Perfume in the Snow

I have a perfume so rare you cannot buy it at Les Salons du Palais Royal. In fact, I don´t believe you can find it in all of Paris. It is so rare that you cannot even buy it on eBay.

It is mine, and I am enjoying it privately, because it is so fleeting. Time is short.


Come with me. I can show it to you. You have to know where to look, though, because its white, waxy flowers are so unassuming, barely the size of my fingernail. Go on, lean in. Bury your nose in those tiny flowers, their piercing green sweetness, breathe their nectar richness, somewhere between jasmine and magnolia. Stand here in the snow and confront beauty at its most absurd and transitory.


It blooms in late January or early February, too early for adoration from the bees. Sometimes its blossoms are covered in a sheet of ice. It is always blooming when my father and I are fighting what we half-jokingly call our winter doldrums. For sustenance there are always those rare flowers, cuttings from leafless branches of the bush by the back door of the house I grew up in, brought inside to contemplate.

That bush is more than 60 years old; it is beginning to fail, maybe reaching the end of its natural life span. No one is exactly sure what it is. I have spent a fair amount of time looking, and I believe it is winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), although none of these photos captures precisely the delicate white beauty of the flowers on this particular bush by that particular door.

snuff bottle.jpg
I spent a year trying to root some cuttings, to start one from seed, with no luck. Then my sister said, over there, dig that part up, I think it´s a baby. And it was. Just one. It lives in the corner of my back yard, in the sun, where the children won´t trample it and the dog won´t pee on it and it has room and time to grow.

If we ever move, I can leave behind my beautiful mop-head, oakleaf and lacecap hydrangeas, I can tear myself away from even my carefully tended and much-loved heirloom roses. I can turn my back on five kinds of lavender without regret. I can leave them all for the next family to enjoy, but that small, plain bush is coming with me.

It is blooming, right now, in eleven inches of blowing snow.

Lonicera images –,
Snuff bottle –

  • marchlion says:

    Robin, I was almost attacked by an old lady with a rake when she caught me in her front yard inhaling her witch hazel a couple of years ago. I wasn’t PICKING it or anything. Just…. breathing it in. Okay, I had to climb over a wall to do it, and I had this look of insane ecstasy. But still.

  • Robin says:

    Another bush that is great for blooming just when you can’t stand another day of winter is witchhazel. Not very helpful, am I?

  • Patty says:

    Marina, here’s the rdf feel link (it’s down there in the bottom left, syndicate this feed). On the front home page, I put up a bloglines subscribe button, upper left, under my picture I think.

  • Patty says:

    I want one! I love honeysuckle to begin with, and this thing sounds amazing!

    It’s like trying to track down the Daphne smell in a bottle, I just can’t find it, but I don’t think I want to.

  • marchlion says:

    Marina, let me refer your question to our Executive Vice President of Information Technology. She is working on a re-vamp of the blog. She is handling all the technical details. I am responsible for … well, looking at stuff and saying, yeah, that looks cute!

  • marchlion says:

    V, ah, yes, the blooming cherry trees. R kicked this around recently on NST re: Guerlain Cherry Blossom. I concur that the cherry tree scent is wet and kind of vegetal rather than what I’d assume (sweet like apple blossom?) It’s such a wet, spring smell — definitely the scent of bark and damp earth should be included.

  • marchlion says:

    Cait — I have a little branch next to me as I write this, perfuming the room. FYI it doesn’t smell like regular honeysuckle; it’s more … citrus-y? The bush MAY be wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) but the leaves look more like the Lonicera. I’ve taken various parts to various plant nurseries in the past, and mostly they shrug. It was probably planted when the house was built, and maybe they just don’t grow it (whatever it is) around here much anymore.

  • Marina says:

    I would love to smell that! I also want the snuff bottle. And I have a question- does this blog have a subscribe feature? I cannot find it!:banghead:

  • Victoria says:

    How lovely! I very much enjoyed this post.

    I smelled blooming cherry trees recently, and now I am longing for the same scent in perfume. Still, I think that this task is impossible, because one really smells so much besides the actual flower–the moisture on its petals, the woody stem, the wet soil.

  • Cait says:

    That is unbearably pretty. I must smell it, NOW. How amazing it can withstand the winter to bloom like that. Thank you for showing it. Now I am on a mission to witness it myself.