Gardenia Perfume, noobody´s gotten the smell of gardenia quite right when they put it in a perfume, in my opinion.
Sniffing gardenia yesterday on the bushes in the National Gallery of Art rotunda, I had a chance to ponder what makes a great gardenia perfume? Gardenia is a little … fetid. There´s definitely that bleu cheese note of JAR Jardenia perfume, but you´d have to cut it maybe 50% with a generic, smooth cream-cheese smell, and Jardenia also has a full, sweet top note I don’t detect in the actual flower.I´m not clear on the chemical compound involved in the cheese smell. To me it´s somewhere between the stench those giant arums put out and the indoles of jasmine.
A woman visiting from China stopped to sniff gardenia with me. I didn´t get very far with my cheese comparison, but she said it was a good smell and a little bad smell, and she closed her eyes and smiled as she inhaled.She looked deeply happy.
The high school girls on a field trip saw us, so they lined up and sniffed gardenia too.They giggled and jerked their heads back; it´s so strong, they said.I asked if they´d wear that in a perfume, and they said no, definitely not. The guard said he thought gardenias smelled okay, but he´d grown up on theVirgin Islands, and if I wanted to smell some beautiful flowers I needed to go there.
A gardenia on its own smells weirdly truncated. I realized yesterday that´s because I´m used to thinking of “gardenia” in a gardenia perfume as a player in an ensemble, often paired with something sweet and green like tuberose (Chanel, Jo Malone, Estee Lauder´s Tuberose Gardenia) or muguet (Marc Jacobs). The piercing floral-shop smell of tuberose is the logical complement to gardenia, serving as the top note to gardenia´s opaqueness while it takes the edge off that gardenia stink. But with the smell of gardenia fresh in my mind, I´m not sure pairing it with another white floral as a top note represents a great leap forward. It´s like gilding the Sphinx.
Interestingly, looking at online notes for gardenia perfume, a lot of gardenia fragrances also have jasmine. Googling “gardenia” leads to the discovery that its nickname is “Cape Jasmine” and the latin name is Gardenia jasminoides, although the plants don´t seem to be related. Also, Gardenia is native to southern China, so now I realize the lady in the museum with the blissed-out smile on her face was possibly smelling something pleasantly familiar from home.
The perfume of a single gardenia is a sultry, intoxicating smell. I also think I´d like a gardenia perfume paired with nothing but a note of wet, loamy dirt, and a handful of Spanish moss. Gardenias, like magnolias, mint juleps, and Carson McCullers, are southern. They seem perfect for Lady Day up there (even though I believe she hailed from Baltimore). I wonder if there’s a gardenia perfume that would let me feel that. Will Strange Invisible Perfume’s Lady Day get me there? What about the Isabey Gardenia? Too much other stuff going on?
Awhile back I did a post on an orchid scent (I think Shiseido´s Message from Orchids), and one of you readers suckered me into buying a “low maintenance” fragrant orchid I could get to bloom myself! It´s called Purple Cascade “Fragrance Princess.” Of course, I already think of orchids as “low maintenance.”I buy them from Trader Joe´s, they bloom for two months, and then – voila! – I give them to the Korean diner down the street, with the west-facing plate glass window, and I buy another one from Trader Joe’s.Anyway, I stuck my orchid lump (rhizome?) in a sunny window per the instructions, I water it when I remember, and it´s now getting ready to bloom for the second time this year!Three big fat buds!And it is fragrant, and the blooms are huge and purple, but the part that bums me out is: last time the show only lasted about a week (compared to my usual run of 6 – 8 weeks for the phalaenopsis, which, BTW, I´m keeping just for kicks to see if I can get it to rebloom).Orchid fans out there – how do I increase the bloom time?Should I take it out of the sunny window right now before the buds open, and keep it in indirect light?What about watering?And if I keep the second orchid, does this mean I´ll have 23 of them by next January?Should I stop now before I find myself spending hundreds of dollars on orchidjunkie.com? People collect the darndest things, don’t they?
Billie Holiday (with her signature gardenias in her hair): mdcivilrights.org
orchid, Fragrance Princess: sdahldtp.com