Thursday, October 6, 2016

Botanical Prints by Johannes Zorn

If you follow me on Pinterest ( you know that I've become a bit obsessed with botanical prints.  This is a collection from the artist Johannes Zorn (1739 - 1799) from the first edition of Icones Plantarum Medicinalium published in Nurnberg.  He produced these hand colored copper engravings between 1790 and his death in 1799.  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Introducing Juke

Hot, humid nights, moonlight on water, night bugs singing, hot jazz in the distance. The air is heady with magnolia flowers releasing their scent into the darkness. Tucked into the bayou is a juke joint, music spilling out. A woman is dancing with a drink in her hand, dangling off of a perfumed wrist. A whiff of imported French perfume conjured with goods collected along the spice route mixes with moonshine and tobacco in the sweaty, humid speakeasy.

 Sweet honey bayou with earthy orris root, tobacco and syrupy balsams compose the bottom chord. Heady floral notes of pink champaca and orange flower concrete mingling with honey absolute create the heart with lime, clementine and white champa leaf (a newly discovered and new favorite oil).


Top notes: lime, clementine, white champa leaf
Heart notes: pink champaca absolute, orange flower concrete, honey absolute
Base notes: tobacco absolute, orris root, peru balsam, majmua udd attar

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Beautiful Options for Refilling Your Bespoke Perfume

One of my favorite parts of my job is doing custom consultations where clients come to my studio and together we create their signature scent.  I enjoy working one on one with people to create something truly unique for them.  I've kept all of the notes and the formula from our meeting and am now offering some lovely options for refills of your bespoke fragrance.

Quarter ounce straight sided rectangular bottle, $35

Quarter ounce straight sided rectangular spray bottle, $38

Half ounce rectangular bottle, $60

Half ounce rectangular spray bottle, $65

Half ounce round glass stoppered bottle, $70

One third ounce square glass stoppered bottle, $60

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Garden Escape

I have a wider than average fire escape on the back of my brownstone apartment.  The window is large and fairly easy to get in and out of.  The sill is wide and comfortable to sit on so over the years it hasn't been too hard to assemble a small garden.  I've scavenged for pots for years and have a hodgepodge collection.  I do my best to arrange them so that if there was indeed a fire that everyone would be able to navigate through it into the garden below.                                                                                                                                             I've been doing this for more than a few years now and I've learned a thing or two about tomatoes and beans in pots.  Obviously it starts with the soil. I always set aside a larger pot to be used somewhat as a mixing bowl.  I dump soil from last year's pots into the large one and then mix it nearly equally with freshly sifted compost from 6/15. As other pots are dumped out, the soil is amended and they're filled with fresh soil.
Since it's challenging for me to get to a nursery I have to use my resources to find good plants.  There are a couple of vegetable markets nearby that sell flats of annuals, herbs and some vegetables including tomatoes.  I have a stockpile of seeds plus a trip to my community garden can yield some nice plantings, notably nicotiana, shiso, kale, calendula, mints and whatever else looks like it might work.
It's actually quite a productive little garden.  Every day I pick a few green beans and set them aside. After five days time I've got enough to throw into a dish.  The same is true for the kale (although anyone that knows me knows I grew nothing but kale in my community garden plot so this is a drop in the bucket).  I grow enough basil to fill my freezer with pesto for the year and some to give away. I've also yielded, so far, six beautiful tomatoes.  I still have eight tomatoes on the vine, still green, so hoping for a few warms days to finish those.

Other years I've grown a lot of fragrant flowers, notably nicotiana, a fluffy white flowering tobacco. It's gorgeous during the day but only at night it develops a sweet white flower fragrance.  If I keep the windows open the breeze pleasantly fragrances my bedroom. I can lie in bed and catch a sweet whiff wafting in from the Escape.

Two very large tomato plants in a window box. It needs a lot of water and to be top dressed with compost a few times per year. They grew very long and about once a week I'd have to climb the stairs and loosely tie them to the railing.

I brought back some kale and nicotiana from 6/15.  Whenever I saw a bare spot in the soil I'd plant bush beans. They ended up cascading over the side, dripping with beans when mature.

This window box faces my neighbors, a couple with two small boys. The pole beans do most of the cammouflage and the basil gets bushy and creates a nice screen. It also makes for neighborly-ness as I pass fresh cuttings over the railing.

The purple podded pole beans grew halfway up the windows on the third floor!  They've never been so robust before. They bore a lot of fruit but way up past where I could harvest it so, of course, it all went to seed.  Therefore the plant thought it had done its work and started to wither - thus all of the yellow leaves.  I've planted beans for years, using the seeds from the pods that fall during the winter.  Next year, tho, I'm planting some kind of annual flowering vine, maybe something fragrant for the breeze to blow in.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cranford Rose Garden on a September Day

I've known forever that roses bloom in June and then, if you're lucky, again in September.  This was a strange season and one sure sign that something was amiss was that there were roses blooming nearly all summer. It seems I was stopping to smell the roses on an almost daily basis.  But after teaching a perfume blending class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last weekend I decided to take a walk through the Cranford Rose Garden. Most of it was roped off, probably for some rest and rehabilitation, but the blooms along the path were glorious to see, photograph and smell.

We had just had a talk in class about indole, the molecule of decay, that is present in most flowers. The rose is beautiful in a vase on your desk but it is also decaying so lingering in the background of that gorgeously fragranced flower, maybe not even very noticeable, but there in the back is decay. We're so accustomed to "deodorized" rose that the scent of a true rose absolute might smell dirty, or dank. It also makes it ravishing, sexy and compelling for however emphatically we frown on rotten odors there is a part of us that likes them.

Each rose smells differently. Some are bred for beauty, some for size and some for fragrance, but there, in the deep inhalation of each blossom, is death.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I Bought Some Carnations on the Way Home...

I've made no secret of the fact that I love carnations. I think they're the most underrated flower in the market.  They've been associated with inexpensive florists - mass produced and funereal. It's not deserved.  My mother grew carnations in her big flower garden when I was growing up.  I always loved their luscious vanilla/clove sweetness. Unfortunately the scent has been bred out of them and what remains is either scentless or stinky. Except for these! After a short hospital stay a few years ago a friend dropped by with purple and white variegated blooms that had a lovely fragrance.  I haven't seen them since until one evening this week they caught my eye as I was passing the market. Now these eye-catching flowers are all over the apartment, in a jug on the coffee table and in bud vases on my end tables, desk, bedside table and in the bathroom.  All of this luxury for $5.  Maybe carnations are best kept a secret.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Ode to the Rose

The roses are blooming again, although this season it seems they never stopped.  I stop, however, nearly every time a bloom extends over a wrought iron gate and presents itself to me.  I am one to stop and smell the roses.

I also stopped to collect those rose petals as they fell.  I kept collecting them until I had enough to create a small amount of cologne.  The scent of rose deepens and becomes a little powdery or dusty when they dry. I'll be making more with the second seasonal blooms. I have freshly dried sweet annie and lavender from my garden for the brew as well.

Along with roses I used vetiver root, lavender, sweet annie and dried orange peel. It has a smokey, sweet, complex aroma, something worth stopping for.

You can see these and other botanical colognes and perfumes on...