Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ah, What Perfume!

Such endless wicked weather we’ve suffered through!  The only winter I can remember that was as cold and snowy was in 1977.  That year we  had a snowstorm in early May that bowed down the blooming lilacs!  Even though purple is my least favorite
color, I love those fragrant blooms and it was the first time I hadn’t been able to fill the house with their delicious perfume. 
Facing a column deadline, I decided to write about  fragrance in the garden. I pulled a few books off my shelves to see what flowers  have a potent aroma, and the very first book had a  huge list.  Sort of boring, so I decided to compose some doggerel to make it more interesting.

                The flowers fell aquarreling. They never could agree
                Whose fragrance was the sweetest, so they went and asked the bee.
                The bee agreed to act as judge – she does her job with pride.
                She sniffs and sips the whole day through, but still she can’t decide.
                The early blooming hyacinths, strong mints,  or marguerite?
           The four-o-clocks, the stately phlox, alyssum oh so sweet?
                Let’s not forget the violet, the handsome tuberose,
               The bee balm with its spiciness – such scents assail her nose!
               From peony to pink sweet pea, she buzzes through the beds,
               And as she sniffs, the blossoms smile and nod their pretty heads. 

                      Bee Balm,  Also called  Monarda                       

       Of the dozens of other fragrant flowers, one you may
  not be familiar with, a fancy flower with propane power -            just can't resist that doggerel - the gas plant.  Its foliage smells         strongly of lemon peel, but what makes it fun is that its cut       roots and summer flowers produce a highly flammable oil
that a match can ignite into a blue flame.  I've never grown a
a gas plant, but many years ago a neighbor who does, lit a     
 match and showed me how the flower lit up.                
Four O'Clocks

      Another fragrant flower in the list was the Four O'Clock. This annual produces blooms with many different colors in each one.  As you might guess, the flowers only open in the late afternoon.  They're similar in shape to Necotinana, a deliciously perfumed night bloomer.  Although Four O'Clocks are annuals, the ones I plant apparently leave enough seeds  to give me a second summer of plants if it's been a kind winter.
Finding good photos of fragrant flowers is difficult.  Naturally photographers prefer to choose the prettiest, not the most perfumed flowers, so I'm having limited success, but obviously you don't need a photo of one of the headiest blooms, the rose.  Dozens of roses were included on the list. They have by far the most delicious perfume.  I've had no success growing any but the common rambler that anyone can grow.  The list also included the tuberose, which is a bulb.  It doesn't do well in New England, however, as it is frost intolerant.  
Realizing that you're not learning much from this column, I looked in a few more books.    One titled Taylor's Garden Guide (not this Taylor) I found three long chapters devoted to fragrant flowers. I think it has enough information to fill three or four columns. Too late now.  With my deadline looming, I guess I'll tuck all of that info away for the future.  
  In the meantime, if you want your house to be filled with perfume, my suggestion is to go to, a rare nursery of unusual plants, and get yourself a pot of handsome gardenias or sweet smelling jasmine.       

           Gardenia             Jasmine            
                Fortuniana         Maid of New Orleans 

No comments:

Post a Comment