Flowers and Fragrance, a Magnificent Obsessionby Carol Caggiano on February 18, 2012 at 8:52 am
Whether we are presented with a bouquet or wandering through a garden, our natural instinct is to smell the flowers. We hold blooms to our nose or we bend down to make closer contact, and we do this without a conscious thought just as a small child will instinctively do the same. Often flower fragrances bring to mind memories of the past. Lily of the valley might transport us to grandmother’s garden, or delicate sweet peas remind us of a special birthday bouquet received years ago. Just as the form and color of a flower resonates with us, their fragrance is also commanding.
Similarly, as flowers have their own personalities through their form and color, flower fragrances evoke unique sensations of their own. We might think of gardenias as romantic, Lily of the Valley as innocent, and lavender as relaxing, for example. However, each fragrance will affect each person differently and often affect attitude in the process. In Victorian times, a language of flowers was introduced to express feelings, as well as to counter balance unpleasant odors generated by the lack of personal hygiene of the era. Combining individual blooms could convey a message of love, beauty, healing or friendship.
For decades, flower growers have focused on longevity and sturdiness, which has allowed for expanded access to so many varieties that once were only available during their natural season and native to the growing location. As a result of the hybridizing and cultivation to strengthen flowers, the sweet fragrance was often lost. We know this of roses particularly. It seems nature has its limits, not to allow all desirable characteristics to be present simultaneously. If a flower has a long vase life, it tends not to be very fragrant, and it is often characteristic of delicate blooms to have a more intense fragrance during their shorter life span.
Research has shown that flowers are good for us, and they make us happy. They have a positive impact on emotional health, and just having flowers in our living spaces can make a difference on how we feel and behave. Some of the most fragrant blooms can add to the experience; their sweet scent awakening our sensibilities.
Here is a list of some fragrant flowers:
- Lily of the Valley
- Stargazer Lily
Many flowers have varieties that are more fragrant than others. Often white flowers are more fragrant that their hued counterpart; the carnation is a good example. The white carnations smell like cloves, where the red, pink and orange have very little fragrance, if at all. Lilies are sometimes shunned because the Oriental varieties can be very pungent. However, lily lovers can still enjoy the beautiful blooms of the Asiatic lily with almost no fragrance at all. Orchids also can vary greatly in the fragrance category much like the lily, where some blooms are extremely pungent and others odorless.
Temperature plays a significant roll in flower fragrance. The warmth of the afternoon will bring out the power of scent in many garden flowers where the coolness of evening will stir others to reach their peak. In the flower shop, cut flowers that are kept in the cooler will not have a fragrance until they again reach room temperature.
To walk into your local florist and experience the glorious fragrance of mixed floral scents induces a virtual cocoon of peace and well being, similar to a stroll in a cottage garden. Even a single fragrant bloom can stir our senses and make us happy.
What is your favorite smelling flower?