Like fashion designers, gardeners are usually working months ahead of the normally scheduled seasons. I am writing about snowdrops now, because like the rest of the gardeners, I am planting them now, lots, or at any rate, as many as I can find, tucked into garden beds, behind the post box, anywhere I can cram a few, with more on the way.
Does anyone else share my liking for the scents of winter? They are so clear and so un-indolic, meaning (if you are wondering what indolic means) that slight bad breath note in white flower fragrances: tuberose, jasmine, or gardenia. That musty, I skipped the toothpaste, note can be sensual, in a sex and death sort of way, but how many of us want to remind ourselves of mortality on an every day basis?
I like a springtime tone to scents, and try to reproduce that when making my own; which brings me to the subject of snowdrops. They are the most amazingly variable little flowers. A Victorian enthusiast once said he could tell humans apart from one another much better, if only they were as distinctive as snowdrops. He was right. They are tremendously diverse: some tiny white and green drops, some long, like green striped ribbons, some enormous white bells an inch or two across, some pale green anemones, others ruffled like green petticoats under white skirts, the designs seem to go on and on. However different their flowers though, they are chary with fragrance. I am not sure if I have ever been able to isolate their scent properly. I once detected a fragrance like cyclamen (which is cold and high pitched, and reminds you of pollen) in the sole snowdrop I found with a scent.
Many of them appear to have almost no detectable perfume, but when mine bloom in February, I will be out sniffing the ground around them, in the manner of the local dogs, or else, if I can spare a few, making a tiny bouquet and smelling them indoors. Mine will certainly not be as opulent as the Faberge ones, but they should, with luck, be smellable.
Is there is any perfume which really captures the scent of snowdrops? Or do all such perfumes have to be fantasy accords? Trish McEvoy has one called Snowdrops and Crystal Flowers, but hers is predicated on freesia and cranberries, and I don’t think that I was reminded of snowdrops when I smelt it. Still, fair enough, the scent of snowdrops is probably too mild and miniature to function for most people as a perfume.
What works in this regard? I am still experimenting, but think that jasmine in a light form is a good stand in, if something cancels out that pesky halitosis note of jasmine’s. So far my best success has been pairing light jasmine with grapefruit, together you get a brilliant, cheerful, rather sparkling scent. If I added aldehydes, no doubt, I could up the sparkle to effervescence. Not sure if I want to go that far, since that probably would read as White Linen to most people, and White Linen already does a fine job of being itself. According to Fragrantica, there is a White Linen flanker, called White Linen Summer Fun, which includes a snowdrop note and probably smells even more fresh and wintry, and what I dread in floral perfumes, possibly chemical. I have not tried it and so don’t know, but in any version of my own, flowers must dominate.
If I do manage to either recreate snowdrops, or find something to mimic their scent, I will report on my progress, but this remains one of those projects that move along incrementally, since you have to restrict your sniffing to the very early months of Spring.
I will wear my current project, and wait. Sooner or later there should be a reliable update on snowdrops scents. In the meantime, I will continue cramming in bulbs. You can never have too many snowdrops. Has anyone actually smelled them in bloom ?