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The Scented Flowers of Spring

Scented Flowers for a Fragrant Garden

Working in perfumery – surrounded by fragrant oils that have come so far from the plants they are extracted from – it’s easy to forget where some of these heavenly smells really stem from: nature. We’ve created a list so you can immerse yourself in scent, inside and outside the home. 

Plant these five scented blossoms for a garden filled with fragrance…

LILACS 

One of the most fragrant times of year in the UK has got to be Lilac season. Walking the streets to find the nectarous scent following you. The sweet mauve blooms range in scent from deep, honeyed pollen to incredibly fresh floral. In many cultures, the Lilac symbolises love, and in Celtic culture it was believed as a magical scent that could carry humans into the supernatural world. 

Despite how fragrant lilac blooms are, it is not possible to obtain a natural essential oil or absolute from the flowers, so perfumers must be creative and replicate the smell of the flower using synthetic molecules. The sweet, powdery, and floral nature of the lilac can be recreated using molecules including Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol, Cinnamic Alcohol and Heliotropin, which can all be found in our lab!

For best results, plant in Autumn or Spring, avoiding cold spells. They can bloom from as early as February or March and can last until May. 

NARCISSUS / DAFFODILS 

There are hundreds of fragrant narcissus available today, but the variety that is most well-loved by gardeners the world over, are called Chinese Sacred Lily – a flower used in New Year celebrations in China for generations. Scented with a heady, floral fragrance with deep green facets that has been intriguing perfumers for millennia – the Arabs, Romans and Chinese all used it historically. 

Although try to avoid any of the Israeli ‘Ziva’ variety of paperwhites when buying bulbs. Although they are easier to grow, and produce larger flowers, the scent is rather malodorous, sadly being closer to that of dirty socks than the sweet scent of other narcissus’. 

Plant Narcissus bulbs in late-Autumn for best results,they flower in early Spring, from February to early May. 

You could describe the smell of the Narcissus Absolute used in perfumery as a floral note with a somewhat similar character to the tuberose. It has an animalic and leathery side to it which is balanced by a tobacco or tea leaves facet making it a very complex and beautiful ingredient to use. 

HYACINTH 

With a name derived from the Greek language meaning ‘flower of rain’, it’s easy to see that Hyacinths are a true Spring flower. With a scent that’s intensely green, unctuous, dewy and damp, like sticking your nose into a field of freshly-grown grass. 

The scent evolves over the course of its flowering, starting with a spring-like green freshness, it begins as a faint floral smell but develops into a more intensely pungent scent, that could fill a room with ease. As real hyacinth oil is immensely expensive, perfumers often turn to synthetic notes that mimic the scent so beautifully. A perfumer’s formula for recreating a hyacinth will look somewhat similar to that of a Lily of the Valley with delicate watery and green ingredients including Lillial and Cyclamen Aldehyde, which are stocked in the lab!

Plant bulbs outdoors in borders and containers in early autumn for flowering in March and April. 

GARDENIA 

Grown from emerald green bushes, this waxy white flower holds a powerful scent, and is a great addition to any fragrance-lovers home. Their fragrance is both pure and sensual, so lend themselves to more innocent imaginings of the flower, as well as seductive ones. 

As flowers fragrances go, Gardenia’s is big, bold and unashamedly sexy. It’s sun-kissed floral note being made fuller by its creamier facets. 

Often used in wedding bouquets, as the flower symbolises purity and refinement, they are a familiar bloom to jazz fans, known as the flower favoured by musician Billie Holiday. 

A pricey ingredient for a perfumer – it can take up to four thousand kilos of the flower to produce just one kilo of ‘concrete’ or solid perfume – so synthetic notes are more often used, or perfumers choose to create an effect of it, using other white flowers, like orange blossom, tuberose and jasmine. 

Blooming in mid-Spring to early Summer, Gardenias are best planted in Autumn or Spring, but are most commonly grown indoors as they are particularly cold-sensitive.

SWEET PEA 

Native to the Mediterranean region, Sweet Peas are a climbing plant with scented flowers that range in colour from blues to magentas to creams. Many of their varieties smell but some are particularly fragrant, like the heirloom Grandiflora-types, specifically grown for fragrance. 

They have an airy, floral, sweetness to them, alongside a green sappiness, smelling somewhere between hyacinth, aqueous roses and neroli. They can be extracted naturally, although most perfumers now use a synthetic note to imitate the ethereal smell. 

Plant your Sweet Peas in Autumn for flowering in late May til early June. Alternatively sow in Spring for flowering from mid August til the first frosts.

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