Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stop—And Smell the Gardenia

“Ohhhh, smell this gardenia,” I said to my husband, lifting a freshly picked specimen to his face. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. SniffSniffSniff. His quick succession of inhalations over the ivory-petaled flower produced no reaction. Continuing at that pace, however, he'd soon be hyperventilating.

What a shame, that he couldn’t partake in the pleasure of the rich fragrance, a fond remembrance of my growing up in the South. In the summers, the scent of gardenias—along with their larger cousins, the magnolia tree flowers—would hang in the warmly humid air. It was practically the only good thing to come from that oppressive heat; our house had only spotty air-conditioning back then.

That little gardenia bush had produced nothing but leafy growth for the past eight years. They are notoriously finicky bloomers in the Bay Area, I've been told. And, this summer marked the first success: a constant profusion of velvety blossoms against shiny, deep-green foliage. The bush is pictured here, along with a metal goat stuck in the rose pot behind it. It is fitting for this post, because my husband’s nickname is Dr. Goat. Here, the goat looks like he might eat the gardenias, fine-smelling or not.

This wasn’t the first time when my husband could not share my appreciation of scented flowers. “I must have blown out my olfactory receptors in the lab,” he always says, speaking of his time spent studying to become a biologist and dealing with various chemicals during experiments in the lab.