The Intoxicating Smell of Gardenias

Summer is arriving here in Coastal Carolina and the gardenia bushes have started to bloom. Here is a photo of our first blossom this year. We love the intoxicating smell of Gardenias in bloom. How can you describe this fragrance? To me the smell of gardenia is…

  • Floral like jasmine
  • Heavy like thick cream
  • Sweet like orange blossom honey
  • Earthy like rich wet soil
  • Intoxicating like a tropical cocktail

I really enjoy the work of American female artist Georgia O’Keefe. I especially love her landscapes and floral paintings that are larger than life. Georgia Totto O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887 in Wisconsin.  Her abstract painting in the early 1900s revolutionized traditional flower painting by presenting greatly magnified paintings of blossoms.  Georgia O’Keeffe is considered to be one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century. She has painted several “white” blossoms including the white camellia, jimson weed and the white rose. Her white camellia painting reminds me of gardenias.

I want to share a quote by Ms O’Keefe,

“Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven’t time – and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.

If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.

…Well, I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don’t.”
Georgia O’Keeffe

Most flower blossoms use bright vibrant colors to attract bees and butterflies to pollinate them. Not so with the large beautiful white blooms of the gardenia plant – they require nocturnal pollinators like the gardenia bee hawk moth. These moths have long tongues that reach in and extract the nectar from the flowers. During the nighttime hours, these large white blossoms easily reflect the light from the moon, making it easier for the moths to find the sweet nectar that they crave.

Gardenias are easy to grow in the South because they love heat and humidity. If you have every traveled to the Southern region of the US in the summertime, you know how hot and sticky it can be. Gardenias grow best if you give them:

  • High humidity
  • Moist soil – they need at LEAST 1 inch of rain (or equivalent) per week
  • Fertilize them in March, May, August and October
  • Acid soil – pH between 5 and 6
  • Warm climate
  • Full sun in the morning with partial shade the rest of the day
  • Night time moths to pollinate them, of course

Would you like to keep the fragrance of gardenias around a little longer? Read our article about how to make your own Gardenia body spray from these fragrant blossoms, here.

Every Blessing,

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