Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

By now, regular readers know that I am a committed gardener as well as a lover of fragrance. One probably led to the other, as I favor scents with green, floral, or woody notes. I’ve had to educate myself about genres like gourmands, and they’re still not at the top of my list although I now know more of them. So many of my earliest memories involve the gardens of the houses where my family has lived, and the surrounding New England woods where my sisters and I played for hours. There were the small wildflower garden by the stream that ran through the back yard of the house where I spent my first seven years of life, and the bulbs my parents planted, and my father’s large vegetable garden. A large patch of lilies of the valley spread in the shade against one side of that first house. My American grandparents’ house had a small garden crammed with azaleas and dogwoods, and they owned a nearby plot that was my grandfather’s extensive vegetable garden, which provided bushels of food for them and others during the Great Depression. My grandmother was something of a “grande dame” of the local garden club and prided herself on her flower arranging, so there was also a cutting garden for the flowers she loved.

Later in my own childhood, at another house, there was a wide meadow between our house and that of the famous architect who sold my parents several acres of his woodland on which to build. There, my father’s vegetable gardening became more ambitious, as he fenced about 100 square feet against the predations of deer and woodchucks. I was his reluctant helpmeet in the vegetable patch, the obedient middle child who didn’t vanish when he headed outside, or who could be easily found reading a book in a tree (aka, “doing nothing”). So I learned to weed, pick beans that were ready, take up ripe tomatoes before the squirrels got them, pick raspberries without my hands getting shredded by thorns, and cut the gladioli my dad loved to plant along the edges of his beds when their buds were half open, so they could finish unfurling their parasols of bright colors indoors, in one of my mother’s vases. One year, I even had a little corner of my own in that garden, to grow herbs, after I became entranced with the idea from reading the books of Elizabeth Goudge, especially The White Witch.  The main character is an herbalist and healer, and the book has many descriptions of various herbs, their uses, and their fragrance. I took my blogger name and the name of my gardening blog from another book that inspired my love of gardening when I was a child: Old Herbaceous.

Illustration of vegetable garden

Vegetable garden; image from http://www.sitez.co

The meadow itself was full of native wildflowers like butterfly weed, which my father nurtured with a passion. Past the enclosed vegetable garden, a single pathway through the meadow was kept mowed, and it was the shortcut to the woods for us and other children, as well as the deer who gazed longingly through the enclosure at my father’s lettuces and other green delicacies. The rest of the meadow was mowed once a year, and only after the wildflowers’ seeds had ripened. This late summer mowing, which removes competing tree saplings and also helps spread the seeds, is also known in England as “the hay cut.” It was essential for a meadow like this, as the surrounding woods, including the native northern white cedar, did their best to encroach stealthily and steadily within its bounds.

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed in Connecticut

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed; image from www.vimeo.com

Gardener’s Glove evokes all of these memories, starting with its top note of tomato leaf absolute, a favorite of mine. As Diane St. Clair’s website for St. Clair Scents observes:

If you work amidst the thorn and bramble, you know that the gardener’s glove is a soft, pliable leather, worn down from work, in all the right places.

The scent carries the background fragrance of the glove—tanned, aged leather, woods and soil—along with the ambrosial elements of the garden—sumptuous jasmines, roses, green blossoms and ripe fruit.

Gardeners Glove artisanal fragrance by St. Clair Scents

Gardeners Glove, from St. Clair Scents; image from http://www.stclairscents.com

If you haven’t yet discovered St. Clair Scents, you are in for a treat. The scents are a small group (three, to date) of handcrafted artisanal fragrances made by Diane, who is a premier artisan of dairy products at her farm in Vermont. Diane became intrigued with perfume and embarked on a course of study with her mentor Eliza Douglas. These three fragrances are the result. Diane was kind enough to exchange a few emails with me, in which she said:

I am really trying to position myself as someone producing perfumes with the aroma and feel of nature, a sense (scents) of place, if you will, since I am lucky enough to live and work on a farm. I also try to give my scents a vintage feel, from the days when naturals made up the bulk of perfume formulas, rather than synthetics.

On the St. Clair Scents website, Diane writes:

As I have done in making artisanal, farmstead food, I am interested in creating scent in a similar fashion: producing it with an individual vision and in small batches using fine ingredients. My perfumes are bottled by hand, each one a work of art on its own.

And Gardener’s Glove is indeed a work of art. It opens with a bright, sunny, green burst of citrus (including bergamot, which smells green to me), tomato leaf, and galbanum. It smells like the sun on a vegetable garden, verdant with tomato plants and herbs. As it evolves, the floral notes emerge — linden, rose, lily, jasmine — but also more greenery, in the form of blackcurrant bud, and fruit via apricot. So this vegetable garden, like my father’s, includes flowers; it also has some flowering fruit trees, bushes, and vines, like a true French “potager”. If you’ve ever smelled a fresh, ripe apricot, warmed by the sun and just plucked, you will recognize the note, as light as it is here. A hint of roses in sunlight, a waft of jasmine, perhaps twining its way up a fence or a post, a breath of lilies, round out the heart. Those floral notes together with the linden also leave a strong impression of sweet honeysuckle.

The greenness continues into the drydown, with vetiver, patchouli, and fir needle, now mixing with the warmth lent by saffron and amber notes, but on my skin the dominant theme of the base is the soft, fragrant leather of a well-worn gardener’s glove. If you garden, you know that there is that one favorite pair of gloves, often leather or part leather, that just fits right, has worn well, is sturdy enough for any job. Such gloves often pick up the various scents of the garden: pruned clippings of green leaves and grass, juice from harvested fruits, fragrant blossoms trimmed from their stems and gathered for the house, sap  and resin from shrubs and tree branches, dark, fertile earth, well-aged compost; and those scents mingle with the softened leather of one’s favorite gloves.

Part leather garden gloves used to prune roses

Garden gloves; photo from http://www.nocry.com

That is what Gardener’s Glove smells like — heaven! Some of my favorite fragrance blogs have reviewed Gardener’s Glove very favorably. I especially liked this comment by Sam at “I Scent You A Day”:

Gardener’s Glove takes you on a tour of a garden: a true gardener’s garden, earth, twigs, leaves and all. It’s a wonderfully clever fragrance that reveals itself leaf by leaf.

Sam also pointed out that the fragrance contains “everything sappy, sharp and green that you can find in the garden”. Yes! Yes it does! And I love it. Kafkaesque, whom Diane consulted in the last stages of the scent’s development, offers her usual detailed description, and I agree with almost all of it, except that I don’t get the medicinal note that bothered her. Jessica, at “Now Smell This”, called Gardener’s Glove “a leathery floral, with a leather that’s soft and smooth rather than animalic or dirtied-up”, while acknowledging the earthiness brought by notes like vetiver and castoreum. Robert Hermann wrote, at “CaFleureBon”, that Gardener’s Glove “is a flat out masterpiece of a fragrance; a perfect marriage of the best of vintage perfumes shot through with a modern sensibility.”

I have to agree. I don’t think I’m qualified to say what fragrance is or isn’t a masterpiece, but Gardener’s Glove is wonderful, and a worthy companion to my beloved Dryad, with which it shares a number of notes, by another artisanal perfumer, Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes. If Dryad is the wild woodland sprite, Gardener’s Glove is her more domesticated neighbor in the meadow adjoining the woods. I love them both.

Samples kindly provided by St. Clair Scents; views expressed are my own.

Scent Sample Sunday: Brainiac

Scent Sample Sunday: Brainiac

I always appreciate a quality fragrance that is also affordable, and I appreciate other writers alerting me to those, so here’s my contribution to the “bang for the buck” list of fragrances. The mid-price chain Target has launched a store exclusive line of fragrances called “Good Chemistry” in January; the line is a division of the company Illume. They must be selling well, as the shelves were almost empty when I wandered over to my local Target to check them out. According to the promotional copy:

… the niche fragrance brand includes four collections inspired by different personalities: Confident and Charming, Good and Grounded, Vibrant and Playful and Cool and Collected. Each collection then includes four unique scents that come in perfume, body sprays and rollerballs.

I tried a few from the testers in the store and came home with two rollerballs: Brainiac and Apricot Bloom. (Full disclosure: I may return the unopened rollerball of Apricot Bloom, because the drydown became unappealing after an initially pleasant skin test from the store tester). Brainiac has claimed a place on my shelf, and I’m glad I bought it. I’m also glad it and the other scents come in rollerballs, as I really won’t need more than the 7.5 ml those contain.

Hands holding rollerballs of Target Good Chemistry fragrance collection

Rollerballs from Good Chemistry collection; image from www.good-chemistry.com.

Brainiac is part of the “Vibrant and Playful” collection. It is further described as “clean and practical with a bit of wit.” It is definitely unisex. Its label lists its primary notes as citrus, peppercorn and vanilla. Interestingly, all the Good Chemistry scents are described as “vegan and cruelty-free with essential oils.” No parabens or propylene glycol. The interesting part is that in tiny print, the label says it contains essential oils of armoise, cardamom, and clary sage. Yes! That’s why I immediately liked Brainiac — I love the smell of cardamom. I like clary sage too, but what is “armoise”?

Turns out that “armoise” is based on the Old French word for artemisia, part of a large group of aromatic plants also known in English as mugworts. Eden Botanicals says:

Organic Armoise (Mugwort)

Artemisia herba-alba is a specific Artemisia species indigenous to Morocco which provides the essential oil known as Armoise (Mugwort). Ours has a very fresh, cool, soft green, sweet-camphoraceous aroma that is highly diffusive in much the same way as Peppermint, however while the aroma has a very penetrating initial effect, this subsides after a few minutes of exposure to air. In natural perfumery, Armoise can be used in trace amounts to provide “lift” to top note accords; to add a fresh, green, naturalness; and to accentuate other green notes such as GalbanumSageRosemary, etc.

Yep. That’s exactly what my nose smelled right away when I tested Brainiac: cardamom, and a green “lift” that accentuates the herbal aromatic impression continued by the clary sage. There is a slightly citrusy aspect to the opening, but not much and not for long. If I had to guess, I would say it is bergamot,, as it reminded me of Earl Grey tea and it wasn’t sweet like some other citrus notes. I tend to like green fragrances, both green florals and green aromatics like Aromatics Elixir and Azuree. I don’t smell peppercorn; I wonder if that was listed in the place of cardamom, as some shoppers may be less familiar with the latter. I can’t say I smell much vanilla, although the fragrance does get a little less green and a bit sweeter over time.

All in all, this is a very pleasing fragrance and a good buy at $12.99 for a rollerball, $24.99 for a 50 ml bottle.

Rollerball of Brainiac fragrance from Target's Good Chemistry collection by Illume

Brainiac rollerball from Target

 

Featured image from CalPhotos; ©2010 Zoya Akulova.

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.

Fragrance Friday: Moss

Fragrance Friday: Moss

Moss is a fragrance by a new(ish) company called Commodity Goods, which got started with a Kickstarter campaign and has an active social media presence: Commodity Goods on Facebook. The Moss I’ve tried, thanks to a sample, is listed as a men’s fragrance but there is also a women’s Moss with the identical notes, so I think they are the same fragrance packaged differently for men and women. According to Fragrantica.com, Moss was launched in 2013. Top notes are petitgrain, bergamot and elemi; middle notes are eucalyptus, orange blossom and oakmoss; base notes are cashmere wood, amber, cedar and white musk.

Petitgrain is a note based on the leaves of orange trees. The orange theme continues in the heart notes, with orange blossom. This is a green, fresh fragrance with just a touch of floral sweetness; it is mostly green and herbal, but very light and warmed by the base notes. I’m really loving it a lot. As you know if you’ve read my blog about gardening, Old Herbaceous, I like moss. I like moss in gardens. I like moss gardening. Moss is quiet. Moss is peaceful. Moss is persistent. Moss is resilient. Moss is green and fresh. Moss is.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about persistence and resilience. I am by nature quiet and peaceful. I need to cultivate my own persistence and resilience. I need to regenerate after a drought the way moss does. A very interesting blogger named Laura Bancroft had some interesting comments on Commodity Goods: Piper Winston. It sounds to me as if the company is as interesting as its fragrances.

Even more interesting is that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love has written another book that came out last year, The Signature of All Things. Set in the nineteenth century, its heroine is a self-taught botanist with a passion for moss. In fact, she devotes herself to the study of moss for a few decades. Now that is persistence. I learned about this book from a lovely moss gardening website, MossAndStoneGardens.com. I may have to get a copy, spray myself with Moss, and lose myself.

The Signature of All Things

Why I Write

Writing 101 asks, why do you write? I am quite introverted but verbal almost to a fault, with many thoughts and words jostling for my attention and linking to each other; writing them down takes them out of my head and gives me a creative outlet. My daily work requires that I interact frequently with people, often in one-on-one meetings or conversations. I enjoy other people, and I am not shy, but my introverted nature means that these interactions do drain me of energy; solitude restores me and allows me to capture my thoughts in writing. I have an inquiring, INTJ mind and thousands of books. Many things make me happy. I like sharing them and reading about what brings joy or feeling to others.

Mindfulness is something I am working to cultivate in my life. There are many competing claims on my time and attention: family, work, etc. As my children are now in their teens, I am working to carve out some time for peaceful reflection and creativity in my life, in spite of a demanding, sometimes pressured job. Blogging is one way for me to do that, in a different format than the other kinds of writing I am also exploring. This blog also helps me cultivate positive thoughts through practices like “What Went Well Wednesdays”, when I write down three things that went well that week.

I also blog about gardens, gardening, garden books, art in gardens and garden photography at Old Herbaceous.