The Powdery Musk Rose

Francis E. Lester from the
bumblebeeconservancy

Some years ago there was a line of perfumes done by Stephanie de Saint Aignan and one of the more popular scents was something called Le Pot Aux Roses. This does not mean a rose pot pourri in French but rather to discover something that was secret.  It probably harks back to the curious old Latin phrase Sub Rosa which meant that anything said underneath the rose was off the record, something never said, and never heard.

Pot Aux Roses was a very powdery rosy scent which some people loved for its evocation of old compacts full of rice powder, and other people disliked for the same reason, but I recently came across a scent very like it-in my front garden.  The culprit is a musk rose with the officious name of Francis E. Lester.  ( I think you really have to give this rose it’s complete moniker) It was hybridized by a rosarian of the same name and the man who founded the Roses of Yesterday and Today Nursery. He bred this fragrant rose during World War II as far as I can discover and it looks like a wild rose, but the scent is a variation on rose. Continue reading

Beautiful Boronia

Boronia megastigma

I can’t remember the last time I was so tempted but I have discovered a site that sells Australian essential oils and one of them is boronia.  Haven’t heard of it?  Neither had I until some years ago, but the plant is Boronia megastigma or brown boronia in ordinary English, and the plants are small evergreen bushes that produce flowers like little shells.  True to their name, these flowers are brown on the outside of each petal but yellow inside and their perfume is heavenly.

Boronia is native to western Australia and those lucky people can grow them and enjoy spring flowers without too much trouble.  Stateside, California may be your best bet since these small bushes are only hardy to zone 9.  However their oil is something all of us can buy (if we save a bit) and in perfume boronia is a shot of unadulterated beauty. Continue reading

Vanilla: The New Sandalwood

Vanilla in bean and blossom

Once upon a time Mysore sandalwood was hard to find.  The material had been over harvested and the Indian government laid down the law about how much Indian sandalwood was going to be sold each year in order to protect stocks.

Something similar, at least regarding tightness of the current market, is happening with vanilla.  The trouble is that vanilla is difficult to grow, has to be hand pollinated, and  the beans themselves have to age. They have to go from their scentless green stage to their nearly black and perfumed maturity.  In the meantime, some people steal beans and secrete Continue reading

Witchhazel Witchcraft

Witch hazel "Primavera" from gardendesign.com

Witch hazel “Primavera” from gardendesign.com

March has come and with it high winds and unpredictable weather.  In my neck of the woods the witch hazels are in bloom.  They are one indispensable part of this very early spring season, a harbinger of the end of winter. They give  a touch of color to nearly bare flower gardens.  Once you see a well grown little tree festooned with its party blowout flowers, you are intrigued, but when you smell their  fragrance you are hooked.

Yesterday I drove some twenty miles to a specialist nursery in Hamden CT.  (Broken Arrow Nursery, and no, I’m not affiliated) which has quite a selection of witch hazels.  I wanted to see them in bloom and breath in, because I knew that the fragrance was going to be a big part of my decision. Continue reading

Non Rose Perfumes that Smell of Roses

From The dailymail.com.uk A reconstruction of Arcimblodo's Spring

From The dailymail.com.uk A reconstruction of Arcimblodo’s Spring

It appears that I have not done a “list” post in a very long time.  I really hate to do these at the end of a year, but once in a while there is a little space and time to do one and if you can’t re-live rose perfumes in February-when can you?

They do some pretty good best of lists over at Perfume Posse, but I am a fuss pot about roses because I grow so many, and like my perfumes to be really evocative of the real thing, thorns and all. So no Stella, no Diptyque Eau de Rose (only rosy for five minutes anyway- subsequently dryer sheets) and I find the Early Roses of Teo Cabanel to be too timid .  If you want exhaustive lists of the real thing  Undina’s Looking Glass has a really long one. Continue reading

Violets for Valentine’s Day

Fragrant blue violets from pinterest.com

Fragrant blue violets from pinterest.com

So I realized I had been remiss here.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers and a bouquet of violets to mark the day.  I hope it is a fragrant one for you all!

I would also love to know what everyone decided to wear for Valentine’s Day?  I stuck with an old  formula Jasmin de

Double White Violets from Logees'. com

Double White Violets from Logees’. com

Corse a Coty perfume that has a violet beginning and then

is a solid, sunny and rather rural jasmine with a distinct hay note to the fragrance.

What did you choose?  Did everyone decide to stick to roses?

Cats and Rose Trees

Charcoal at about the time we adopted her.

Charcoal at about the time we adopted her.

Cats seem to be the inevitable partners of those who love perfume,but I’m not sure how often they are the partners of gardeners.  I have had memorable dog friends and currently have a cat associate who I came to know in a singular way involving a rose.

When I first met Charcoal she was living on the street in New Jersey.  The particular street she lived on was the same one we lived on  but our paths had not crossed often because we had an aged dog, and she was wary of him.  Mr Tang detested cats with all the energy a veteran Shih Tzu can muster, and used to curse her out roundly when she came into view, but he was in the twilight of his years.  Inevitably we lost him and when we did my daughter announced that she wanted a cat. Continue reading

A Gold, Gold, Winter

Aconites from The DailyMail.com

Aconites from The DailyMail.com

Sometimes I forget how much of my time is not taken up by things in bottles but by plants.  When we first moved here in June of 2015 we were disorganized and preoccupied by schools, and skating teams, and all the other things that come along with moving when you have a family to settle into place.

Then there was the house.  This house is a Connecticut house, which means that it has been built onto at different dates, and sits in the middle of a very large garden.  At last count I had ten garden beds and have now added another very large space for planting.  What was I thinking? Continue reading

The Smell of American Holidays

Northern Bayberry

Northern Bayberry

These days it seems to be synthetic holly or vanillin, or sugar cookie, but once in my childhood it was the scent of bayberries. Now this no doubt seems very old fashioned indeed to people who may still be in their twenties, but the time was when candles were made up and down the eastern seaboard of the colonies using the berries of this one shrubby plant, Myrica pensylvanica.

Continue reading

What the Bees Smell

Squash bees at work

Squash bees at work

My heliotrope was a big disappointment to me this year.  The seeds were ordered from Monticello and when they germinated and grew to plant-hood what did I find?  A great big bush the height of my waist with  feathery heads of purple and then lavender flowers that did not have any scent.

Color me disappointed.  But although I may have been cheated of my almond and sugar and cherry perfume, the bees were in heaven.  The bees and the butterflies were all over my heliotrope practically from the very first day it came into flower in July.  The bees evidently don’t care what human noses smell, they have their own standards of attractiveness.  Which makes me wonder what is it really that bees smell? Continue reading