Have you ever seen a perfume being manufactured? It’s a very interesting process, one that has been refined over thousands of years, from the time of Ancient Egypt and Ancient China!
However, if you’re not aware of the manufacturing process, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most floral scents in perfumes are artificial. There are many brands that use synthetic scents derived from petrochemicals (one of the most famous being Chanel No. 5). However, natural scents are also used in many perfumes, and demand is rising for these alternatives due to health, environmental and aesthetical reasons.
But how are natural scents created? Particularly those made from flowers – after all, there is an abundance of unique fragrances within the plant world! Let’s explore…
The history of floral perfumes
The first recorded perfumer was a woman named Tapputi, who distilled flowers, oil, and calamus with other aromatics. She was mentioned on a tablet from the 2nd millennium BC (2000-1001 BC) found in Mesopotamia, which means that perfumery has been in practice for at least three thousand years.
However, pre-dating this, perfumes were found by archaeologists on ‘Aphrodite’s Island’, Pyrgos, in Cyprus, which are believed to be around 4,000 years old. These perfumes were found in an ancient perfumery housing a large collection of perfume-making tools such as mixing bowls and funnels. Experts have stated that, within this region, ‘extracts of anise, pine, coriander, bergamot, almond, and parsley are among the ingredients the ancient perfume-makers preferred’.
Today’s favoured method of extracting essential oils from flowers, distillation, was perfected by the Arabic civilisation in the 8th century. The rose was one of the first flowers experimented with using distillation, and thus rosewater emerged as a popular fragrance.
Following that, the art of perfumery made its way over to Europe in 1221, where Italian monks began creating their own recipes. However, it was in Hungary in 1370 that the first recorded perfumes using alcohol were created. These consisted of scented oils blended in an alcoholic solution, which is very similar to the perfume we use today.
In the 16th century, Italian refinements were brought to the South of France for use by noblewoman Catherine de’ Medici, by her personal perfumer, René the Florentine. It was thanks to René that France became a centre for perfume and cosmetics production in Europe. The town of Grasse is now known as the ‘Perfume Capital of the World’, with the perfect climates for growing popular flowers for use in perfumes, such as jasmine and lavender.
How plants produce fragrance
Plants produce fragrance to attract pollinators. Because certain insects can detect scent from a great instance, it can actually be a much more efficient way of attracting pollinators than with colour and shape! But how, when they don’t have noses? These insects actually use their antennae or other sense organs to detect the chemicals that produce the scent!
A plant’s scent is stored in essential oils within its petals, or other dedicated glands. You’ll notice that, when the weather is warmer, the scent of a plant appears to be stronger. This is because the oils combine and evaporate in warmer weather, and their smells are released into the air.
There’s more info about this, as well as three delicious scented flowers, in this blog post.
Daphne Perfume Princess® – for winter garden fragrance
Which flower comes to mind when you think of perfume? Perhaps the rose, lavender or even tuberose? If you’re a fan of floral scents or fragranced plants, you’ll love to know about Daphne Perfume Princess®, a highly scented shrub that smells sweet and spicy with a citrus undertone – delicious!
The result of a hybrid between Daphne odora and Daphne Bholua, Perfume Princess® benefits from strong growth, early and long flowering, and a delectable scent. It’s ideal for adding a spot of colour and fragrance to your winter garden, as it produces large, soft pink flower from mid-winter through to late spring, and lush, dark green foliage all year.
Winter garden inspiration
Lacking inspiration for your winter garden? There are many plants that you can introduce into your garden for colour and interest, Daphne Perfume Princess® included! But just in case you need a few more idea, take a look at the beautiful winter gardens below:
Famous for its snowdrop collection, Anglesey Abbey is a joy to walk around in winter. Its dedicated Winter Garden was first opened in the year 2000, and comprises a quarter-mile path through 150 varieties of plants. It is designed to bring brightness and colour to dull winter’s days – and it definitely succeeds!
This time of year is perfect for a visit to the Dell and Orangery at Blickling Estate. You’ll see a flurry of snowdrops and hellebores, as well as hardy citrus trees – plus an abundant 1930s walled kitchen garden, with produce that can be sampled in the cafe (COVID-19 guidelines pending).
The Winter Garden at Dunham Massey is the largest of its kind within the UK, spanning seven acres! It is home to over 1600 winter shrubs, trees and evergreens chosen for their scent, colour and texture. Best of all, there are thousands of cold season bulbs which spring to life at this time of year, brightening up your winter walk!
Daphne Perfume Princess® – Winter container planting
Considering Daphne Perfume Princess® for your winter garden? It’s a great fit for containers, as it’s a beautiful compact shrub! Use a large container with a high quality potting mix, water infrequently, and apply a slow release fertiliser after flowering to boost growth and next season’s flowers.
Need more winter container ideas? Take a look at my Winter Container Contest!
COMING SOON: If you love the look of Daphne Perfume Princess®, you’ll also love Daphne Perfume Princess® White! It has all the benefits of the original variety, but with stunning, angelic white blooms. Watch this space!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.