Monday, July 4, 2016 - 14:15

The intense scents of summer are welcoming visitors to the Eden Project with the opening of a new Perfume Garden.

Inspired by Moorish gardens of old, the exquisite plot sits in a sunny spot within Eden’s Mediterranean Biome and will be the source of heady aromas all through the seasons.  It is one of the planting projects marking the 15th year since Eden fully opened.

The garden has been laid in a geometrically-shaped courtyard near the entrance to the Biome.  It features a pathway through a terracotta-tiled floor with a giant urn as a centrepiece and a range of blossoming fragrant potted herbs and plants for visitors to touch and smell as they walk through it.

There is a seat recessed into a white-washed wall – a great place to sit back, linger and enjoy the surrounding cocktail of fragrances.

Biome supervisor Catherine Cutler, who led the planting team, said:  “The new Perfume Garden is an intoxicating garden within a garden.

“At any one time there are many scented plants within the wider Biome.  We have created an area where the aromatic experience is even more intense and exciting to the senses.”

Catherine said that the fragrances would change with the seasons, with different plants and flowers blooming through the year to create a series of beautiful bouquets.

“There will be a good range of base, mid and top notes with jonquil and parma violets budding in spring, saffron in autumn and lavender, rosemary and eucalyptus that can be enjoyed all year round,”   she said.

Right now summer scents are predominant.  Visitors are enjoying a mix of that includes lily (heady, very recognisable), Citrus 'Bouquet de Fleurs' – a sour orange tree renowned for the scent of its flowers - and ever-popular rose and pelargonium.

The garden also features the stories of some of the best-loved scented plants as well as the plants themselves.

There is caraway, whose dried seeds yield a warm, sweet, spicy essential oil. The intense oil can only be used in small quantities in perfumery, and may be used to complement jasmine fragrance.

Spanish broom has been prized as a perfume plant since the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Its essence is a thick, dark brown liquid with a sweet, rosy scent mixed with a green hay-like scent. 

It is claimed that the camphor-rich essential oil of Spanish sage can improve mood and mental abilities.

The oil of its fellow herb rosemary has a strong, fresh aroma. It can be an ingredient of colognes but because its distinctive scent is so strongly linked to food and cooking, it needs to be used with care in perfumery.

The scent of pinks is reminiscent of childhood, encouraging happy, carefree feelings when used in aromatherapy. The essential oil has a rich, clove like scent and is most frequently used in masculine fragrances.

Sweet Osmanthus flower fragrance is said to have the wonderful effect of increasing happiness. In its native China it is highly regarded, and regularly grown for its scented flowers which are added to teas. The flowers produce a thick liquid with beautiful yet complex fruity, honey notes.

Intensely heavily scented flowers make Cape jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides) a famed perfume plant. Although gardenia perfumes were popular in the 1930s they dropped out of fashion.  They are making a comeback - with a few recent contemporary introductions including the rich, sweet, floral scent.

Of the array of sweet, spicy, mellow and sharp scents to choose from, Catherine's all-time favourite scented plant is lemon verbena.  She loves the refined, tangy yet sweet, pungent aroma, “great for making a refreshing yet calming cuppa.”

Note: Moorish gardens of old are long rectangular gardens with symmetry and structure at their heart. They are often situated in courtyards so that the plants are sheltered and protected from the sun. Perfumed plants in these old gardens included roses, jasmine and lilies.