A Froth of Flowers

My mother was the sort of person who did a lot of things with insouciant ease and couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t also. Her most inexplicable and unfair successes came in the garden. She could grow practically anything on roots no matter how persnickety a plant it might be. Her most annoying success (because it contrasted with practically everyone else’s failure) was with vines. Generally it takes two years to get a vine growing enthusiastically, let alone flowering. Mom could do it in one.

When I finally got around to trying to grow a vine, specifically clematis paniculata, it turned out not to be so easy. Should have paid attention, Mom’s record remained unbeaten, and though I did everything for that wretched plant, it sat in the capacious hole I’d dug for it and twiddled its thumbs- or vegetated, to be more precise – for two years. Continue reading

Why So Few New Classics?

Why are so many new perfumes failing to become staples in the public’s wardrobe?  It’s a good question.  We still wear perfumes that are quite old by the estimation of the Industry. D&G’s Light Blue came out in 2001, Dior’s J’Adore in 1999, Lolita Lempicka in 1997 – you see what I mean.

And it’s not as though things are vastly more au courant on the other side of the pond.  Frenchwomen still wear Thierry Mugler’s Angel 1992, or Victor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb 2005.  In fact there weren’t many I could find on bestseller lists younger than three years.  Will things like Wonderstruck or Someday survive till next year or 2014?  Sensuous in the US, a 2008 Estee Lauder release, and in France  Idylle from Guerlain in 2009, might manage  a few more seasons in the sun.  Does it  take that long for us to make up our minds that we really really like something?  Or is it that we are now inundated with product and have a hard time filtering the perfume deluge? Are we so busy bailing out our little dinghies on the ocean of scent that we can hardly tell what we’re smelling before we heave it overboard? Continue reading

Doubling Down

Sometimes plant hybridizers go for broke.  They’re going to do everything, the color, the size, the heat resistance, the double blooms.  In the mad race to twirl around those chromosomes faster than you can say Watson and Crick and select for the most spectacular hybrids, something gets spun off.

That something in the case of the Sweet Pea was scent.  For a large part of the twentieth century the Sweet Pea was a forgotten flower and when grown, it was grown for flower shows, primarily in the UK.

This was a minor tragedy of the commons.  None of the hybridizers meant to forego scent, but those flower showing gardeners wanted bigger and better blooms, basically the mid-century mantra had permeated the hybridizers’ plant growing world and on every day, in every way, the blossoms were getting better and better. Continue reading