Jasmine of Angels, Jasmine of Madonna

Of all the names by which philadelphus is known–summer jasmine, farmer’s jasmine, mock orange, the loveliest ones are the Italian monikers of this sweet smelling blossom, Fiorangelo or Gelsomino della Madonna. Angel flower or Madonna’s jasmine.

In Ukraine we call it simply zhasmin, jasmine, and the jasmine of my Bois de Jasmin is this very plant. No summer image existed in my mind apart from its blossoming clusters leaving white petals in my hair and its heady perfume clinging to my skin.

Thanks to philadelphus, I developed an obsession with all kinds of white flowers, from true jasmine and gardenia to orange blossom and tuberose. Jasmine may not be a correct botanic way to describe philadelphus, but its aroma is similar to that of jasmine sambac. Some varieties also smell similar to orange blossom. The main difference is that philadelphus is sweeter, less animalic than either sambac or orange flower and has a wild strawberry nuance. It makes my summer redolent of a jasmine sorbet studded with ruby-red fraises de bois.

Usually I enjoy philadelphus by lying down on the grass under its spreading branches and dreaming. Everything is put on pause. Nothing matters except the skies above my head framed by the white blossoms.

But aiding moments of quiet contemplation is not the only benefit of philadelphus. It can also be used in teas and drinks. A reader commenting on my Instagram mentioned that she likes to float a few blossoms in her beer to give it a brighter top note. I add it to my teas and dried herbal blends. One favorite is inspired by Moroccan mint tea, and as I’ve discovered, the sweet jasmine-like aroma of philadelphus marries well with green tea.

I also dry philadelphus petals to use in my winter tisanes. When dried it has a mild but pleasing fragrance that combines well with dried rose petals, chamomile, linden blossoms, thyme, mint and sage.

Madonna’s Jasmine Tea with Mint

Serves 4

a handful of fresh philadelphus flowers
a small bunch of Mint leaves
1.5 Tablespoons green tea (such as oolong or gunpowder tea)
sugar to taste

First, tone down the bitterness of the tea. Place tea in a teapot and cover with boiling water. Swirl and drain right away, discarding the water.

Add mint and philadelphus flowers to the tea. At this point, you can also add sugar (start with 2 teaspoons). Cover with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for 2-3 minutes. Once it has brewed to your liking, pour into cups and adjust sugar to taste. Float a few extra philadelphus blossoms in each cup for a brighter flavor. You can reuse the tea leaves and flowers again at least two times, but I recommend adding fresh blossoms to enhance the perfume of the subsequent infusions.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin. Thank you to my friend Ermano for pointing out the Italian names of philadelphus.

Extra, to take advantage of the summer blooms: White Acacia Tisane and Magnolia Cocktail.

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32 Comments

  • kat: This sounds lovely. But due to a late return of winter this year I could not harvest more than exactly four buds – which is more than I expected seeing how the neighbor’s lilac refused to bloom at all. (At least I managed to save the peonies and roses). June 19, 2017 at 9:31am Reply

    • Victoria: We had snow in late April, so I was also afraid that our jasmine season might be cut short. Luckily, it survived. June 20, 2017 at 8:36am Reply

  • Sandra: Its it possible to find these flowers in NYC, or city dwellers like myself can’t make this recipe? June 19, 2017 at 9:57am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t remember where in NYC they have them, but they are a common enough plant. At least, you can pick a couple of blossoms to float in your tea. June 20, 2017 at 8:37am Reply

  • Jillie: This is absolutely my favourite flower! I grew a bush in my old garden and in the year before we sadly moved, it flowered magnificently. The smell was heavenly. When I one day have a philadelphus bush again, I will make tea with its flowers ……

    My second favourite is trachelospermum jasminoides, whose scent is so heady and reminds me of “French perfume”. June 19, 2017 at 10:09am Reply

    • Victoria: I had to look up trachelospermum jasminoides, and it’s what I knew as star jasmine. Yes, the scent is so heady, isn’t it? June 20, 2017 at 8:37am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: Sounds divine! I’m just learning to blend my own teas and tisanes. June 19, 2017 at 10:53am Reply

  • jane: When I was a child our neighbours had a mock orange tree and I loved to sit on the wall amongst the branches at blossom time. The first time I smelt L’A P’s Chasse au Papillons it reminded me of that early heady scent treat. June 19, 2017 at 11:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, yes! The first time I’ve smelled La Chasse, I instantly thought of philadelphus. June 20, 2017 at 8:47am Reply

  • Clair: I am delighted to realize that Philadelphus is your Jasmine! Although I probably grew up around it, it was later as an adult that I first identified it when I was beguiled by it’s sweet fragrance on a walk. I have several in my garden: they punctuate the corners of the property. One variety smells like just like candy (“Sweet Tarts” to be specific)! I have never tried it in tea. Now I must. June 19, 2017 at 11:39am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a quintessential summer perfume here. Sometimes you see flower sellers offering big bunches of it at the bus stops. So fragrant! June 20, 2017 at 8:53am Reply

  • Tiamaria: What a lovely post. I have a Philadelphus in full bloom in the garden at the moment but didn’t know it could be used in this way. I’ll definitely be trying this later. June 19, 2017 at 1:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Wonderful! Please let me know how you like it. June 20, 2017 at 8:53am Reply

  • Notturno7: Thank you😊🌸 June 19, 2017 at 2:50pm Reply

  • noele: Thanks, Victoria. I was excited to walk through the park this afternoon and stumble upon something that I hoped was philadelphus, and after taking a whiff my suspicion was confirmed. I’ve seen these bushes around but have never stopped to smell them reading this post – what a nice surprise. June 19, 2017 at 5:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: They seem to be easy to grow, because they thrive everywhere here, in the cities, in the countryside, nomatter the soil type. June 20, 2017 at 8:55am Reply

  • Karen 5.0: I love night blooming jasmine from when I lived in India. I recall you saying that you loved it, too! So heavenly to smell coming home after a warm summer evening in Delhi~ June 19, 2017 at 6:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love that perfume. My first visit to Delhi was in July-August, so jasmine and mangoes made up for the sweltering heat. June 20, 2017 at 8:56am Reply

  • Elizabeth: There is a big thicket of philadelphus growing in one part of our garden and then 2 much better behaved philadelphus Aurea(?) with golden leaves and double blossoms. To me, Serge Lutens Fleur d’Orange(?) smells exactly like these shrubs. I love the scent of star jasmine but have yet to find a fragrance that comes even close.
    (?)- I am typing on my IPad, while on holiday – so I can’t look up the spelling right now. Staying in Tofino, BC, far away from the busy world. June 20, 2017 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I also find that Serge Lutens Fleur d’Oranger smells like some varieties of philadelphus, especially when you catch their perfume in the evening when it becomes sweeter. There is also something of honeysuckle in philadelphus. June 22, 2017 at 6:46am Reply

  • mayfly: When I was growing up there was a big Philadelphus shrub overhanging the pavement on my road. We didn’t know what it was called then, and me and my Mum called it ‘the Bubble Gum tree’, and we took immense pleasure in taking big sniffs, and collecting the petals that had fallen on the pavement!, even now the scent takes me back to my child hood, and I agree that Chasse aux Pappilion captures the scent well. June 20, 2017 at 1:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s another perfect name, the Bubble Gum tree. June 22, 2017 at 6:47am Reply

  • Inma: Hello! It is so interesting. I think I´ve never smelt the jasmine of Madonna.
    When you say jasmin I always think of jasminum grandiflorum – I had to look for its name.
    Although I am expanding the possibilities now!
    “My jasmin” has always been close to me, here in the south of Spain. It is part of the summer evening’s perfume. You can take their flowers in a special way and they open in the night and your room is beautifully perfumed.
    Jasmins and summer nights…
    Thank your for your article! June 21, 2017 at 6:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Of course, jasminum grandiflorum is the queen of all jasmines, true or not. There is nothing like it! June 22, 2017 at 6:47am Reply

  • Kathryn: Thank you so much for the recipe for philadelphus tea! I am drinking some right now and it is truly wonderful. The philadelphus that I grow is a traditional New England garden shrub known locally as Mock Orange. It smells very much like a non-indolic orange blossom but in the tea there’s also a jasmine facet.

    I grew up knowing that plants from the former Soviet Union do well in norther New England garden since the mainstays of my grandfather’s apple orchard were three originally Russian varieties: Duchess of Oldenburg, Red Astrachan, and Yellow Transparent. Now I’ve discovered Russian lilacs and have just planted a Gortenziya and Znamya Lenin. I am looking for a Krasvitsa Moskvy and Nadezhda. I loved finding out that Nadezhda means hope. There’s always room for that. June 21, 2017 at 12:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: You probably mean the northern Russian varieties, since the Soviet Union contained all climate zones imaginable, from the taigas of Siberia to the desserts of Uzbekistan.

      Gortenzia means Hydrangea. Znamya Lenin means the Flag of Lenin. Krasvitsa Moskvy means the beauty of Moscow, while Nadezhda means hope, as you’ve already learned. The Botanical Garden in Brooklyn has an impressive lilac collection, and I recall seeing some of these in it. June 22, 2017 at 6:53am Reply

      • Kathryn: Yes, you are entirely correct about my over-inclusive geography. Siberian garden plants do very well here–iris, bleeding hearts, bergenia. The cotton and melons of Uzbekistan, however, find it much too cold and do far better in Texas. Having plants that have travelled much farther than I ever will is one way to expand my world. June 22, 2017 at 8:04am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s such a beautiful idea, a garden to satisfy one’s wanderlust. 🙂 June 22, 2017 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Aurora: I’ve loved your recipes Victoria, and used to make more tisanes than I do now, I don’t know why. I think (but am not sure because it flowered in winter as well as spring) there was a shrub like this in the front garden of where I used to live until 5 years ago. It made emptying the bin more appealing. June 21, 2017 at 12:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: Whenever I think of tisane, I can’t help recalling Hercule Poirot, “My tisane, s’il vous plaît, Miss Lemon.” 🙂 June 22, 2017 at 6:55am Reply

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