Monday, April 28, 2008

Gardening for Perfume

One of my gardening dreams is to grow a garden of plants used in perfumery, but not just roses, or jasmine. I want to also grow some of the non-florals that have been used in medicine, ritual, and perfumery for centuries.

For instance, Rock Rose (cistus ladanifer) is a mediterranean bush with fragrant sap that is used in perfumery and called labdanum. This does have lovely white flowers with four or five red spots and yellow stamens (see the picture), but it's not the flower that's used in perfumery. Egyptian pharoahs used the sap, and it was used medicinally, and in a twisty chain of associations was eventually confused with the opiate laudanum.

Or what about one of my favorite perfume materials, galbanum, which is extracted from an Iranian grass? I wonder if I can buy seeds? Vetiver grass is another possibility, as well. Fennel also is one of my favorites--and butterflies love it too, as a bonus. Oh, and I can certainly plant more Artemisia (similar (or the same? I'm not sure) in scent to angelica in perfume), because I can't even kill that stuff in my front yard. Artemesia loves the heat.

Of course flowers shouldn't be neglected, should they? I have a couple of osmanthus plants, (also known as tea olive) to plant in my shady, east-facing backyard, and I hope their scent will waft into my yet-to-be-built screened porch. Jasmine (I've read that night-blooming jasmine, a.k.a. jasmine sambac varieties, have the scary-wonderful indoles by the truckload to help insects find them in the dark) and tuberose are other possibilities, and coral honeysuckle is supposed to be bulletproof in Central Texas. Hm, I wonder if heliotrope and anise grow well here? I'm sad that hawthorne probably won't do here, nor will lilac.

And I definately have to plant florentine iris (iris pallida), which likes sun and not-great soil. Perfect! I've got plenty of both. The iris root, called orris, is my absolute favorite perfume material, and smells like a cross between a root vegetable and a heavenly powdery flower. The iris flower itself produces no extractable scent. I want to smell me some iris roots!

Picture from

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