Gardening: 11 posts

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 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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Scented Garden : Fragrant Antique Roses

Roses and rock wall

by Elise Pearlstine

Close your eyes and imagine smelling a rose. Now imagine where you are and who you are with. My first memory is the warm, dewy, pure rose smell of roses along my back fence in my desert garden first thing in the morning. The next impression is the smell and sight of a mixed bouquet of rosebuds cut from my mother’s garden. I remember how the bright colors and subtle hues of different blooms contrast and how some roses stood tall while others gently bent over the edge of the vase. The smell of each was unique. The pleasure of walking in the garden, watching for thorns, cutting the perfect roses, finding an old treasured vase and arranging them for display is intimately mixed in with the scent of roses.

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Scented Garden : Hyacinths For Spring

By Elise Pearlstine


The bee bumbled out of nowhere in the early morning light, heading straight for the intense purple of the hyacinth. Not the white and not the pink but the dark, luscious, spicy, intense color and scent of the purple hyacinth. I had a selection of pink, white and purple beauties lined up for the photograph you see above; as I arranged the shot the bee was getting drunk on “her majesty of the dark purple”. A comparison of the scents reflects the three colors. Purple hyacinths are in-your-face floral, spicy, sweetly green yet with a bite. White is floral, slightly elegant and refined, while pink is pretty with just a bit of spice and quite lovely.

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Scented Garden : Osmanthus or Tea Olive

by Elise Pearlstine


I moved to the southeastern United States in 1997 after living nearly everywhere else. My profession took me to South Carolina where I was to work for 5 years documenting its biodiversity. Three things stay with me from my time in that lovely state: a fondness for grits, the husband who found me there, and a deep and abiding passion for a certain small tree – the Tea Olive or Osmanthus fragrans. The scent of osmanthus blossoms is elusively sweet and rich, floral yet reminiscent of sunripened apricots, very slightly earthy while at the same time ethereal; a scent that warms with the sun. Mostly it defies description. I was to smell that fragrance for nearly three years before finally determining its source. It floated out at me from the strangest places, a parking garage with a narrow planting of spindly shrubs or a front yard with an ordinary-looking hedge. I kept looking for the source but did not find anything spectacular enough to give off such an amazing scent. The answer finally came from the botanist with whom I worked. She showed me this small, tough-leaved shrub growing next to my parking garage. Certainly those tiny white blooms growing out of the axils and gray twigs of the shrub were not the source!

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