Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday. Yes, I love Christmas too, but Christmas involves more work over a longer period of time than Easter, and it has been so commercialized that it’s hard to hear the church’s messages over the din of jingle bells and cash registers. We seem to have managed to keep the focus on the religious meaning of Easter; the secular hasn’t taken over as it has with Christmas. After all, as our minister said on Sunday, no one even likes the song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” (Although one small boy piped up from the congregation, “I do!”).

I know one of the reasons I love Easter so much is that it comes with the start of spring, a particularly beautiful season in my part of the world which calls to my gardener’s soul. Flowers and trees blooming everywhere, days getting longer, sunnier and warmer — plus there is chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Especially in my house. The scents of Easter and spring are my favorite ones: hyacinths, daffodils, lilies of the valley, Japanese magnolias, even an early rose or two. Lots of fresh greenness bursting from the earth. We always have a pot of Easter lilies in the house for the holiday, and pots of forced spring bulbs. Our church’s floral guild goes a little crazy and blankets the entire church in garlands of roses, lilies, and other fragrant flowers.

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It should come as no surprise, then, that this is the season when I happily break out my favorite floral fragrances: Penhaligon’s Ostara, for instance, named for the pagan goddess whose name is also the root for the word “Easter.” I’ve also been wearing Chanel No. 22, a heady concoction of white roses and other flower notes, Jo Loves‘ White Rose and Lemon Leaves, Berdoues’ Somei Yoshino (cherry blossoms), Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley and Ivy, Lili Bermuda’s Lily, and others. I’m hoping to make our annual spring visit this weekend to an amazing private garden that is home to tens of millions of daffodil bulbs planted up and down hillsides:

Woodland daffodils, GIbbs Gardens, March 2016

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, March 2016

I love the sheer over-the-top exuberance of these floral outpourings, and that is what the whole season of spring is like here, all over our city: flamboyant azaleas in Easter egg hues layered under the floating white and pale pink blossoms of dogwoods and Japanese magnolias, underplanted with all shades of yellow and white narcissus or extravagantly bright tulips, combined with swaths of the light blue starflowers that spread here like weeds. Welcome, Spring!

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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!

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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?

Fragrance Friday: David Austin Roses

I am predictably obsessed with a few things (fragrance being the newest obsession). One of those is gardens. Another is roses. Put together fragrance, and roses, and gardens, and I am in heaven. It should come as no surprise, then, that I adore David Austin’s English Roses. He has been carefully breeding them for decades and I am able to grow a few in my garden with its limited sunny spots, including two that are mentioned in the article: Lady of Shalott and The Generous Gardener. One of the key attributes for which David Austin selects seedlings for his breeding program is fragrance.

In The Romantic Quest of David Austin RosesVictoria magazine shares some of the roses’ secrets with some lovely photographs. Michael Marriott, the “senior rosarian” at David Austin Roses, explained that “a rose’s fragrance may be the result of a mixture of up to three hundred various oils, but that two or three of these combine to create the dominant scent… ‘In David Austin’s English Roses,’ he explains, ‘the mix will include, variously, Old Rose, Tea, Musk, Myrrh or Fruit. Other oils add important subtle nuances that give different roses distinctive, evocative notes of cucumber, lemon, blackberry, honey, cedar wood, and more.’”

Three hundred different oils that go into creating a real rose’s natural fragrance! I swoon at the thought. No wonder my many rose-based fragrances all smell different. Mr. Marriott found it hard to pick a favorite among the real roses: “’A fresh memory of scent and off I’ll go in another direction.’ For fragrance, though, he favors the classic Old Rose scent of Gertrude Jekyll, and the Buttercup, he says, “for its elusive, truly delicious and rather exotic perfume.’”

Right now I am enjoying my sample spray of Jo Loves White Rose and Lemon Leaves, and it may be the finalist for the gift certificate I received at Christmas. It lasts longer than many other fragrances by Jo Malone (the company AND the perfumer) and it really does evoke a white rose as opposed to a red one (I also have Jo Malone Red Roses).

Which white rose? David Austin has a new one: Desdemona. If I could find another suitable spot in my small garden, I’d find one for her. As it is, I will have to make do with a much smaller bottle of perfume!

White English rose by David Austin, Desdemona

David Austin Rose Desdemona; photo http://www.davidaustinroses.com