Sunday, May 21, 2006

Saturday at the Rhododendron Garden

A couple of weeks ago, I was welcomed every morning by the refreshing and intoxicating lily-like scents of the yellow rhododendrons in my back garden and every evening reminded me that it’s time to go visit the rhododendron garden in Stanley Park. If you happen to be visiting in Vancouver at this time of the year, don’t miss a stroll along the paths of this extraordinarily beautiful and romantic garden. And if you live in Vancouver you can enjoy it year around – it is a lovely stroll even when the rhododendrons are not in full bloom as they are now…

Although there are a number of rhododendrons native to Europe and North America, for the most part – we owe the beauty and variety of rhododendrons to Asia – where there is are numerous species growing wild on the Himalaya, in Tibet, China, Japan and in the Sikkim region in India (to name just a few instances). If you like, you can read more on the history of rhododendrons.

In Greek rhododendron means “Rose Tree”. And like roses, there is an incredible amount of hybrids. The diversity of fragrance found amongst rhododendron flowers is very much like that of lilies. Therefore, I will not hide my puzzlement at why does rhododendron not have a more respected place in perfumery. Besides a few perfumes in my own line (Fetish and Rebellius which both use wild rhododendron from Nepal), I have only seen it listed as a note in Estee Lauder’s Intuition. For some reason, despite the abundance of flowers and the fact that the leaves and stems themselves possess a sweet, green-balsamic and slightly floral aroma – it is hard to procure rhododendron oil or absolute. Perhaps the toxicity of some of the varieties (the leaves, nectar and pollen of some of the species are toxic, and it is said that the honey from rhododendron or azalea flowers can make people ill). Maybe I need to join one of those secret rhododendron cults to find the answer…

The following photos were all taken last Saturday, May 13th 2006. I decided to include both varieties that had a significant odour and those that were a mare visual delight… Rhododendrons present quite a variety of colours, sizes, scents and also the shapes of the flowers vary tremendously. I noticed that the ones that had a lily shape were the most fragrant, and for the most part smelled like lilies.

Labels: , , ,

8 Comments:

At May 22, 2006 6:45 AM, Blogger katiedid said...

Oh man, rhodies are my weakness. One of the few flowering things I can grow and not kill, despite my gardening incompetence. Those are all such fliping great photos, though that tiger lily rhodie is amazing - I've never seen ones quite like that before.

PS. Stanley Park is one of my most favorite things about Vancouver. Vancouver has so many nice spots that are just right for making it a good "walking city," and the parks are really a big part of that. It's a lovely city you live in :)

 
At May 23, 2006 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some rhododendrons have an amazing scent: a musky, skunky floral that works on me like pure pheromones: I feel my face flush and a glow in my lower belly. You find it in the orange and yellow ones that I think are called Exbury azaleas, as well as in the wild white ones with a yellow throat. If someone made a perfume that made me smell like that, I would buy ten bottles of it.

 
At May 23, 2006 11:16 PM, Anonymous Flora said...

I agree with anonymous - the "skunky" florals of the Exbury azaleas are wonderful! The American deciduous species have some stunning fragrances. My favorite one is a species nicknamed "Swamp Honeysuckle" - you can smell the vanilla and spice (no skunk!)from several blocks away in late spring.

Great photos, thanks for sharing!

 
At May 24, 2006 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anya said...

Many years ago I got a rhododendron *floral* oil from India. I believe it was from the flowers of R. fragratissimum. Haven't been able to find it again. Truly creamy, polished, gorgeous, like a bit of Chanel No.5.

The rhodie oils we get in the perfumery industry tend to be from the leaves and twigs, completely different scent.

 
At May 24, 2006 8:26 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Katie, rhododendrons seem to be so resillient here in the West Coast. They are seen everywhere, but the really special and super amazing species are the ones found at the Ted and Mary Greig garden that I have shared my visit to in this post. The couple hybridized rhodos in their nursery and retired about 30 years ago - donating these extravagant species to Vancouver Parks and Boards. It is being diligetly taken care of by specialist gardeners from the Van Dussen botanical gardens. I think there are special rhodos there too, but it's been a while since I visited there.

P.s. I love Stanely Park. It's a magical place and so full of variety - wild forest and cultivated gardens... I always make sure it's a walking distance from my place, same for the ocean... I used to spend days there when I just moved to Vancouver. Now you must come up here for a visit and we can sniff perfumes together!

 
At May 24, 2006 8:30 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Anonymus, I think the Exbury azaleas are the ones that captured my nose's attentinon more than anything else... Did you recognize any familiar one in the photos I have taken?
I did not smell anything skunky, but they are deeply sensual florals, with the aphrodisiac qualities that other indolic florals have (jasmine, tuberose, narcissus, lily...). I dream of making a rhododendron perfume one day. When my dream come true, I will keep ten bottles for you ;)

 
At May 24, 2006 8:32 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Flora, thanks for visiting - I am so happy you like the photos!
I now realized after reading your post that some of the rhodos had a familiar scent - it was like honeysuckle!
Thanks for you and the anonymous poster above, I am inspired to dig deeper into the different hybrids of rhodos and their olfactory qualities. I am indeed lucky to be in Vancouver, they grow wonderfully here!

 
At May 24, 2006 8:36 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Oh, Anya, how I wish I could have all the floral essences my heart desires!
A floral rhododendron essence must be gorgeous. Like no.5 you say? Wow!
To be honest, I even liked the leaf oil I had. It had a floral slightly powdery ad green sweet presence. I hope to be able to source it again, and again, and again. It worked really well in some of my perfumes, and now I need to re-work them without the presence of rhododendron.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home