Paperwhite Pollution

Pperwhites in bloom  from farmingtongardensblog

Pperwhites in bloom
from farmingtongardensblog

You’ve probably done this too, perpetrated the scent of paperwhites on your near and dear because you saw one of the adorable little kits at the home center with the dehydrated peat moss disk hiding underneath a plastic pot, or else you bought the little white gravel packet and glass vase hoping to observe the snaking progress of paperwhite roots around the stones.  This dear readers is how paperwhite pollution starts, but this particular air quality issue does not end there. Continue reading

Cyclamens in Winter

Cyclamen graecum in bloom

Cyclamen graecum in bloom

There is nothing quite so graceful as a cyclamen in bloom.  Every year when the last things in the garden have been blackened by frost I tend to look for the pots in the super markets and plan table scapes in baskets with cyclamens  dominating (kept in shape by watering with weak tepid tea). It’s too early for the amaryllis that I’ve begun and is still the season for chrysanthemums indoors, so I have to postpone my cyclamen fest until December, but I begin thinking about them now. Continue reading

Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Perfume

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Only very infrequently do nurserymen or plant breeders collaborate with perfumers. Once briefly in 1993 one such collaboration  produced a success: Evelyn.

The company willing to work with a breeder to produce a replica scent was Crabtree & Evelyn and the breeder was David Austin.  He was promoting a new strain of roses that he had been working on since the late sixties, English Roses which have the look and perfumes of old garden roses but are repeat flowering.  He was always far more attentive to fragrance than any of the other rose breeders I’ve ever read about.  David Austin was concerned not simply with stem bending size of rose or outlandish color, but with form of blossom, foliage, and very much with scent. Continue reading

The Mortal Flower of Immortality

Picking Chrysanthemums

Picking Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums smell of cemeteries that’s the conventional judgement of Western Europe.  My sister who spent the most impressionable years of her childhood in Italy still cannot  bring anyone a bouquet of chrysanthemums.  She just can’t. The flowers are bad luck to her, so often seen as blackening bundles in front of the small Italian tombs. Continue reading

And One More Word on Vanilla

Three dimensional  Vanillin

Three dimensional Vanillin

The word I have in mind is vanillin. Vanillin is one of the earliest synthetics from 1874 actually when first produced by the firm of Haarmann & Reimer, and you would recognize the smell even if you were not fascinated by fragrance because vanillin, like the SPECTRE organization in James Bond stories is everywhere, though mostly these days in food, along with its close associate ethylvanillin. If you’ve eaten candy bars you’ve eaten vanillin. Continue reading

Contemporary Heliotrope

Heliotrope in bloom photo my own

Heliotrope in bloom
photo my own

Heliotrope is one of those floral notes in perfume that everyone thinks is old fashioned-that is if they even know what heliotrope is in the first place.  So heliotrope is that delightful annual that blooms in dark purple or sometimes white flowers and produces a delicate fragrance. Some say heliotrope smells  of almonds and others of vanilla, still others liken the perfume to a freshly baked cherry pie.  That was one of the popular names for the flower back in the 1880s in fact.

In case  you’ve never smelled heliotrope one of the best places to begin to encounter the note is Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue 1912.  The other place is Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee 1906.  Both are re-interpretations of   Francois Coty’s L’Origan 1904, which used a heliotrope base (among five others).  All of these fragrances have made it into what you might call fragrant pop culture.  Never smelled them?  Try one and if you’ve never met the scent before chances are you’ll smell talcum powder. Continue reading

The Phlox of August

A border of Summer Phlox

A border of Summer Phlox

World War I started a hundred years ago this month. In retrospect it makes me cringe when I think of all the golden afternoons of August in Flanders being shattered by shellfire and drifting clouds of mustard gas.

Even this unfortunate anniversary does not spoil the month for me.  August strikes me as being one of the very best times to smell things in gardens and one of the best smells of the August garden is phlox. I should make myself clear and point out that I’m discussing Summer Phlox or Phlox paniculata to give the plant its right name.

If you garden with perennials you know this plant well because it conveniently blooms in August when so many other perennials have shut up shop for the season, and all you are left with is annuals. Continue reading

Old Fashioned Flowers + New Treatments = Modern Perfumes?

The Hemisphere, Valencia

The Hemisphere, Valencia

So many flowers fall out of the repertoire of perfumery. The number of flowers that are not used always surprises me, outside of such perennials as gardenia, jasmine and tuberose practically every other flower I can think of has fallen out of favor during my years smelling perfume.

These days the hardest to find are lilacs, although Lilac Faith was released last year, part of the Aerin line at Estee Lauder, Carnation, and Heliotrope are little used except as moderators in some fragrances, others: Mignonette, Stock, Nicotiana, Wall Flowers, Primroses, Dame’s Rocket, and Phlox, as well as all sorts of other garden inhabitants never make the grade for contemporary fragrances. Continue reading

Perfect Peach, Perfect Nectar

Flavorcrest peaches

Flavorcrest peaches

There is no such beast in a bottle.  I keep on looking.  There is or was an aldehyde, C14 which imitated the scent of peaches and is to be found in Mitsouko (or in older formulations of Mitsouko.  I don’t know if C14 is considered kosher by IFRA regulations) and the same aldehyde came in as a  moderator in all sorts of fragrances from Joy to Lancome’s Climat, but nowhere is there a  perfect stand alone peach. Continue reading

Realistic Lilies

Casablanca Lilies photo my own

Casablanca Lilies
photo my own

When they fester, they may smell far worse than weeds, but lilies, especially the great big oriental and trumpet lilies of July and August, are still among some of my favorite garden flowers. They’re favorites with many people. There was a time in the nineties when no chic New York interior was complete without an extravagant display of pure white oriental lilies nearly toppling out of a vase. So far though I don’t wear any lily (meaning these big lilies, not pee-wee lilies of the valley) scent successfully- that is, up to now. Continue reading