Welcome to this next installment of Scent Semantics! This month’s word, supplied by yours truly, is “vernal”, which means “in, of, or appropriate to spring.” Happy April!
As regular readers know, I love to garden and grow flowers, so spring is a marvelous season for me. I also love Easter, and my husband and I were married many Aprils ago, so I have plenty of happy associations with it. For my “vernal” fragrance post, I have chosen Jo Loves’ No. 42 The Flower Shop.
What a happy fragrance it is! At first spray, it positively bursts with zingy green notes, behind which lurks a fruity sweetness and light spring florals. Those would be the top notes of green leaves, mandarin orange, and peony. As it develops, the floral notes get stronger and take center stage: lily-of-the-valley, freesia, narcissus, and jasmine. It really does smell like an actual florist’s shop, with the afore-mentioned flowers waiting in buckets of water to be chosen and gathered into bouquets. If I did as some perfumistas do, and put my fragrance into a refrigerator to chill, No. 42 The Flower Shop would smell even more exactly like the walk-in fridges professional florists fill with their wares.
I especially enjoy the combination of green leaves and lily-of-the valley (muguet), one of my favorite flowers (the other two being daffodils and roses). The green notes and citrus accord balance the muguet beautifully. Most of the time when I wear No. 42, it is muguet that dominates, but sometimes the freesia comes forward more strongly. The name, No. 42 The Flower Shop, refers to the actual flower shop on Elizabeth Street where the young Jo Malone worked as a teenager:
“As a sixteen-year-old, I worked as a florist in Elizabeth Street and loved the moment when early each morning the scent of fresh flowers filled the room. This fragrance celebrates that magical memory.”
Jo Loves’ London boutique is actually located at No. 42 Elizabeth Street, and I have visited it, which I highly recommend. Elizabeth Street itself is absolutely charming, with many lovely shops and flowers bursting out everywhere (especially during the Chelsea Flower Show, when the stores compete to display the most lavish floral decorations). The Jo Loves boutique is a peaceful haven of white with touches of the same bright red that graces its packaging.
The photo below shows its Chelsea Flower Show decorations in 2019, when I last visited.
As the fragrance No. 42 dries down, it becomes slightly warmer and softer, but the green notes persist throughout, and one of the base notes is iris, which I usually think of as a “cool” scent. The other base notes are white musk, moss, and patchouli. I can barely smell the patchouli, which is fine; I think it adds a suitable earthiness to the drydown of No. 42, but I prefer that it not dominate a fragrance.
This is the perfect month for wearing it, because my own garden is positively bursting with flowers! In bloom right now: lilies of the valley; pink camellias; weeping peach trees; a weeping cherry tree; purple redbuds; white dogwoods; Lenten roses (hellebores) of all hues of white, pink, and purple; daffodils; evergreen clematis; forsythia; Lady Banks rose; pansies; rosemary; spring starflowers; summer snowflakes; wild trilliums; and above all else, pink azaleas. We have dozens of them, planted over decades by longtime former owners who were also enthusiastic gardeners. Soon to come: iris, dwarf lilacs, David Austin roses, white foxgloves, daisies, white phlox, magnolias. Later in the summer, we will enjoy crape myrtles and hydrangeas, and, one hopes, vegetables and herbs from my raised beds. Lest it sound as if we have acres of gardens, I should note that several of these plants grow in pots and other containers; our lot is one third of an acre and it also holds a house!
What do you think of when you read the word “vernal”? Many people are most familiar with the word when it is used in conjunction with the spring, or vernal, equinox. The equinox is one of two moments in the year when the sun is exactly above the equator, and day and night are of equal length. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it takes place in March and marks the start of astronomical spring. For others like Portia, in the Southern Hemisphere, the March equinox marks the start of autumn and is the opposite of “vernal.”
Now that I’ve turned ourselves thoroughly topsy-turvy, please make sure to read the other Scent Semantics bloggers’ thoughts on “vernal.” The link to all of them is in the caption below! And do share your own thoughts in the comments, here and on their blogs.