Thursday, August 10, 2006

The nose knows—sometimes

When I wrote the last post, I was aware that I was on very shaky ground making absolutist comments about the fragrance or lack thereof in a certain flower.

Some people pick up fragrances that are totally non-discernable to others, and many love fragrances that others hate.

During Garden Walk, some women walked by and pointed to a lily, saying “Oh, there’s that stinklily.” (I found this not exactly rude—perhaps a bit uncouth.) Then they commented that they weren’t smelling the “stink,” and wondered if it had “worn off.” I didn’t bother to explain to them that they were thinking about Stargazers, which I don’t have. Most people around here are convinced that every pink spotted lily is a Stargazer, but I stopped growing them, largely because of their lack of height. Some find their smell unpleasant; I don’t, though they’re my least favorite of the Orientals.

There have been many interesting discussions about fragrance on Gardenweb over the years. Paperwhites are widely detested, but there are some cultivars that have a milder scent. Some people don’t like hyacinths; I find their scent fresh and totally springlike. Tree peonies are wonderful in spring too.

Of course a few flowers just smell bad, or close to bad. I don’t like astrantia, dahlia foliage, chrysanthemums, and martagon lilies (the pink). I can’t think of too many others; I love almost all fragrant flowers and avoid those that lack it. My big dream is to maintain a couple of citrus trees, so I can have lemon and orange blossoms in season.


Kasmira said...

I love love love the scent of orange blossoms. For a short time, I lived with my sister, in Surprise, AZ, just outside of Phoenix. The road from the highway to her development ran along an orange grove. When the oranges were in bloom, I would slow down and unroll the windows so that I could drown in the scent. Ironically, both my sister and her husband were allergic to the smell.

Kel said...

I love running my hands through chameleon - and phlox is another favorite -

I love jasmine, but lost mine this winter -

Craig said...

I have always enjoyed the fragrances of Jasmine, Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum), Mexican Mock Orange (Choiysia), Gardenias, Dianthus, Stock, Freesia (probably my favorite), and Citrus of all types. Some plants will release their fragrance during a specific period of the day or night and be totally without scent the rest of the time. I once grew a Pelargonium triste that had botanically interesting but not very showy small, pale yellow flowers. The reason to grow it became evident at sundown, when it would release a heavy clove fragrance that permeated its environment. During all daylight hours it would remain a quiet little guy, never revealing its secret. I wonder if more plants are programmed to be like that, and if weather or other variables are involved. We are familiar with morning glory and four o’clock flowers opening and closing at various times, so why not fragrance too?

And could someone please explain the fragrance of Actaeas (Cimicifuga)? It is, for me, a strange combination of compelling and repelling. My better half says it reminds her of fragrances in the tropics that are heavy with pheromones.

What is chameleon?