Fragrance in V. odorata var. sulfurea

stefanb8(z7 MD)April 15, 2004

This just started blooming here in the last day or so, and when I knelt down to smell the flowers I definitely detected a light, coconut-like fragrance. Has anyone else noticed this? I had previously believed they would be scentless, but no longer. I thought it was very nice and complemented the blossoms well.

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membertom(zone 6)

StefanB8,
I've noticed a faint scent in the violets I got as 'Sulphurea' too. I didn't smell the coconut-like part though. I smell something "outdoorsy". At the risk of once again offending some of the odorata people, I'll mention that (sadly) not everyone likes the scent of Viola odorata. I do, but along with the sweet scent, I detect another "unusual" scent in odorata. In a previous thread, I think Natalie Casbas related that a professional French nose detected the "scent of horses". I think that's probably the kindest way to describe that part of the overall fragrance. When I've presented a bouquet of sweet violets to various "amateur" noses I know, I've gotten mixed reactions. These have ranged from "Yuck, it stinks like a diaper" to "Wow, that's really nice". It seems that so far (sadly once again), the unpleasant reactions have outnumbered the pleasant.
But getting back to 'Sulphurea', I didn't detect any of the sweetness of typical odoratas, only the faint part that I'll call "horse" scent.
P.S. In case any of the odorata people have been upset -- for the record I really do like Viola odorata and am currently trying to hybridize it with other violets. (And I'm hoping for fragrance in the hybrids ;o)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2004 at 7:42AM
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stefanb8(z7 MD)

Tom, I can definitely understand why some people wouldn't like the scent of violets. I can smell that undertone as well - though it doesn't hinder my enjoyment of the bloom too much. 'Semperflorens' has a slight unpleasantness to it, and (if I remember right - the violets aren't all quite in bloom here yet) 'Queen Charlotte' has a little less than it. When I smelled the water a 'Semperflorens' blossom had been steeped in, it seemed to be sweet without as much of the "horse" note. The V. odorata var. sulfurea had a slight undertone as well, which for lack of a better word I'll call "cooked celery". I hope that doesn't wrinkle too many noses as others read this; it's not that bad!

Different violets vary quite a bit in their scent, at least to my nose. The wild Viola blanda-like species here has the sweetest smell by far in its minute blooms, and a tiny posie an inch across is absolute nose candy. Viola canadensis has a warm, light, "rosey" scent. I have an unnamed double violet that unfortunately is virused (I quarantine it away from other susceptible plants as much as possible but always worry about spreading the disease), but it has a remarkable sweet fragrance that is stronger than other V. odorata and does not have the off undertones when I smell it. The sweetness of its violet aroma almost attains Concord-grape-like richness. I had a Parma once that was not entirely dissimilar; if I can afford to I'll try another one soon. Last year I bought a 'Double Russian' which has fairly attractive flowers, but the scent was neither particularly strong nor as sweet (it's hard to describe the difference from memory) as other V. odorata plants.

I'd love to do additional breeding experiments with the violets I grow; last year's explorations were unsuccessful, probably because the crosses were too wide. Fragrance is a primary goal of mine as well. It's interesting to work with such small blossoms.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2004 at 12:51PM
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membertom(zone 6)

StefanB8,
I've had lots of unsuccessful crosses too. My most recent disappointment was the germination of two seeds that then died as the first true leaf emerged. They were both from Viola sororia X dissecta. I had such hope for them. I'm definitely going to repeat that cross and hope for better results.
But I'm glad to see that you're not giving up, because I've had a few crosses that have worked out very well. And I haven't even been at it for very long. My favorite so far is Viola striata X walteri which is in bloom for its first time (right now).
Good luck to you this season.
Tom

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 7:30AM
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gardenpaws_VA(z7 NoVA)

My V. odorata var. sulfurea is just going out of bloom. I've found it nicely scented, but perhaps a little more fleeting than some of the other odoratas. (I grow Rosina and a plain purple - have never done the Parmas or other fancy sorts). Now that I hear all these voices about fine detail in violet fragrance, I'll have to do some more analytical sniffing!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2004 at 1:05PM
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membertom(zone 6)

gardenpaws,
I'd welcome "some more analytical sniffing." I don't think my nose is any more gifted than the next one; I think I just use it a little more often than average. And I really would like other opinions on what I think I'm smelling. Sadly...my wife's allergies keep her from smelling...my mom's nose is not very keen...and other people I have to be careful, not to overwhelm. I see them start to brace themselves when they see me coming with a posie of something to smell. Not everyone is "into" scents. By the way, I've mentioned before that the Confederate violet (I think properly called Viola sororia var. priceana??) has a faint sweet scent which I can't detect at all in the plain purple or plain white varieties. But yesterday I found a new faintly scented violet. I have many times before collected handfuls of Viola striata blossoms to collect pollen from, for hybridizing. I've always sniffed these and found them scentless. But yesterday, I collected a posie of Viola striata, and found that it had a faint "clover-blossom" scent. I don't know why I haven't smelled this before. We have had two very warm days and I collected the flowers in the evening. I'm thinking that either: that the scent is released in the evening (I've always smelled them in the day, before) or that the warm temperatures have intensified the scent. Maybe both of these are the case. When I first smelled the flowers, I thought that maybe I was smelling a "green" scent from the breaking of the flower stems. But I smelled the cut ends (no scent) and even went so far as to crush some stems (gave a scent but very different).
Anyway, not everyone would understand this preoccupation with such a faint scent. But I'm hoping that through breeding we can increase some of these faint scents; or that these faintly scented species would be good candidates for hybridization with Viola odorata, to allow for scent in the F1 hybrids.
Take care, Tom

    Bookmark   April 21, 2004 at 7:08AM
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janetmariemn

Hi all. i thought this was an awesome thread as i'm getting more and more into fragrance gardening. i like Tom's idea of doing more "analytical sniffing"....maybe the world of fragrance gardening will evolve like the world of wine tasting where a whole bunch of people stand around with their noses buried in flowers and then spend hours discussing what they've been smelling! : ) I'm amazed that some people (like me) really get into fragrances while others just seem to have no interest at all. Smell is such an ethereal experience and our noses are all so different in their perceptions that to me it is the most fascinating of all the senses.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2004 at 7:00AM
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