And there they were.




We walked into the flower-strewn lobby of the Hotel Tugu Malang. And to my utter delight, there, everywhere, was tuberose. An enormous arrangement of the flowers, right there in the centre. Tuberose in every room, potted. Tuberose placed delicately on plates alongside the delectable Javan afternoon delicacies in the second floor tea room ; a giant vase of the flowers on the landing upstairs gently warming and releasing its exquisite fragrance into the surrounding air, changing with the hours, subtlely, caressing, like warm breath on a woman’s shoulders.



I have wanted to experience these flowers, right there in front of me in the flesh, for so long, searched for them at the Columbia Flower market in London, kept my eye open for them in Mexico, in Asia, but no: nothing.



And then, unexpectedly, I can’t escape them.























The scent pervades my dreams.



And when I wake up, by my bedside it is green; restrained; virginal; tight.


Yes, Carnal Flower you might say: Malle’s modern tuberose masterpiece certainly coming to mind at first; nailing it, but then she changes with her chlorophyll, her moods, and to my fascination, yes definitely, there they are: all the tuberoses we know and love there as well, emanating from her whorls and stems, unravelling their inspired perfumed secrets at differing, surprising, points in the day.




Each evening, as we climb the stairs, there, divinely, lingering magnificently, but with great, refined, unhurried taste, is tuberose tuberose: light, creamy; aerial, inviting, and yes, most certainly sexual, and then you really can sense the botanical whiffs of Fracas and Blonde; all the classic, dressed up French tuberose waters. But then again, when she is in another mood, or at a different time of day, she is rubbery, mentholated, and yes, really, there in the air in front of you is a brief snatch of Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle, lifting tantalizingly and provocatively before your eyes.








Like the ylang ylang flowers I experienced also, one can’t help feeling, nevertheless, that no perfume, or essential oil extraction, has really done this flower full justice.



It is almost as if she has been slandered, actually, forced into some madonna/whore dichotomy that, while buttery, erotic, made for feminine splendour and the night, never fully renders successfully her multifaceted,  lunar, lucent, putrescent beauty.








Filed under Flowers

44 responses to “TUBEROSE, IN THE FLESH

  1. Tuberose is my favorite flower and I enjoyed reading your tribute very much! And wholly agree that no perfume or extraction does it justice. [TC and Carnal Flower are the only tuberose perfumes i love) You are right, there are so many facets to this flower- upclose it smells buttery, rubbery..At night it smells cool, elusive..each flower on the stem often smells different..ahhh *love* 🙂

  2. OMG, what a beautiful description of this beautiful flower…olfactory heaven.

  3. Wow. I really love the photos and descriptions from your Java trip. Incredibly evocative.

  4. Lilybelle

    How lovely that you got to experience the live blossoms. It’s true, no flower water can do justice to any living scented blossom. Can tuberose be homegrown in pots?

    • Well, the hotel had gardeners who seemed to spend half their day cutting tuberose stems and arranging them. I am not sure if they actually had them growing in pots or just got them from the local flower market. The arrangement in the lobby seemed to me to be an actual living, growing entity but I could be wrong.

      Funnily, I wrote a piece in Autumn called The Strange Case Of The Stolen Tuberose, as for the first time in my life I did actually find tuberose bulbs, at the convenience store at the station of all places, and I was so excited by the thought of trying to grow them. I also bought some basil and other things, and then went to a curious theremin ghost story performance at the local Kenchoji zen temple. I left my bags outside (because in Japan you usually can), and everything was there but the tuberose.

      So this felt like some kind of beautifully scented karmic payback.

  5. Nancysg

    Once when I was visiting Dubai, I saw fresh tuberose for sale in the local Spinneys grocery store. I didn’t pick them up that moment, and when I went back a few days later they were gone. Several visits to the Middle East later, I have never seen them again. I still regret the lost chance to live with the real blossoms.

  6. Wendi Rogers

    I adore your blog and tuberose beyond belief! Thank you for feeding my imagination and brain!

  7. That was it, exactly. LIVING with them, getting to know them and all their facets. Something you have dreamed of for so long and know so well from perfume; to have the real things in front of you is scintillating.

    You will get the chance again, I am sure.

    In my case, I actually got sick while I was at the hotel and so couldn’t go out. And then, as the tuberoses waned themselves, and I was feeling foul, I also got to sample their more putrid side. We were there together, malingering and unfresh….

  8. Tora

    ….and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and I said yes I will yes.

  9. I vividly recall the experience of filling a rental house in Mexico with tuberoses from the market and living with them for a week. I think it is why I love all tuberose perfumes; they all, except for the cheapest, contain something of this most narcotic and changeable of of flowers. The ones I ‘ve been able to buy in America have been refrigerated within an inch of their lives, and are sort of generically sweet but have little of their chameleon quality left. The real thing blooms only under true tropical skies. And part of a real relationship is being malingering and unfresh together once in a while, as long as it’s rare.

    • Very beautifully put.

      I can imagine that refrigerated tuberoses could end up like truck-stop roses; blanded out and typical. I was very lucky on this occasion, as they were everywhere, and yet not anyway near as lurid or overpowering as I assumed they must be from the tacky tuberose perfumes ; in fact I was quite surprised by their heldbackness, waiting until the right hour…

  10. Dearest Ginza
    They have it now at certain times of year at Columbia Road… and rather like roses, I’ve found that their namesake with prefix smell quite different from one and other.
    There is the full lush creaminess you speak of on occasion, at another time a touch of the old lush a la Amarige, a different morning there might be a hint of the elevation and airiness of Do Son.
    What I’ve yet to experience is this ‘virginal’ quality you speak of… perhaps I will have across the world rather than merely town to experience that.
    Beautifully composed, and that first photograph is fantastic.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Arigato.

      Yes, I thought of you actually when I did smell Do Son in there as well, to my surprise (sorry I forgot to mention that one!).

      No, really, there is something absolutely virginal in there when they are green and growing naturally; frigid, even. Gorgeous.

  11. Rafael

    I read today’s caption and thought “well if we’re going down this route let me spark up my Fracas candle.” Great reading. Being from Peru originally, where their name is Nardos, I will freely admit and hope to spark jealousies that these grow rampant and obscene with abandon there. You find them in people’s gardens gowing alongside stephanotis and paper-white narcissus.

  12. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    I am currently OBSESSED with white tropical flowers

  13. Tara

    What a wonderful, dream-like chance encounter. Narcotic Venus is wafting from up from below my screen so I felt I had the aroma as well as the gorgeous photos.

    Thank goodness being unwell didn’t give you an adversion!

    I adore how unrestrained you are with your feelings and your writing when it comes to scent. It really .. I don’t what the word is…I feel transported some how.

  14. janeykate

    Beautiful post, beautiful photos!
    Jane x

    • Thanks. It was an experience I was happy to relive again. Honestly, when I walked in I was like a kid in a toy shop. OH. MY. GOD, Duncan, there’s TUBEROSE EVERYWHERE!!!!

      I had been yearning to see it for so many years and was just beside myself.

  15. Exquisite. White tropical florals are always my summer obsession, and I adored this post when you first wrote it and still adore it.

    • I had to revisit the dream. I am interested sometimes in looking back at old posts where I was in a different state of mind (i.e. in a trance) and seeing where the language took me in my attempt to get that across to those that will be reading..

      Have you made any new white floral discoveries, recently, incidentally?

  16. David

    I’m obsessing about orchids. Here in Sao Paulo, people are often gifted orchids. Well, we all know that orchids are so demanding. So what busy Sao Paulo residents do, instead of tossing or re-gifting, is graft them to trees. They flourish even in my most gritty neighborhood. You need to come for a visit!

  17. A truly glorious white floral is vintage Ombre Bleue by Brosseau, which is just lovely for a warm spring day. It almost smells of a tropical beach somewhere.


      I wrote one of my best reviews about it on a piece of paper and lost it. Can’t quite recapture the words again to my dismay. Such a strange scent! I have the vintage parfum. We think alike…

      • OB is such a magical scent and it has such differing facets. It is sweetly floral, but it is almost beachy and sunny smelling, then it seems to become almost spicy powdery. Really a once in a lifetime type of scent. Too bad the blue coloured version they sell now is such a shadow of the former masterwork.

  18. rosestrang

    Fascinating post ginzaintherain! I’m one of those that can’t handle powerful tuberose perfumes, which remind me of diesel fuel, but I definitely like it in smaller amounts as part of a perfume, because of that 3D effect which I can really see they are in your photos – especially the second one.
    I do like Do Son, I know that makes me a lightweight!

  19. I loved reading this again and looking at the beautiful photos of the tuberose. I can almost smell them.

  20. How marvelous that you get to see the real thing. Our tiny local florist has them flown in from Hawaii and California, and we get advance warning emails. Just spritzed CF in your honor, as I was getting into bed. Husband will likely kill me (horrible allergies-my lot in life…) but oh well….

    Enjoy! Robert H.

    • A fantastic image…this was actually the only time that I have ever smelled them, but it was amazing because I got the absolute redux tuberose experience, virtually overwhelmed by them. I want to come close to them again .

  21. I got to this bit in the Replies: “OH. MY. GOD, Duncan, there’s TUBEROSE EVERYWHERE!!!!” Sorry, but that is just the cutest, N.!

    I love how you take us on a journey every time. This piece captures the full experience and contrasts of tuberose – the natural flowers and the man-made riffs – like nothing else I’ve read. So good to read.

    For some reason, perhaps because of our particular cultural mix in this Pacific Coast port city, we often find bunches of tuberose stems at the corner stores and flower stalls in Vancouver. Nice. But to find a whole hotel filled with them?! Wow.

    Thanks again.

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