Confederate Jasmine

Confederate Jasmine

Although last year I wrote a series called May Muguet Marathon, in truth the lilies of the valley bloomed here in late March/early April. What blooms here in May is Confederate jasmine and in my garden, lots of it. I have a brick wall and more than one fence that are completely covered in it. It is an evergreen vine with medium-sized, glossy, dark green leaves that make a perfect cover for such structures. Its major advantage over other such plants is its flower. Every spring, the vines are covered in hundreds of delicate, small white flowers with a starry appearance and powerful fragrance.

Close up of white Confederate jasmine flower

Confederate jasmine; trachelospermum jasminoides

I was prompted to write here about it because another member of a Facebook fragrance group posted a photo of a plant he had seen and asked what it was, as it smells so heavenly. It really does. A single plant can scent an entire garden; dozens of plants, as I have in my garden, may be scenting the whole block!

When I plant in my already over-crowded garden, I try to use plants that serve multiple purposes, and Confederate jasmine is a prime example. As I love fragrant plants, fragrance is high on my list of the qualities I seek. As my property is less than one acre, plants like vines that will grow vertically and not take up much precious ground space are desirable. It is shaded by a high canopy of tall oak trees, so I seek out plants that tolerate partial shade and shade. I also have a brick wall all along one side of our lot and chain link fence around the rest (erected by a previous owner and now, thankfully, mostly unseen due to the same owner’s clever screen plantings).

The brick wall was built several years ago by a neighbor and required something to cover its then-naked surface, which extended the whole length of our garden. Enter Confederate jasmine! We installed vertical iron trellises on the brick pillars that rose about every ten feet along the wall, planted the jasmine, and within a few years, the whole wall was almost completely covered with pretty evergreen leaves, as the vines fling themselves with abandon into the space between the trellises. The bonus, of course, is that at this time of year, the fragrance is remarkable and the wall is covered with white flowers, as in these images from the blog Old City South.

Confederate jasmine vines on wall and arbor, from Old City South blog

Confederate jasmine; photos from Old City South blog

What does it smell like? It is sweet, with a hint of lemon. It attracts and nourishes bees, another excellent quality given severe declines in North American bee populations. It is intense and it wafts for long distances, but I have never found it overpowering or unpleasant. It is similar to the scent of true jasmine but has less of a “hot-house” aura. Hard to describe precisely, but lovely.

The Gift of Muguet

Happy May Day! Last year I did a blogging “May Muguet Marathon“; not sure I’ll be able to do as many posts this year. But to get you started off on the right foot, here is The Candy Perfume Boy’s take on two wonderful muguet fragrances, both of which I love and about which I wrote last year: May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Porcelaine and May Muguet Marathon: Diorissimo. Enjoy your favorite muguet and your day!

May Muguet Marathon: Diorissimo

May Muguet Marathon: Diorissimo

Today is the last day of May, so it’s time to address the most legendary muguet fragrance of all: Diorissimo. So many words have been published trying to describe Diorissimo in its many forms and reformulations! CaFleureBon has a wonderful short article by perfumer Michel Roudnitska, son of the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska who created Diorissimo for Christian Dior. It includes his memory of the large patch of lilies of the valley his father planted in order to study and capture their fragrance.

There are many discussions of Diorissimo on various notable perfume blogs and websites, listed here: Now Smell ThisBois de JasminThe Black NarcissusThe Perfume ExpertPerfume-Smellin’ ThingsThe Candy Perfume BoyThe Perfumed DandyThe Non-Blonde , Undina’s Looking GlassAustralian Perfume Junkies, and even perfumer Ayala Moriel at Smelly Blog. These people are very knowledgeable, so please read their insights!

I own a few versions of it: a vintage eau de cologne in the tall, ribbed bottle; a mini flask of eau de toilette from a “Dior Voyage” set that includes Tendre Poison, so it must date after 1994 but before Tendre Poison was discontinued by 2010; a 2013 bottle of the eau de toilette; and a 7.5 ml flask of the parfum from December 2010. (For dating fragrances or cosmetics, try CheckCosmetic.net if you have the batch number; for dating Dior perfumes, read this helpful post by Raiders of the Lost Scent, and for dating Diorissimo by bottle, go to Perfume Shrine; these are all really helpful if you decide to try to buy a vintage bottle). Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Guerlain Muguet 2016

May Muguet Marathon: Guerlain Muguet 2016

Deep breath. I am not an experienced perfumista and I’m not sure I can do justice to this new Guerlain, but I will do my best. The new Guerlain Muguet 2016 is an entirely new eau de toilette by Guerlain’s in-house perfumer, Thierry Wasser. It builds on the tradition, begun in 2006, of Guerlain releasing its 1998 formulation of Guerlain Muguet every year in a different limited edition bottle on May 1, the day when traditionally the French present bunches of lilies of the valley to friends and loved ones as a “porte-bonheur”, a good luck token or “bringer of happiness.” So to start, I defer to “Monsieur Guerlain”, the longtime blogger and Guerlain aficonado, to describe Guerlain’s tradition: Muguet.

As you can see, the limited edition bottles are all beautiful, including this most recent one, which is a crystal bottle encased in silver-plated filigree, designed by the Parisian jewelers Ambre & Louise and influenced by the Art Nouveau master Alphonse Mucha. I saw the actual bottle at Neiman Marcus on May 1 this year, which I visited for the express purpose of trying this new Muguet. Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Demeter Lily of the Valley

May Muguet Marathon: Demeter Lily of the Valley

And now for something completely (okay, not COMPLETELY) different. From the heights of expensive perfumery and Muguet Porcelaineto the more prosaic and affordable Demeter Fragrance Library’s Lily of the Valley. I love the whole idea of Demeter Fragrance Library: that they try to capture individual fragrances of everyday objects, places or even weather, and you can combine those into whatever blend you like. From the company’s website: “Demeter was conceived in the East Village of New York City in 1996: a unique point of view about fragrance, a perspective that still remains unique, but that continues to expand. The original mission was to capture the beautiful smells of the garden and nature in wearable form. Consistent with that mission we took the Demeter name, inspired by the Greek Goddess of Agriculture.” Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Porcelaine

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Porcelaine

Thank goodness. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the new (and last) Hermessence by Jean-Claude Ellena, Muguet Porcelaine. I love his Jardin series very much; the transparency of his fragrances appeals to me although some other perfume lovers do not like it. And I truly love lily of the valley scents, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that Muguet Porcelaine would not disappoint. And it doesn’t.

Before I got my own sample, I read some comments that used words like “cucumber”, “melon”, “watermelon” and even “bubble gum”! No, no, no, I thought, surely Ellena would not play such a cruel joke on perfume lovers who look forward to his new works, or on the lovely lily of the valley flower that has so inspired great perfumers like Edmond Roudnitska, whom Ellena holds in high regard.

He did not. Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

My oh my, muguet! Oriza  L. Legrand’s Muguet Fleuri opens with a decisive, spicy greenness that comes from top notes of green leaves, grass and lily-of-the-valley, per Fragrantica. The middle notes are galbanum, angelica, violet leaf and lily-of-the-valley; base notes are lily-of-the-valley, oakmoss and lily. Kafkaesque attributes the spiciness of the opening to the violet leaves, but I wonder if it doesn’t also come from the angelica. The firmness of the green top notes reminds me of the leaves of lily of the valley, which are very beautiful in their own right and offer just the right contrast to the delicate silver-white bells of the flowers on their long, slender stalks. The leaves are sculptural in their form, larger than the flowers and sometimes even hiding them. They are smooth and firm like the leaves of hostas, and reach to the sky in pairs like hands lifted in prayer.

Lily of the Valley leaves

Lily of the Valley leaves; photo from Verdure

I love the opening of this fragrance. It just happens that I am staying this week at my sister’s house, where she has an old, well-established patch of lilies of the valley, so I am able to compare the perfume and the flower directly while I type this. Continue reading