Only a handful of things in this world of olfactory remembrances brings to my mind the love and joy of being in the presence of my grandmother -- there is Vick's Vap-o-Rub, the cloying scent of old aldehydes emanating from a shoe box full of 1950's perfumes, starch in a stiffly ironed homemade cotton apron, and then there is gardenia. Precious, pure gardenia. "Never touch the flowers," Grandma would say as she would nimbly snip a blossom with her fingers, "your fingers will turn the white petals brown." Then with a reverence not normally afforded a flower in our chaotic household, she would fill a bowl with water and gently float the gardenia blossom on its surface. The house smelled as if the gardenia bush had been planted in the middle of the living room floor. That single blossom's scent would linger for a day or two until it began to brown along its edges, the scent finally spent.
Gardenia flowers are heady, languid, narcotic, densely sweet, pervasively heavy scented; upon closer examination, a marked tuberose-like intensity emanates, along with green tones, something almost minty swirls about, little snakey green tendrils of crisp green breathiness climb up and over the near nauseating sweetness.
Tonight, by the light of candles in the garden, they will be lovingly snipped and carefully enfleuraged.