scented garden: 4 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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Holland Tulip Experience : Visiting Keukenhof Gardens

Who says that tulips have no scent? After spending several hours sticking my nose inside more than three dozen varieties, I discovered that not only are tulips perfumed, their fragrances vary dramatically. Some smell of potato peels and pear brandy, others of cloves soaked in honey and crushed green buds. Lemon, moss, wet earth, rose, carrots, and apricots are some other scents I wrote down in my notebook. A dusky purple hybrid called Cuban Night reminded me of waxed wooden floors. Some varieties may smell lighter than others, but all of them have a distinctive perfume.

fields8

Every spring the flower fields in the Netherlands burst into bloom, transforming the surrounding countryside into a surreal painting of vivid red, yellow, and blue.  At the height of tulip mania in the 17th century, a single bulb could cost as much as a house, but even after the economic bubble burst, the flower remained a distinctive national symbol. Today, the flowering fields draw lots of visitors, and one of the most popular destinations is the Keukenhof, considered to be the world’s largest flower garden.

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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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Cherry Blossom Showers : Brooklyn Botanic Garden Walk

A path leading up to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Cherry Esplanade opens up on a fairy tale view of graceful alleys. With its soft greens and pinks, the wide expanse looks as if it could have been painted either by Monet or by a 19th century Japanese artist.  Under the cherry tree canopy, which is so thick with blossoms that you catch only glimpses of the sky, the light is caressing and delicate. Suddenly I feel that I need a floaty chiffon dress and a wreath of wild flowers in my hair to properly fit into this sylvan setting. Plenty of girls around me are doing just that and strike nymph-like poses to be captured on film. When the gusts of wind grow stronger, you have a sensation of being inside a snow globe, except instead of snowflakes, you feel the brush of pink petals against your cheeks.

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