Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Nose Knows


When I step outside, the fragrance is enough to knock you down! We have lilacs just to the west of our 360-degree wraparound porch. And they’re in BLOOM! We aren’t talking lower-case bloom. We’re saying IN BLOOM!!! Their scent is beyond words!   I brought some inside for a nose treat.

But there are other blossoms that reward the nose, as well. The creeping flocks, for example. The visual impact is startling with its intensity, and then to have fragrance, as well, makes it doubly appreciated. Scent is one of the tools the plant uses to attract insects for pollination/reproduction. We humans simply enjoy the by-product of the process.

Nosegays, tussie-mussies, and the art of perfumery could take up an entire book (and many have been written) but suffice it to say that masking unpleasant odors, using combinations of herbs, incense, flowers, and bark (natural oils of one kind or another) was a business as early as 4000 years ago, and it has continued through the ages in one form or another. Some of the earliest perfumeries were located in Cyprus, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, as well as in Rome and Greece.

Tussie-mussies and nosegays were used by both men and women throughout several centuries well up into the 1800’s as defense against the shockingly odiferous outdoor circumstances of open sewers and crowded conditions. Body washes and deodorants are 20th Century inventions. Fragrant herbs were strewn on castle floors atop the bones and other discards from banquets to cover what must have been major assaults on noses.

Here are a couple of websites you might find interesting :

and, for information about nosegays and tussie-mussies, and “Talking Bouquets, the language of flowers,” try this:

Talking Bouquets

Finally, while some flowers have no apparent scent, their charm is undeniable. Who needs scent when a clever design greets the eye. After all, just looking at this Bleeding Heart with its little secret pouch, never fails to make me say, “Aaaaaahhhhh.”


  1. Beautiful! Even though it's autumn here I can just about smell those divine lilacs and the memories they bring back of my grandparents huge 4 acre garden. I've just 'negotiated' ;-) myself half an acre of one of our paddocks on the basis of growing more vegetables but I'm thinking a lilac hedge down one side would make it beautiful as well as useful! Bring back the tussie mussie and nosegays! I used to make them up as a child and you've inspired me to do so again. Have a lovely day amongst the lilacs, Julia

  2. It is too early in the year here for garden scents, we have to be satisfied with the sight of lovely spring flowers and the sweet sounds of the birds in our valley.