Scent Semantics, April 4, 2022

Scent Semantics, April 4, 2022

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.

Storefront of Jo Loves fragrance boutique, decorated with roses.
Jo Loves boutique, Elizabeth Street, London, May 2019.
Jo Loves fragrance boutique at 42 Elizabeth Street, London.
Jo Loves boutique

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!

Le Jardin de Old Herbaceous

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.

Scent Semantics blog list
The Scent Semantics bloggers

May Muguet Marathon: No. 42 The Flower Shop

May Muguet Marathon: No. 42 The Flower Shop

Those of you who read fragrance blogs and articles know that the brand Jo Loves was started by Jo Malone, who sold her first, eponymous brand to Estee Lauder, worked for them for some time, then launched a new brand of her own, Jo Loves, several years later. She also has a store at 42 Elizabeth Street in London. No. 42 The Flower Shop is named after the coincidence that when she was a teenager, Jo worked as a florist on the same street where her store now stands. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting it, and I highly recommend that if you are in London! It’s a lovely store, and it is close to Les Senteurs, a long-established niche perfumery with a wide selection of fragrances by independent brands.

Jo Loves fragrance boutique at 42 Elizabeth Street, London.

Jo Loves boutique

No. 42 The Flower Shop smells exactly like its name. It is the smell that greets you when you walk into a florist’s shop, a mix of cut flower and leaf fragrances, very green and fresh. While the brand’s website describes it only as “fresh blooms and crushed green leaves”, Fragrantica describes it in more detail: “top notes are green leaves, mandarin orange and peony; middle notes are lily-of-the-valley, freesia, jasmine and narcissus; base notes are iris, white musk, moss and patchouli.” Lily of the valley is listed with green notes as one of the top two notes perceived by commenters.

The opening is indeed very green, which I like very much. There is a slight sweetness and juiciness that reflects the mandarin orange note, but the citrus fades away quickly and what remains at first are green, green leaves. Then the floral notes enter, including the lily of the valley. I think that lily of the valley and freesia are evenly matched in No. 42 The Flower Shop. Both are evident, but they are blended together very nicely; at some moments in this middle stage, the freesia is more dominant to my nose, but at other times, the lily of the valley takes precedence. No. 42 The Flower Shop evokes a very specific memory for me: the florist buckets and potted plants outside my favorite store in the world: Liberty London.  I love everything about Liberty: first and foremost, its signature fabrics and fabric designs; but also its fabulous building in Great Marlborough Street, its tearoom, its amazing fragrance department — everything.

Flowers and buckets outside Liberty London florist store

Flower shop at Liberty London

The green notes persist during the middle stage of No. 42 The Flower Shop; that and the other floral notes make the fragrance a bouquet, and by no means a soliflore, as befits a florist shop. The narcissus note is evident, though not as strong as the lily of the valley and freesia, but it adds a nicely astringent tone to the sweeter flowers (it is not one of those heady, “narcotic” narcissus notes, it too is very green). The fragrance retains its greenness throughout, including in its base notes of moss and patchouli. The moss note is especially clever, as it is so common for lilies of the valley and spring bulbs like narcissus to be forced in pots and potted with green moss.

Forced lilies of the valley potted with green moss

Lilies of the valley planted with moss

Sadly, No. 42 The Flower Shop does show its kinship with some of the original Jo Malone fragrances in that it doesn’t last as long as I would like. It is so pretty, though, that I’m glad I own a bottle; and I’m looking forward to visiting Jo Loves’ boutique later this month to try her new fragrance, Rose Petal 25.

Have you tried any of the Jo Loves fragrances? I’m also very partial to White Rose and Lemon Leaves. If you’re interested and you haven’t tried any but you’re pretty sure you may want one, Jo Loves has a discovery “experience” where you pay the price of a full bottle (50 ml or 100 ml) and get a discovery set with a certificate for the full bottle of your size and choice; I believe that includes shipping.

National Fragrance Week: Jo Loves

National Fragrance Week: Jo Loves

Since National Fragrance Week is a British thing, and I’m not in the UK, I’m going to write about some of the British fragrance houses I have come to know and love. First up: Jo Loves. I had the pleasure of visiting the Jo Loves boutique in London a year and a half ago, and what a delight it was!

Jo Loves fragrance boutique on Elizabeth Street in London

Jo Loves

I came home with the “Discovery Gift Experience”, a discovery of all the line’s fragrances at that time and a gift certificate for one of them, my choice. I was able to narrow down my pick to one of these: Red Truffle 21, No. 42 The Flower Shop, and White Rose and Lemon Leaves. I also liked Fresh Sweet Peas, but it felt a little young for me — better suited to one of my young adult daughters. I ended up getting No. 42 The  Flower Shop, a lively green floral, with my gift certificate, and recently found White Rose and Lemon Leaves on an auction site for a very reasonable price. I love them both!


Jo Loves

Both scents are the kind of fresh florals I love. No. 42 is very green, also a favorite theme of mine, and smells very like a florist’s refrigerated storage area. White Rose is a fresh, citrusy rose that almost photorealistically captures the light but strong scent of a fresh white rose. It lasts a long time, too, still discernible on my wrist after 13 hours and counting. I really enjoy the liveliness and cheerful optimism of both scents; they capture the air of spring and early summer, when everything is bursting into new, fragrant bloom and various garden woes haven’t yet taken hold.

We gardeners are eternal optimists; we think that this is the year when the powdery mildew will spare our roses, when sudden storms won’t strip the trees of their blossoms, when insects will magically pass over our borders and feast on someone else’s flowers. Alas, it is never quite THAT year in our gardens, and yet we fool ourselves every spring into believing this might be the one. That is the kind of cheerfulness and optimism that these two fragrances capture.

Have you tried any of the Jo Loves line? What did you think?