What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


When I don’t post the drawing on Facebook, not many people enter, but that’s OK. 

The winner of the first October drawing is TRINITI. 

Just e-mail me at olympicorchids at gmail dot com with your current correct address to claim your winnings. 

It looks like the majority of people who commented want to hear about how I get inspiration or ideas for perfumes, so I’ll write about that later this week. Other topics were materials, so I’ll continue that series, and the effect of weather (or more broadly, context) on perfume perception. All of those topics are coming up soon! Thanks to those who commented with suggestions that will help keep me from writing about sociology and politics. 

[Photo is our woods, taken a little later in the season last year, but representative of our autumn  foggy mornings and sunny afternoons]

Monday, October 1, 2018


The seasons march on and we are on the dark side of the fall equinox. Halloween and the US midterm elections are only about a month away, so it’s time to … have another drawing. No matter how much excess stuff I give away, it seems like more accumulates. 

This giveaway includes the usual 100 g of samples plus an assortment of miscellaneous cosmetics, all in pristine (i.e., unused) condition. Just leave a comment. 

I will be writing some regular posts this month, so the question you should answer to be entered in the drawing is what general topics you would like to read about.  

[Photo was grabbed from the webcam feed of the local ski area.]

Saturday, September 29, 2018


For quite some time I have been feeling guilty about not posting the winner of the last drawing. I have no real excuse except to say that I’ve been busy with teaching demands and, with the same sense of horror and fascination that one looks at a car crash, watching the farce that our government has become. It takes all the strength I have to keep politics out of this blog, so am going on the assumption that it is better not to post at all than to post my opinions, which are irrelevant to the stated topic of perfume. 

In any case the blog has been cleared of spam, the drawing has taken place and the winner of the GIANT drawing was JEN.

No, it’s not because she was the first to enter – this really was the random name that came out of the pile! I decided that, because so many people entered this drawing, I would also choose a runner-up who will receive 100 g of samples. 

The second-place winner was RICHARD FORTIN. 

Congratulations to you both. To claim your goodies, please provide your complete, current, and correct shipping address via an e-mail to olympicorchids at gmail dot com or send a PM to the Olympic Orchids Facebook page

[The photos are mine, taken in Hawaii]

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


I have no idea what happened to summer. As soon as school was out, we had major construction projects going on. Then in July we went to the Big Island of Hawaii for a much-needed vacation in the vog, and then spent several weeks at home while the sky and air was filled with wildfire smoke, trying to downsize my huge collection of cacti and succulents so that I don’t have to figure out where to put them all when the weather gets cold. On top of it, there was our summer sale, with frenzied packing and shipping for a month. Now I’m one week back into teaching the intensive 4-week course that I do each year. So much for summer. 

As I type this, I see that the leaves on the maple tree outside my window are turning yellow. I don’t know if it is because the weather was warmer and drier than usual (I don’t think so), or whether it is an effect of the smoke. This tree normally doesn’t lose its leaves until the middle of November, so I don’t know what’s going on with it. 

Yesterday was the first mostly smoke-free day we’ve had, and it was good to see blue sky. This morning it looks like the smoke may be coming back. Smoke in summer seems to be the new normal. 

I’ve been trying to upgrade my perfume studio with new shelving and storage for bottles, stock, and labels. It’s an ongoing process. To celebrate the fact that I now have storage space with easy access to printed bottles, I’m offering a huge end of summer giveaway. Leave any sort of comment about your summer or anything else that strikes your fancy, and be entered in a drawing for 100 g of perfume samples along with other random things including creams and lotions, facial cleansers, cosmetics, and who knows what else. 

[Photos are mine, taken on the Big Island] 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


The winner of last week’s drawing is:


To claim your package of samples, send me an e-mail at olympicorchids at gmail dot com, or a PM on Facebook

Everything takes at least 3-4 times as long as you think it will. The reconstruction project that we started at the beginning of June is now complete except for staining the deck, which is not urgent. The best part is that I’m not the one who will be doing it. I spent the last few days painting walls that had been impacted by the construction, and the new trim that was put in. The ants are nearly gone, and at least the ones that are still around are living outside under a paving stone, where they belong. 

Last night I moved the first two racks of plants back into the space, and tomorrow will do more. It’s a relief to have the worst of the disruption over, but now my project is to clean, purge, and reorganize my perfume studio. Late last night I hauled out several big boxes of things I no longer want or need, and will try to find a home for the lot of it. Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Saturday a week ago  was commencement at the university – the usual herding of students, threat of rain alternating with sunshine (both prompting umbrellas to be hauled out), thousands (or millions?) of dendrobium flowers sacrificed for leis, the usual speeches complete with exhortations to conserve resources, and after it all, mounds of plastic trash littering the stadium. 

I was ecstatically happy to have another academic year over with, looking forward to getting caught up on deferred tasks related to orchid husbandry and perfume-making, but the following Monday the friend/contractor who is rebuilding the whole back deck area and floor and support structure for the warm grow area showed up to start demolition. We have been helping with the project, so spent most of last week removing rotted decking, replacing some bad joists, and replacing the surface of the deck. It’s finished, and it’s beautiful. 

This past week the really nasty job started. The back of the house has a semi-attached solarium that we use to grow Phalaenopsis and other warm-loving orchids, and that also serves as a work room and family gathering room. Last winter someone’s foot almost went through the floor, and at that time we discovered that the entire wooden structure under the tile was nearly destroyed by rot. We did an emergency fix and scheduled the real repair at that time, but it was a shock to actually have June roll around and to have to evacuate the plants and other items from the space so that it could happen. To my relief, it was not the plants that had caused the rot, but rather leaks in the outside flashing that allowed rain water to seep between the untreated wood base and the tile. 

The first bit of tear-out revealed that the entire structure had become a giant ant colony, so as a biologist, I was the only one other than the contractor who could deal with mass quantities of insects. I was told that I moved 1000 pounds of debris from the demolition site to the truck that would take it to the dump (they weigh material to be dumped). The flooring has all been replaced correctly, and the tile goes in tomorrow. The poor plants have been scattered outdoors where they’re getting too much light, and indoors where they get none. I expect to lose some – that’s just life. But at least we do not have ants any more. 

It seems that there’s always some crisis begging for our attention, so we can never get caught up on the things we want to do. I’m still plugging away on clearing out things that get in my way, giving away another batch of 100g of excess perfume samples, so please leave a comment on how you catch up on daily life and find time to do fun things and be entered in the drawing.

The winner will be posted at the end of next week. 

[Dendrobium photo from a retailer's website, deck corner and wood damage photos are mine, ant photos are from Wikimedia, but show ants that are half red and half black like the ones we had] 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


For several years now I have been building up a collection of Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrrh) trees, all of which will have to be content to grow more or less as bonsai. They seem easy to grow in pots, but are leafless during the winter, and during the summer, too, if I don’t water them regularly. In the spring, after their winter dormant period, all of these trees start to leaf out, so at that time I try to give them plenty of water to facilitate the process. One day early last spring I noticed that the Boswellia neglecta had a big drop of resin exuding from a place where it had been trimmed months previously. I can only conclude that when the plants break dormancy their sap starts flowing the way maple sap does, and that it leaks out of any cut area. After producing sap, the little tree put out some nice, green, frond-like leaves, lost them during the winter, and has now grown more leaves. Through all this, the resin drop has kept hanging on. 

Early this spring the little Boswellia carteri tree lost its leaves, at which time some tiny drops of resin oozed out along the leaf stems. I collected these drops and tasted them, which was the best and easiest way to evaluate them. They tasted and smelled exactly like frankincense oil. This is already way more that I had hoped for when I bought the tree as a curiosity.

I also have a 3-foot (1 meter) tall Commiphora tenuipetiolata tree that had started to branch out from the side of the trunk. One of my assistants bumped against it last fall and broke the branch partially off. A week or so later I noticed a blob of resin accumulation around the break. This tree is actually large enough to produce some significant resin, so that made me think that maybe I'll be able to harvest a little incense from my plants after all! There should at least be a few small drops that I can burn. I’m looking forward to having some frankincense, but it will be especially interesting to see what the resin of all of the different Commiphora species smells like. 

[All photos are mine]