It takes around three to four thousand kilos of gardenia flowers to produce a kilo of ‘concrete’ (solid perfume) from gardenia plants – so not surprisingly, this heady white flower is one of the priciest ingredients in a perfumer’s arsenal. Not surprisingly, a synthetic version’s often used. Alternatively, perfumers can mix other white flowers to create a gardenia-esque effect – tuberose, jasmine and orange blossom do the trick.
Gardenia gets its name from the US botanist Dr. Alexander Garden, and grows naturally in the Far East, India and China. (Closer to home, this shiny-leafed exotic can often be found on sale as a potted plant in garden centres and some natural food stores: one single open flower can perfume a room, it’s so heady and lush.)
Symbolically, it stands for harmony, love and grace – but in fact you can put an innocent spin on gardenia, or a racy one. The jazz chanteuse Billie Holliday would tuck a gardenia blossom behind her ear before performing. 19th Century courtesans in Shanghai used it to dye their underwear a vibrant yellow. In the Victorians’ language of flowers, gardenia stood for refinement and purity.
Only sultry, opulent perfumes need apply, though…
Smell gardenia in: