their scent which is very strong particularly after sunset. They are real vespertine garden plants, releasing their narcotic perfume after dark and while some
people find it a soapy scent others liken it to the smell of lilies, the plants that fester worse than weeds according to Shakespeare. One has to wonder what he would have thought of Daturas? He probably didn’t know them as they are native to Cuba.
The kind of Jimsons most of us grow are different from the horrible old weed, they can grow as far south as Mexico, and used to be known as Datura meteloides. They are patio plants meant to be grown in containers and if you look at specialists like Logees,
you’ll find they still sell the old Datura metel in a double white form with a strong perfume. The plants can grow to be really big in a single season up to five feet across, and the undersides of the leaves are furry, some people say actually fuzzy.
If you love perfume then you’ve long ago noted the existence of Serge Lutens perfume dedicated to the Datura, namely Datura Noir. It was matched by another early attempt at Datura by Maitre Parfumier et Gantier, the cozier and less femme fatale Secrete Datura. The first of these two reminded me of a contemporary version of Narcisse Noir. It had the thin slightly poisonous acidity of tone which makes you think you are wearing a toxic perfume, and when you deal with the Datura you’re probably correct. A few gardeners have been
known to put them on a porch to discourage mosquitoes at night, and though I don’t know what their success rate is, I would not be surprised to find that Datura works as well as citronella candles.
Secrete Datura by contrast with its heliotrope vanilla and chocolate notes is a harmless gourmand of a scent. Then there is a Datura Blanche by Keiko Mecheri which once again tries to recreate Datura by putting tuberose, vanilla and heliotrope together to yield a Datura-ish accord.
Only Ineke Ruhland had the idea of using the angel’s trumpet in a new and impressive manner. Evening Edged in Gold bypasses the whole soap, heliotrope and tuberose
vanilla crowd in favor of a much more sophisticated after hours party.
Her variation on Datura starts with osmanthus and plum and features Datura as a heart note along with cinnamon and saffron, then she displays the whole dark and dapper party against blue and inky backgrounds of leather and burnt sugar. This finally yields a scent which while it may not give you a Datura soliflor does include the Datura scent in a genuine composition which sets it off. Here at last is the seducer’s friend, the sort of thing that really would not work by daylight. But like Datura, does very well after dark.