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.

Monday, August 5, 2013

VOLUNTEER ORCHIDS AND MIRABELLES


It’s always a treat to find useful or beautiful plants that I didn’t plant growing in the garden. Everywhere else I’ve lived and done anything resembling gardening, my rule of thumb was that I needed to plant 10 things to get one that survived. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I plant 10 things and end up with a hundred like the one I planted, and other, different ones that seem to come out of nowhere by spontaneous generation.

This summer there have been several surprises, but two of them are really special. The first is the volunteer orchid, Sipranthes romanzoffiana, also called hooded lady's tresses, a native terrestrial orchid that must have blown in from somewhere last winter. Back in the spring I saw a small rosette of thin green leaves that looked a little like a hyacinth plant. I assumed that’s what it was, because the squirrels have a habit of transplanting bulbs, digging them up to nibble on, then burying what’s left for another meal.  A few weeks ago the leaves started dying down, but a flower spike started coming up. It’s now about 45 cm (18 inches) tall, with loosely spiraling rows of white flowers, most of which are open. And the flowers are fragrant! They have a sweet, airy, vanilla-floral scent that seems to attract bumblebees. Orchids are always welcome in my garden even if, technically, they’re weeds.

The second big surprise was a shoot that came up from the roots of a purple-leaf ornamental plum that we planted several years ago. Apparently the ornamental plum had been grafted onto a rootstock of another variety, and the rootstock decided to grow on its own. This year, when I was clearing blackberries away from the base of the tree, I was amazed to see little fruits all over the branches of the renegade tree. They looked like mirabelles, a blush red variety. A few had dropped on the ground, and when I tasted them they were indeed mirabelles. What a bonus! We now have a beautiful pink-flowered ornamental tree that blooms spectacularly in spring, and next to it, like a siamese twin, a highly productive white-flowered mirabelle plum tree. I harvested a few today by shaking the tree. These tree-ripened fruits are tasty and sweet, with a flowery, concentrated plum flavor, much better than the big, sour plums they sell in the supermarket. I love volunteer plants!

3 comments:

  1. These plums look great! We are waiting for just the right day to harvest our purple plums (not sure what variety). They ripen around mid September but we have to get to them a day or two before they are perfectly ripe in order to beat the raccoons.

    As you can imagine I have a lot volunteer potatoes.
    Is that cute volunteer orchid really a weed?

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    1. Gail, the plums may ripen early this year. We're already getting ripe brown turkey figs, which aren't normally ripe until September.

      Isn't a weed any plant that you didn't intentionally plant?

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    2. You are right about weeds, but I prefer to call certain uninvited plants "volunteers". If your volunteer orchid starts to take over your yard I will be happy to adopt a few. I encourage fireweed on our property. We enjoy the flowers and so do the bees.

      Everything seems to be ripening early this year. I will be vigilant!

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