Perfume Or Poison: The Flower Of The Valley

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The innocent appearance of these beautiful flowers defy their deadly nature. Here is a look at an interesting ingredient that has fascinated perfumers for long

The tiny white flowers are sweetly scented and one of the most popular choices in perfumery. Known as Lily of the Valley amongst perfumers, this ingredient goes by many names and has an interesting legacy. A wise man once said that you should never judge a book by its cover and Lily of the Valley is a sterling example of how innocent looks can be dangerously deceiving. When it comes to appearance, Lily of the Valley looks innocently appealing. However, those who are well-versed with its characteristics would strongly advice against falling for this innocence.

Yes! The small silver wide-leafed plant carries a dangerous poison. Perhaps it is yet another amazing creation of nature to load such a deadly weapon into such a beautiful flower. Every part of this beautiful plant is loaded with poison. However, over the years, the art of perfumery has devised various techniques to extract the captivating fragrance from this plant.

The season of bloom!

A native of the northern hemisphere, Lily of the Valley is accustomed to the cool climate. The flowering season for this plant is in spring. In fact, its origin is also linked to some of the names that this fragrant plant is known by. For instance, Lily of the Valley is also known as May Bells. After all, the flower blooms best in May and the appearance is like bells.

Another name for it is Our Lady’s tears and Mary’s tears. Christian tradition believes that the flowers are symbolic of Virgin Mary’s tears when she saw Christ crucified. Once the pretty flower falls off, red berries take its place as the fruit of the plant. It is believed that these fruits are tears of nature for being separated from the flowering season of spring. The loving season of spring travels further north and the plant heartbroken dries up to yield berries.

The French connection

Lily of the Valley has a special place in the history of France. Come the first day of the month of May and people in France consider it auspicious to gift each other, this fragrant flower. Known to be a harbinger of good luck, this flower does by the Muguet. The day is celebrated as the onset of the Lily of the Valley festival. Perhaps its French connection is what may have led to the use of Lily of the Valley in perfumes. After all, the French passion for perfumery has played a crucial role in shaping the culture of fragrance as the world knows it today.

In Russia, the beautiful flower inspires the poets. Legend has it that princess of the sea Valkohva fell in love with Sadko. However, he gave his heart to Lijubava, the princess of forest and valleys. That was when Valkhova came to land from the sea and started crying. Her tears are what came to be known as the beautiful yet poisonous plant of Lily of the Valley! Even though all parts of this plant are poisonous, it is said to have various medicinal flowers.

Clearly, the urban legends have depicted Lily of the Valley as a symbol of love, sorrow, purity and so many more emotions. The beautiful flower inspires people for poetry, tradition, culture, festivals and many legends.

The affair with perfumes

The mesmerising fragrance of the beautiful flowers is what motivated perfumers to go the extra mile to discover techniques to make the most of the scent. Initially, the perfumers started with stimulating the fragrance but now Lily of the Valley is an active ingredient in many perfumes. Used in top, heart and base notes in various creations, this mesmerising ingredient is a haute favourite amongst perfumers from all over the globe.

In fact, the flowers ability to add fragrance to the surroundings is what makes it a popular choice for decoration in events too. But, Lily of the Valley is an expensive décor item to opt for. The dangerous traits of these flowers make it difficult to procure and therefore add a bigger price tag to its procurement.

Fan following for Lily of the Valley extends beyond borders. In fact, this beautiful flower and its fragrance is also known to be a royal favourite. It was last seen in the bridal bouquet carried by Kate Middleton on her wedding day.

One of the first fragrances to come to mind when we talk about Lily of the Valley is Penhaligon’s creation that goes by the same name. The floral green fragrance was initially launched in 1976. Michael Pickthal, the nose behind this fragrance, used Lily of the Valley in the middle notes. Beautifully entwined with jasmine, these notes are laid on a base of sandalwood giving the perfume a lasting sillage.

Another recent creation in this category is Don’t Get Me Wrong Baby from the house of Etat Libre d’Orange. With its breezy Lily of the Valley, airy jasmine, clean orange blossom and lady-like aldehydes, this fragrance defies its bold name to give a soft, mesmerising yet lasting scent. Under the angelic whiteness of cool florals, this perfume hides a captivating scent.

Even Diorissimo, a floral perfume by French master perfumer Edmund Roudnitska is also worthy of a mention when we talk about Lily of the Valley and its use in perfumery. Introduced in 1956, Diorissimo is an attempt to simulate Lily of the Valley, since back then no essential oils could be obtained from the actual flowers, is worthy of a mention. It may well be among the first fragrances to simulate the scent of Lily of the Valley.

The inspiration behind the creation of this flower lies in the obsession that Dior is known to have for this beautiful flower.

Given its ability to captivate senses and stimulate memories with its fragrance, the love and loyalty for Lily of the Valley is only set to grow stronger in the years to come.

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