Thursday, October 30, 2008

Time to think of forcing bulbs

Should I be suspicious of Anne Raver? She says that narcissus (paperwhites, in particular), "stink". That they smell of Tom Cat! When he's at home. I wonder if she drinks Sauvignon blanc. Maybe it's only Safrican Sauvignon blanc that says Tom.

Narcissus smell like heaven. And no, I don't go around sniffing tomcats.

There is a little road that runs east-ish from Kirstenbosch, South Africa's National Botanical Garden, past a tiny stone chapel, to Bishopscourt, a wealthy suburb. It takes all of a minute or less to drive down. The green fields on either side of the road are filled with old oaks, and in very early spring, narcissus/narcissuses/narcissi [dear Sir, please send a mongoose, and another mongoose...sorry], in drifts.

At least, this used to exist. I have not driven down the little road for years, and something horrible may have happened.

I used to park my beat-up little white car there as a student and wade through the tall wet grass to pick the flowers whose long supple stems dripped stickily, and whose pure, fragile ivory flowers excited me in a way that is hard to describe.

Especially to someone who thinks that their scent is a stink.


  1. Ok, I'm lost. Between daffodils, narcissus, white papers and Sauvignon blanc, I'm just lost.

    But we'll definitely check that little road. Thank you Jane. :-)

  2. I have to agree with Raver...i can see how paperwhites might smell delicious when grown outdoors in that wonderful setting that you describe, but my only experiences with them forced indoors is of a very overpowering musky skunky almost-Tom Cat odor. (And by the way, you don't have to sniff a Tom Cat to know his smell...he generously squirts his odor in plentiful quantities all over your door, your front bushes, your car tire, your furniture legs if he comes indoors...) I'd be willing to try one of the less smelly varieties that Raver recommends, because it's certainly lovely to have bulbs blooming indoors in dark January or February.

    I've had similar smell experiences with Asian lilies and irises, by the way...they smell delightful outdoors but indoors they are overpowering and unpleasant.

  3. Yay, Jane! Gosh, and you're still there, too. I have been thinking about you. Will write properly. I can't believe we won't meet you...My fault I missed you one September. We will have to come to NZ.

    Beence: sorry. Narcissus is the genus name for all the flowers we call daffodils, narcissus, jonquils. Narcissus papyraceus [species] is known commonly as as a paperwhite, because of the root - of the word not the flower, which grows from a bulb, anyway, which is poisonous! Phew. Sauvignon blanc, is famous in some parts (SA being one of them) for smelling like cat pee. Some say crushed boxwood. Others "green grass" or gren pepper. Cat pee is pretty accurate though. And if I knew a cat that peed narcissus-smell, I would clone him and make him pee all over Brooklyn.

    Does that help? :-)

  4. Quiltcat: aaaw, you're ganging up!

    Yes, I can see that, shut up in my little apartment with a bunch of narcissus and no draft I may have a fit of the vapours. And lilies might bring me out in hives. And jasmine once did.

    And poor Tomcats. I have known bad things happen to certain, peeing cats...and know the smell, which is awful. I suppose smell is a lot like taste or a colour sense, very personal.

  5. The field of naturalised narcissi/mongooses (!) by your stone chapel is the best way to enjoy these.Just one more memory-only for the tropics...

  6. Mmmm... narcissus and jasmine ( a variety called pikake back home in Hawai'i) ... two of my favorite smells. Thanks for jogging the senses!


  7. A special road. Still untouched by time it seems. Lots of greenery. Enjoyed driving down it. Thanks for the inspiration. Took some time to check up.

  8. MIT - no mongooses in the field, alas, but nearby on Table Mountain. It's an old mongoose joke.We did make friends with two mongae mongeese mongice mongooses (sorry, can't help it, compulsive) in the Meiringspoort Pass, a beautiful pass in the Little Karoo, In February. I'll see if I can dig up a picture.

    Keli'i - jasmine is special, yes. My mom has two kinds growing in Cape Town and the whole garden is alive with the smell in spring.

    Anonymous? - glad the pretty road is there...

  9. Apart from Meiringspoort hope you made it over the Swartberg pass. Love Prince Albert - a true gem. Trust you visited its impressive art gallery (owned by a friend who is doing phenomenally well out in the sticks). Also boasts one of the country's top 10 restaurants. Yes, I am its unofficial PR person thang - if you weren't privvy to this info already.


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