Saturday, June 9, 2012

Plant ID by Text

iPhone capture by Suzy Moore, used with permission

I got a text message with this photo attached asking, "What is this? It smells like jasmine!"

The scientific name, Gardenia jasminoides, does imply a resemblance to jasmine.  My mother-in-law, taking a look at the picture, reminded me gardenia is sometimes called cape jasmine.  Then she tells me how my father-in-law rooted some in water not too long ago, and how it's already blooming, "still in the pot!"

"They're gardenias...lucky you!," I text back.

"My whole yard smells good!," she replies.

Right outside my back door Gardenia 'Frost Proof' is blooming away.

Did you know you can preserve that wonderful scent in cornstarch and wind up with an all natural, handmade gardenia body (or baby) powder?  The fragrance transfers into the cornstarch quite easily.

Here's what you do:
  • Layer freshly picked gardenias with cornstarch (or talcum, if you prefer) into a plastic or glass container with lid.
  • Remove the flowers as they wilt and replace with fresh until the powder is as fragrant as you want.
  • Sieve the powder into a decorative box or shaker.
  • Use after the bath, or anytime the summertime humidity gets you down.  
I've even heard of keeping the powder in the fridge to keep it especially cool and refreshing.  Enjoy!

Last year, I wrote about Gardenia Fruit, which I noticed (for the first time) after the blooms had faded.  I've since learned these fruits are being investigated for medicinal value, both in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.  Food dyes are made from them, too.

The gardenia was named for Dr. Alexander Garden, who was a physician in Charleston, South Carolina, during the mid-1700s, and a correspondent of Linnaeus.  The gardenia has an affinity for mild winters and humidity, which makes it a favorite in Charleston, and all over the South.