In 2010, the famous Longwood Gardens of Pennsylvania hosted an exhibit called “Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance”, noted by Now Smell This. It sounds as if it was wonderful and I would have loved to experience it, based on this description and this video:
An intersection of flora, fashion and science, the exhibition will transform the Gardens’ gemlike conservatory into a museum for the senses. Visitors to the exhibition will experience the actual plants and flowers behind iconic perfumes, explore the mysterious power of the sense of smell, discover the unique combination of creative artistry and intricate science behind perfume composition, and have the opportunity to compose a basic fragrance.
Fortunately, we can still experience one small part of the exhibition: Always in Bloom, a fragrance designed by Olivier Polge before he joined Chanel as its lead perfumer, following his renowned father Jacques Polge. Always in Bloom is a light floral fragrance with lily of the valley as its main note, combined with rose, jasmine, orris and vetiver. Here is what Now Smell This had to say about it: “this is an airy spring-like floral, very feminine, with mild green accents. The lily of the valley, as is often the case, is strongest in the opening; the dry down is more of a blended floral. The base is pale; vetiver and iris are listed in the notes, but it’s more clean than earthy. Happily for me, it isn’t so clean as to smell like air freshener.” LOL!
I don’t mind that lily of the valley fragrances sometimes smell soapy or like air freshener. There’s a reason that scent note is so heavily used in commercial non-perfume products: it does in fact, smell fresh, green, springlike and clean. Unfortunately, most of us are now so far removed from actual gardening that we think lily of the valley smells like soap instead of vice versa. Thank goodness for public gardens like Longwood and other botanical gardens, where even non-gardeners can immerse themselves in the glorious scents, colors, shapes and shifting landscapes of flowers, shrubs and trees.
Longwood’s website has a marvelous feature called “What’s in Bloom” (which probably inspired the name of Always in Bloom), and this week it lists variegated lily-of-the-valley as one of the plants currently blooming in its Hillside Garden. Since I can’t easily get there to see them in real life, I will happily sniff Always in Bloom and imagine myself in this glorious springtime landscape. For such a light scent, it lasts a long time on the skin. If you live near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, go visit Longwood Gardens for me! Have you been there before?