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.



  1. How fascinating! I really should have some gardenia in my garden! Any you recommend?

    1. karin, i have 'august beauty' and 'frost proof' and both have been great. august beauty is up against the east side of the house where it gets a little protection in winter...don't know how it would do otherwise. the frost proofs are fine out in the garden. they smell about the same to me...heavy fragrance, intoxicating.

  2. I love that idea that you can transfer the scent to powder. How long does the scent last in the powder, I wonder? Because, while it would be nice to have gardenia scented bath powder in summer, I'm sure it would be truly heavenly to have it in the winter!

    1. hi sharon, the scent does fade over time, but not a lot if you keep it airtight and make it pretty strong to begin with. gardenias are so fragrant, that won't be too hard! i think refrigerating it could help, too, but i haven't tried that. there are fixatives you can add, like powdered orris root, but that will add a slight scent of its own, and some people are sensitive to it. but i hope you do try making the powder...if you do, let me know how it turns out for you!

  3. Love all aspects of this!!! I get cell phone photos from my kids to make an ID. Great that your mother in law sends you some! I did not know how to make perfumed powder, might have to give it a try!! Think Linnaeus had a number of correspondents.

    1. that was my sister who sent the pic...was trying not to "out" her. haha! (sorry suzy!) my mother-in-law doesn't text as far as i know, but she was there with me when i got the one from my sis. i think you're right about linnaeus. seems that everyone who had any interest in plants back then wrote him!