I was out with a friend the other day and we passed some flowers that smelled especially good. I commented on them and then my friend and I started talking about floral scents that we both love. (So not just any good smells, such as freshly-baked brownies, but flowers in particular.)

Gardenia, for example. That definitely makes my Top 5 of favorite floral smells. And since it doesn’t grow here, it’s something that I almost never smell. I’ve tried raising a gardenia plant inside but the results were rapidly tragic. (In spite of what people think — and the serious number of hours I give over to gardening every year — I actually do not have a green thumb. The only reason that things grow outside for me is that gardening fairies come by at night and sprinkle magic dust on everything.)

Lavender is another smell that I adore, which is mostly why I have loads of it in my yard, with plans to plant more. (And also because it’s one of those super easy plants that just grows and grows and you don’t have to do anything to it. Plus, it’s hard to kill, which is another mark in its favor.)

Jasmine, for sure. Totally love the smell of that. I didn’t think we could grow it here in Virginia and then last week I just started noticing scads of it around town. I’ve never noticed it before now and I happen to know that it only grows in zones 9-10, while around here we’re in zone 7, so I don’t know what’s going on. Global warming, perhaps. Or maybe it’s an imposter jasmine.

Honeysuckle is another scent I can’t get enough of. I love when it starts to bloom in May and then I run by and catch a whiff. It’s not quite strong enough to mask my personal sweaty stinkle, but still quite lovely.

Another fragrance I was reminded of while gardening yesterday is smell of bee balm (a.k.a. monarda). The leaves have a spice-y (as opposed to spicy) smell that’s reminiscent of cloves and other similar spices. So maybe I like the smell because it reminds me of gingerbread?

My favorite smell, however, the scent j’adore most of all, is freesia. Unfortunately, freesia doesn’t grow here and it’s only rarely found in the floral section of the grocery store, so I don’t get to sniff it all that often. On the rare occasion that I do buy it — once or twice a year — a single stem can fill the first floor of my house with its lovely smell for days. The fragrance is heavy enough that I feel like I should be able to roll around in it and coat my skin with it. Truly divine.

Unfortunately, freesia is a smell that is best fresh and never, ever fake, as in, created in a lab. It is the rare freesia soap or lotion or shampoo or other product that smells like the real deal and not like some cheap, wannabe knock-off.

And for some reason, until yesterday, it never occurred to me that someone probably sells essential freesia oil and that I could buy said oil and be able to smell it whenever I want, rather than once a year. A quick Google search showed that LOTS of people already knew this and were capitalizing on my nose’s desire. There’s now a bottle in my Amazon shopping cart, waiting for my next purchase.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the smells that I loathe. I’m not talking about the obvious ones, like garbage or decaying road kill. No, I’m talking about the ones you wouldn’t expect. For example, I cannot stand the smell of roses in lotions, soaps, or even in real life. Gag. I don’t why, only that I disliked it as a child and it’s only gotten worse over the years. That hasn’t stopped me from planting loads of roses in our yard, but you’ll never see me sticking my nose in a blossom.

What about y’all? What is your favorite smell and what’s your least favorite?

20 thoughts on “Smelly

  1. I love lavender, peonies, gardenia (my mother-in-law grows them in Va Beach), and rosemary. Most anything I don’t like fake, but rose smell tops it for me too. I am OK with the real thing (but I don’t seek it out) but real or fake in lotions, etc, gives me a headache!

  2. I love citrus scents. I had a grapefruit essential oil from Bath and Bodyworks that was really expensive, but wonderful. Now I buy the mandarin and tangelo oil and the satsuma oil from Body Shop for my oil burner. Though I’m a bit confused, since I thought that ‘satsuma’ is what they call mandarins in the UK, but whatever, both are lovely orangey scents.

    I loathe vanilla as a scent. I love to bake with it and I like the smell of it in baked goods, but the fakey vanilla home scents/perfumes/scented candles make me nauseous.

  3. Lavender hands down is my favorite. Part of that could be that my mother loved it and every time I smell it, it brings back memories of her. I don’t really have a flower smell that I just hate (at least not one that jumps into my mind), but my husband says the semll of paper whites makes him sick.

  4. I love the smell of cinnamon when it’s actually baking in something like cinnamon buns, but a cinnamon bun scented candle? Blech. Gives me a headache.

    Cocoa powder. Honeysuckle.
    Evening Primrose. I used to live in a house that had them outside (a remnant of the previous tenants, I suppose), and when they would open after the sun set, it smelled DIVINE.

  5. I love the smell of roses, seems to me that most of the plants (roses anyway) have been so “hybrided” that most have lost their scent. The crape myrtle trees are losing their blooms right now and my whole street smells lovely. Anyone know why I only notice their scent when they are done blooming?

    I hate the smell of carnations, reminds me of what a weed smells like.

  6. Not such a fan of diesel exhaust, rotting food, dead animals or wet dogs. And it’s really rare for me to find a lotion or body spray that I enjoy smelling–Arbonne makes an orangey-smelling spray that I like, but that’s IT!
    For real flowers, I’m with you on bee balm. And then there are lilacs, lavender, phlox and clover. Mmmm.

  7. In my “potions” – lavender, sweet pea, good vanilla (which is rare). Cocoa butter.
    In real life – lavender. Big heirloom roses. Lilacs (the harbinger of spring). Peonies (remind me of my great grandmother’s). Basil. Rosemary. Sage. (Um, seems I’m more an herb than flower person.) We have silver sage that grows like a weed, quite literally, here. I plant it near all our walkways so you can walk on it/brush against it and smell it.

    Only thing I can’t stand under any circumstances – paper whites. (Forced them one year for Christmas. Never again. They smell like cat piss to me. And I have cats, I ought to know.) Although, I’ve never smelled the Carrion Flower either…

  8. I share your favorites and dislikes. We’re like that, you and me. :-)

    I also like Wisteria. I also love the scent of the pear blossom (Laura’s birthday tree), but it’s a scent that others detest. It blooms annually at the end of January around here, so I only enjoy and other people detest it once a year.

  9. It has been fun to read all the comments –lots of scents people have reminded me of :-)

    I love lilacs. We have a grove of them on our property, and on a May evening, when the breeze brings the scent, I could breathe it in forever. I also love the scent of the blossoms of the Black Locust trees. People consider them weed trees, but I love them. The scent of bee balm reminds me of oregano (I think they’re related), and I love the smell of basil. I love the smell of real vanilla.

    I hate the smell of cedar. When I was a kid, we had to stay with my evil grandmother for a few weeks each summer, and she had cedar trees in her front yard.

  10. Gardenia – trying to grow a plant now, so far I have had one tiny flower. Love freesia, have a couple in a flower bed. Love citrus blossoms and lilac. Love the herbs, too, I like putting rosemary and basit in glasses of water on the kitchen counter. Maybe I am strange but I also love the smell of tomato plants. I wore jasmin essential oll in college.Tell us how the freesia one is when you get it!

    My dad grew fragrant roses and it made the yard smell great. The place I work always has vases of roses and people bend down to smell them all the time but they have so scent at all. I think it is sad that growers have done that to flowers.

  11. The smell of lavender gives me a sinus headache.

    Scents I love: any citrus, mint, lilac, plumeria, coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon.

  12. Lilac. I absolutely love lilac.

    My mother lined our yard with them. When we moved to the house my parents live in now she dug one up to bring with us and planted it in the front yard.

  13. Jasmine is mine. When I lived in Berkeley, CA, it lined my fence, and I got to smell it all the time. I so miss it. I don’t know what “zone” I’m in, in New England, but I’m sure it’s not the Jasmine zone. We never even have it at florist shops. Woe is me.

  14. Lilacs are top of my list, but gardenia and freesia are up there, too. And the zone maps have been updated a couple times in the last ten years, moving plants’ viability further north than ever before.

  15. FYI: there’s a lavender farm open to the public right outside Harrisonburg. It’s lovely in so many ways, from the aroma to the items for sale to the CHOCOLATE WITH LAVENDER to the big, fat white puffball of a bunny that you can love on.

  16. My favorite smell “from the garden” is gardenias. Ah…love. I wear Marc Jacobs perfume (the original)…the lead note is gardenia and I always receive compliments when I wear it. It’s note overly “sweet” like some gardenia scents.

    I also love the smell of fresh basil and citrus. Jo Malone makes some fabulous colognes with natural smells. I love French Lime Blossom, Orange Blossom, Verbenas de Provence, and Vintage Gardenia.

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