Gardening: 9 posts

Scented Orchids : A Kaleidoscope of Perfume

Andy wrote this article a couple of years ago after his visit to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, and I kept looking for a chance to share it with you. Now in the middle of grey winter days, an invitation to contemplate scented orchids seems particularly welcome.

What does an orchid really smell like? In the world of perfumery, the answer is fairly limited—orchid is usually portrayed using a note that is spicy, exotic, and floral like Tom Ford Black Orchid or Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, often accented by woodsy, powdery, or vanillic nuances. In reality, though, orchids possess far too wide a range of scents to be classified using any of these descriptions. Orchids are a particularly diverse class of plants, found on every continent, except Antarctica, growing in rainforests, deserts, and marshes, on mountains, valleys, and plains, and taking root in just about every type of climate imaginable.

Orchids are highly adapted to their environments, which is reflected in the fact that most species of orchids have co-adapted with their pollinators to exhibit flowers that are shaped, colored, and scented to attract a specific species of insect or bird. This explains why an orchid species like Orphrys exaltata, which is pollinated by male bees, carries a sweet scent that mimics female bee pheromones, and why an orchid species like Bulbophyllum graveolens, which is pollinated by carrion flies, smells like rotting meat. Fortunately for human noses, though, most cultivated orchids smell pleasant, with odors that span the range of fruity, floral, and all other notes in between.

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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.

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Under the Wisteria : The Art of Perfume

Provence is awash in wisteria. It cascades down every arbor and hugs every stone arch. Its racemes ranging in color from crushed Concord grapes to lavender ice cream tumble from the roofs and hang like Christmas ornaments from the cypress trees. Wisteria smells of orange blossoms, honey and tangerine peel. It leaves me intoxicated. Or perhaps, it’s simply Provence at springtime.

Wisteria and Provence by Anna Kozlova, a marvelous photographer who captured the experience of The Art of Perfume course. More stories and photos to come.

Edmond Roudnitska’s Perfumed Garden

I’m in Provence this week teaching the Art of Perfume course. One of the sessions will take place in the garden created by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska. Situated in Cabris, it’s maintained by his son Michel Roudnitska, the creator of Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis and Frédéric Malle Noir Épices who also keeps the tradition alive by running Roudnitska’s Art et Parfum lab and studio.

It’s a marvelous place to visit for anyone interested in modern perfumery, fragrant gardens and history. Above you can see the view from Edmond Roudnitska’s office. How could anyone not have created masterpieces in front of such a splendid view.

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Growing Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus at Home

It may be March, but here in the Northeastern U.S., spring is still elusive. Bulbs have started to poke through the firm soil, but they are still over a month from blooming. Even once the official start to spring rolls around, everything where I live will still look very much as it did in the middle of winter—barren, grey, and spare. I could sit and brood, longing for springtime, but instead I’ve decided to start spring early—indoors—by jamming the windowsills with the fast and incredibly fragrant paperwhite narcissus.

paperwhites

Paperwhites are among the easiest and most rewarding of flowering bulbs to grow indoors. They often flower within two to three weeks of starting the bulbs, and for almost no effort, they reward you with clusters of incredibly fragrant, snow white blossoms that easily fill a room with their rich, indolic fragrance. Even if you have never smelled narcissus before, the scent of paperwhites immediately evokes springtime, with a heady white floral perfume that is accented by chilly earthiness and fresh, green touches.

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