VIOLETS by BERDOUES, BORSARI, PENHALIGONS, BROSSEAU

Is it still actually possible to get bunches of true scented violets?

The Black Narcissus

“As violets so be I recluse and sweet”

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(‘Who hath despised the day of small things?’ Rossetti)

Here is the legacy of violets, in literature as in perfume – the retiring archetype: virginal, breast aflutter. Nestled in their heart-shaped leaves, with heads downturned, are the flowers that Diane Ackerman, in her passionate sensorial treatise ‘A natural history ofthe senses’ describes as ‘burnt sugar cubes ….dipped in lemon and velvet’.

Since the flowers contain ionone, which we lose the ability to smell after a few minutes, the scent of violets plays hide and seek with our senses. They are thus the most elusive of flowers, toying with flirtation: Now you see me, now you don’t. The Victorians loved them: as an antidote to the corrupting dangers lurking among the musks, civets and tuberoses, light violet toilet waters were deemed appropriate Victoriana for young women to wear, with…

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