A recent holiday to the south of France inspired this blog post after I realised it was not just the aesthetic joy that flowers bring, but also the fragrance that we enjoy.
We visited a town in the French Riviera called Grasse which I later discovered is considered by many to be the worlds perfume capital. The town in the 17th century was originally known for its tanning and leather production (and smell!) until a clever chap came up with the idea of scenting some gloves to hide their smell. And so the perfume industry began. Grasses climate and soils are perfect for flower growing and the perfume industry quickly grew.
I have subsequently discovered an article in the Telegraphs gardening section which includes a fascinating interview with a prize winning French perfumer which gives an insight into how flowers are used in perfume making. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/how-to-grow/how-perfume-is-made-plants/
A perfumer can identify thousands of individual smells and are considered an 'artist' when creating new fragrance combinations.
Roses, jasmine and the Iris are among the most important flowers for perfume making. The iris itself was nicknamed the 'blue gold of France' and symbolises nobility which gives you an idea of how highly regarded it was a few centuries ago.
Sweet peas (pictured above) with their beautiful heady scent are considered 'mute' by the perfumer as they do not create an essential oil, so the perfumer has to try and recreate the smell. Lily of the valley and peonies also fall into this camp. I didn't know that!
My visit to Grasse has been unexpectedly educational! I think it need to learn about vines next year!!!