Take up space with Sambac Jasmine

Take up space with Sambac Jasmine

I’ve been growing a Sambac Jasmine plant for about 3 years and this is the first year it’s really poppin’ off. I use an absolute of its flowers in one of my perfumes and it’s been such a pleasure living next to this plant, learning what it likes & watching it flourish. Sambac Jasmine starts blooming heavily in May in my region (9b) and sends its sweet, floral fragrance far & wide. It feels sensual, relaxing & uplifting at the same time. Here are a few facts & observations about Jasminum sambac:

In my yard: The variety that I have is like a mix between a shrub and a vine. It loves to sprawl out and send its branches in many directions, though it doesn’t send out tendrils. The flowers on my plant are double-layered. The last time I repotted it, it had spread its roots out of the pot and down into the tiny amount of soil available in my otherwise concrete yard. From its limbs to its roots to its big, loud, delicious fragrance, Sambac Jasmine is not afraid to take up space. 

Plant names: Jasminum sambac, Sampaguita (Philipines), Melati Putih (Indonesia)

Elemental correspondences: Water + Earth

Family: Oleaceae (olive)

Native to: tropical Asia, from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. It’s the national flower of the Philippines and 1 of 3 national flowers of Indonesia. Widely cultivated in Southwest of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Naturalized in many places, including Mauritius, Madagascar, the Maldives, Chiapas, Central America, southern Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.

Botany: Frost-tender evergreen vine or shrub; highly variable; ovate, simple leaves, either opposite or in whorls of 3. Blooms in clusters of 3-12. The flowers open at night and close in the morning. 

Lore/traditional uses: In the Philippines, Sampaguita garlands are used as a form of bestowing honor, veneration, or accolade. Jasminum sambac is the subject of the danza song La Flor de Manila, composed by Dolores Paterno in 1879. 

In Indonesian tradition, it has long been considered a sacred flower, as it symbolizes purity, sacredness, graceful simplicity and sincerity. It also represents the beauty of modesty; a small and simple white flower that can produce such sweet fragrance. The jasmine has wide spectrums in Indonesian traditions; it is the flower of life and beauty, yet it is also often associated with spirit and death.

Zones: 9-10

Scent profile: Sweet, creamy, floral, vanilla, fresh (like bath soap up close), lush, sweeter, more of a creamy floral from a distance, coumarin, indolic, lactonic; very diffusive (projects its scent far)

Energies & Aromatherapy: “Paradoxically strong yet serene, jasmine can settle and open the heart to self-love, compassion for others, and new experiences.” (from Aromatics International). Euphoric. 

Elspeth’s Airs perfumes: Fleurs et chocolat*

*Fleurs et chocolat has been out of stock for a long time because I’ve been unable to find one of the essences (Tiare.) I’m currently growing both Tiare and Sambac Jasmine and enfleuraging them to hopefully use in perfumes again! 

Embracing Softness with Sweetbay Magnolia

Embracing Softness with Sweetbay Magnolia

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

– Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve spent the past few weeks visiting a group of Sweetbay Magnolia almost daily. One thing that stands out to me is their softness. The petals are soft, supple, thick & waxy. The buds have tiny little hairs that feel like fur. The gray-green leaves have soft undersides. Even the newer branches have bark that feels soft to the touch. They seem to invite gentle stroking. I make an offering to the trees then sit with them a while before asking permission to collect a few petals. It’s been a pure, comforting joy and reprieve to spend time with these trees in the midst of so much hardness in the world. It’s been a particularly tough week. I’m grateful for these moments of softness & sweetness and wishing for each of you moments of softness, as well.

Here’s a meditation on softness that Sweetbay inspired, as well as a short profile on Sweetbay Magnolia:

Plant names: Sweetbay Magnolia, Laurel Magnolia, Swamp Magnolia

Botanical name: Magnolia virginiana 

Family: Magnoliaceae

Characteristics: Evergreen in places with milder winters, semi-evergreen elsewhere; simple, alternate leaves; perennial

Where they’re native to & who they’re in community with: native to the lowlands and swamps of the Atlantic coastal plain of the eastern U.S. I’ve noticed dragonflies on the branches, tiny insects inside the flowers, bees, squirrels and birds also hanging out with Sweetbay.

Lore/traditional uses: Native Americans used a concoction of the bark to treat fevers and rheumatism. The fruit was used for coughs and chest ailments.

The petals are edible and people do things like pickle them. Always, be aware of where you’re harvesting from to feel confident that they haven’t been treated or exposed to excessive contaminants. 

Ecological considerations: It was introduced into cultivation in the 1680s. I pick only petals and leave the center part (multiple pistils that will develop into an “aggregate follicle” fruit with seeds) so that the tree can fulfill its reproductive cycle. I only take petals from a few flowers on lower branches and like to harvest them after they’ve had a day in the sun, even if I don’t get the strongest scent.

Scent profile: notes of vanilla, lemon, occasional whiffs of honeysuckle and rose; strongest scent on just opening blooms; the scent evolves quickly as the flower opens; creamy, sweet, fresh & light floral

In perfumery: I’m currently making an enfleurage of the petals to make what will eventually be an absolute. 

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