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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

THE BUTTERFLY BUSH PROBLEM


Some things can be done at leisure but other things demand to be done right away. Orders have to be shipped in a timely way, and a lot of outdoor gardening tasks have to be done at a certain time of year. Yesterday was a glorious sunny day. When I went out to inspect the garden, I saw that the cyclamens and primroses were in full bloom, the hyacinths were poking their heads up, and the red hellebores were pushing up their new growth. I realized that if I didn’t prune the roses and fruit trees immediately, it would be too late.  So prune I did.

After the roses and fruit trees, I started in on a butterfly bush that had become a problem, growing to the height of a tree and encroaching on neighboring vegetation. It was a huge job, and I’m not through yet because I have to go back with a saw to hack away the bigger pieces.

A few years back I planted a tiny sprig of a butterfly bush, a Buddleia species or hybrid, and it’s grown into the monster in question. I am confident that, even with severe pruning, it will again grow huge in no time. I planted it because I’d seen small, well-behaved Buddleia bushes in Europe, and didn’t think about the fact that in the Pacific Northwest everything grows to many times the size it does elsewhere.

Buddleia is native to North and South America, Europe, and Asia, and has been bred and domesticated in gardens throughout the world. I recently learned that it’s considered a “noxious weed” in Washington state, but if given the choice, I’d rather have it growing everywhere than blackberries. Bring on the armies of Buddleia to do battle with the hordes of Himalayan blackberry orcs!

Last spring the butterfly-tree was completely covered with electric purple flowers, and was quite a sight to see. With such colorful flowers, I expected a correspondingly colorful fragrance. However, this particular specimen isn’t the star member of its genus when it comes to scent. Yes, it’s fragrant, but it’s not perfume-worthy. It has its floral facets, including a generic lily-of-the valley type scent along with a bit of heliotrope, but it also has a flat, sour-milky smell along with the florals, and it has a little bit of that “semen” smell that’s characteristic of a lot of shrubs with small white flowers (more on that in another post).

Other butterfly bushes have a pleasant fragrance. There’s a magenta one down the street that has a light, floral fragrance with citrusy notes. There’s an even redder one on the university campus that has a deep, full floral fragrance that’s altogether pleasant, if not really novel. I suppose the moral of the story is that if you want to make sure that your garden shrub has pleasantly fragrant flowers, you need to check it out in bloom before buying it. 

[All photos are mine, from my garden]

7 comments:

  1. Butterfly bushes volunteer everywhere around here. I have even seen them growing under the gratings of the run-off drains! Noxious weed or not, I usually just leave them alone and spend my dedicated weeding hours on the ivy and the blackberries. Next summer I will check if any have a good fragrance.

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    1. Gail, I agree that the ivy and blackberries are what really need to be eradicated! The butterfly bush is a very local problem - the ivy and blackberries are everywhere.

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  2. I understand the consternation that wildly-growing "noxious plants", or non-natives can cause us gardeners! I have a large "Mother of Millions" in my backyard (a Kalanchoe). It grows like crazy here, drives Floridians nuts, but provides excellent shelter for several endangered and threatened reptile species. It is also being investigated for some splendid new cardiac medicines. So what to do with the creature?? Yours at least has pretty flowers, mine just has ugly spots....

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    1. Marla, I would be happy to trade some ivy and blackberries for a "Mother-of-Millions"! I wonder if it would grow here? It's probably too wet. Speaking of climate, I hope everything on your dune has weathered the latest winter storm.

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  3. Thanks for sharing very good information.

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  4. Politely behaved buddleias can be had, but to keep them short you have to prune them right to the ground every spring. When I used to do that, mine stayed at about 6-1/2 feet; now that I have only done partial pruning the last couple of years, it's as tall as the house. (it's a species, not a named selection) It's never had a baby seedling. 'Black Knight', on the other hand, with stunning dark flowers, has babies everywhere!

    Many shrubs & trees need to be given the scent test before bringing them home. Some mock orange are scentless (something I didn't learn until after I had a bunch of them planted) and some are heavenly; wisteria also has this problem. Sadly, by the time some plants are old enough to bloom, they are very large and expensive to buy! And while named varieties can be researched for comments on their aroma, you can't always trust them. Sometimes people will say a plant is fragrant because they assume all of the family is and then the error gets propagated. (why, yes, this is a sore spot to me)

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    1. Laurie, Maybe I should just take a saw to the whole thing and cut it to the ground this year. I'm with you when it comes to wanting accurate info on flower fragrance. It's a huge disappointment to find that a plant that's supposed to be fragrant isn't.

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