Fragrant Flowers

Fragrant Flowers

I’ve neglected blogging last week for a few reasons — two friends of mine experienced sudden deaths in their families, one a husband, another a young adult son. As a result, I was going to memorial services and receptions, and creating flower arrangements for one of those. The bereaved widow is Asian-American, born in Hong Kong, so I did a little research into appropriate flowers. The main thing I learned is that one CANNOT use the color red, and white is the most appropriate color. One can combine it with touches of blue or yellow. So off to Trader Joe’s I went, because they have beautiful bunches of fresh flowers ready to be arranged, and also potted orchids for reasonable prices.

I was very pleased with the final result: one big arrangement with lots of fragrant white Oriental lilies, pale blue delphiniums, and green Bells of Ireland for the main table, and several potted orchids to put on other tables. I also used white evening stock and a softer form of eucalyptus than one usually sees, both very fragrant. In the face of death, one feels so helpless to do or say anything useful. Providing the flowers helped.

After my bout of flower arranging, I started planting the MANY bulbs I bought a couple of weeks ago. I love spring bulbs, and I always buy and plant as many daffodils, jonquils, and other narcissi as I can. Some go in the ground; some go in outdoor pots; some go in pots that I will force indoors. One of the reasons I love these flowers so much is their fragrance. I also cherish their bright colors and graceful shapes. One of my favorites is “Thalia”, a graceful jonquil with white flowers that almost look like orchids. Another is “February Gold”, an early variety that returns reliably year after year in my garden. Its cheerful yellow flowers are a sign that spring has arrived, though they don’t appear as early as a wonderful daffodil, “Rijnveld’s Early Sensation”. When I’ve had that in my garden, it has started blooming in late January. Marvelous!

So I’ve been very, very busy, though not without fragrance. I’m also now quite stiff, having spent hours on my knees, trowel in hand. I have many more to go, so wish me luck! My son helped me replace some half-dead azaleas a couple of weeks ago; thank goodness, I was able to find the same old-fashioned variety (“Coral Bells”) at our local state farmer’s market, because they are part of a gorgeous hedge of pink azaleas. You can’t find it at retail nurseries any more, but there is a nursery supplier at the farmer’s market who always has them. Whew! Have you been doing any fall planting?

shallow focus photography of pink petaled flowers

Photo by Claudia Zuidema on Pexels.com

 

What Went Well

What Went Well

What went well this week?

  1. My husband and I went to see the most glorious display of daffodils — literally millions of them in full bloom, at a place called Gibbs Gardens. Because I told him a while ago that I’d like to do that, to give him time to process the idea, and because when I reminded him, he sweetly said right away, “Let’s go!”. The flowers were spectacular, winding through the woods and up and down hills.
  2. We spent last week at the beach! Because we decided with a lot of travel planned for the summer, we would have a more relaxed spring break. We are so lucky to be within driving distance of beautiful beaches.
  3. We shared the city of Charleston with dear friends, and they loved it. Because, after all, what’s not to love in Charleston?

Have a great week and count your blessings!

Fragrance Friday: Ostara

Fragrance Friday: Ostara

It may be a bit early in the season to review Penhaligon’s Ostara, given that it is named after a goddess of spring and the vernal equinox festival celebrated by pagans. The vernal equinox, after all, happens in March, not February. But temperatures here today reached the 60s, and it was a beautiful sunny day, so Ostara feels right for the day.

Penhaligon’s is a venerable British perfume house that dates back to the mid-late 19th century; its founder was perfumer to Queen Victoria. It was acquired last year by Puig, a Spanish company based in Barcelona, one of my favorite cities. They are expanding the reach of Penhaligon’s and have even opened a store in the United States, in New York: At Penhaligon’s, Old World Meets Modernism. Ostara is a new fragrance, launched in 2015. The perfumer behind it is Bertrand Duchaufour, who was inspired by England’s wild daffodils to create a sunny fragrance bouquet of yellow flowers, green leaves, dew and scented flowers.

Bertrand Duchaufour daffodils

Bertrand Duchaufour at Kew Gardens; http://www.penhaligons.com.

The packaging is beautiful, with yellow cut-paper daffodils applied to the outer box. On the back is an excerpt from Wordsworth’s  famous poem “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud:

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze….
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Ostara Box

Photo: www.blogs.elle.com.hk

Ostara opens with bergamot, clementine, juniper, red berries CO2, mint, currant buds CO2, violet leaf absolute, green leaves and aldehydes. The mostly floral heart adds notes of daffodil, hyacinth, cyclamen, ylang-ylang, hawthorn and wisteria along with beeswax. Base notes include styrax resin, vanilla, benzoin, musk, amber and blond wood.

To me, the opening is bright but not fruity. There is more than a hint of greenness from the juniper, mint, violet leaf and green leaves, but also a creamy undertone that is really winning, maybe from the beeswax accord. I smell the daffodil note quickly, and an astringent note that I think must be the hawthorn. There is nothing dark about Ostara. However, it’s not sweet — just sunny. I don’t pick up the hyacinth note very strongly, nor is the daffodil accord as sweet as, say, paperwhite narcissus. The drydown is warm, creamy and light. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin describes it so well: “From the first minute on skin Ostara glows, rich in green, citrusy and leafy nuances but without suggesting the component parts. In other words, don’t expect to smell along the marketing pyramid and find bergamot and then juniper, mint, violet, etc. Like a flower from a magician’s wand, it unfolds as a big, dewy blossom.”

Why the name Ostara?  According to some, Ostara is a pagan festival marking the time when the sun passes over the celestial equator and the season’s change from winter to spring. It is named for a pagan goddess of spring or the dawn, Eostre, whose name appears in the Anglo-Saxon writings of the Venerable Bede — but only once. Some say that her name is the root of the word “Easter”, the Christian holy day of renewal, resurrection and rebirth.

Goddess in Grotto Real Alcazar Garden

Daffodils are my favorite flowers, followed closely by lilies-of-the-valley and roses. I’m so happy that a great perfumer and renowned perfume house teamed up to create a daffodil fragrance, especially one so pleasing.

Ostara

Illustration: Melissa Bailey for Penhaligon’s.