The Pure Purple Faith: Lilacs

Tissot  Lilacs from 1875

Tissot Lilacs from 1875

In just a few weeks we will have lilacs again.  Looking out of the front window at half a foot of snow on the ground that is hard to believe, but true.  Lilacs populate the end of April here and have usually concluded their life cycle by the end of May.  They are lovable flowers though it’s hard to say why.  The bushes are tall, often flowering on hard to reach tips, are therefore hard to prune, sucker, get powdery mildew, and if you don’t dead head them the seed heads remain on the bush like dessicated shrunken heads.

When we lived in Vermont we had half a dozen bushes on the property most of them enormous old things probably grown from suckers that came from neighboring gardens.  One of them was fifteen feet tall and had a wide circumference that I dreaded during mowing season.  The scent of lilacs in full bloom when there are hundreds of panicles all at once is dizzying,it made me trudge around the bush with the push mower like a narcolept. Continue reading

Florals that Define Us

freesia for spring post

Is there a particular flower scent that is your signature floral? Something you return to over and over and find addictive, something that speaks to you on a molecular level especially in spring time?  Of course I know we’re supposed to be lovers of orientals, or florals, or chypres, and identifiable by all sorts of methods, but really, all of us have a floral that does a lot of our self definition for us even more effectively than pant cuts,  skirt lengths, or color choices, and that we return to with the warm weather, just like swallows to Capistrano. Continue reading

Come Into The Garden, Maudlin

We all like lilacs.  They are lovely and bloom for about two weeks in April and May and that is that, but as everybody likes lilacs, there should be a large number of lilac perfumes out there. Right?

Nope.

There are comparatively few. The lilac note (which is an accord anyway, made from ylang-ylang, neroli, jasmine and vanilla) is a sort of smell judgment call, a little too much jasmine and everyone says, how sweet, it’s another lily of the valley. Too much vanilla and they say, oh it’s another orchid scent.

Continue reading