Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year and Welcome to New and Renewing Natural Perfumers Guild members!

I was going to write a year-end roundup, but time constraints and the general holiday duties got in the way - maybe tomorrow or early next week.

I am so happy to share with you that the Natural Perfumers Guild is pleased to announce that noted aromatherapist and author Victoria Edwards has joined us as an Associate.  After returning to the USA from seven years in France, Victoria will be relaunching her website in the upcoming months.  An aromatherapist since the 1970s, Victoria wrote a chapter in her book The Aromatherapy Companion on natural perfumery (available on amazon) waaaay back in the last century :-)  Her essential oils and absolutes are stellar, and I have used several of them in my perfumes, so I welcome her reopening her store.  She also makes all-natural body creams and balms, and other aromatherapy products.  Welcome back, Victoria.

PS: Next week, the Guild website will have a new look, mid-month, the Guild members will have a very joyful blogging and reaching out to the community blog event, and look forward to a few surprise announcements.  

In addition to Victoria, the Guild warmly welcomes new members and renewing members in all categories.

  • Opalescent Natural Perfume - Christine 

  • Maui Perfume - Jackie Cummings


  • Sororia Organics - Joyce Noerr


  • Ellenoire Bath and Body - Noelle Smith
  • StephanieK Naturals - Stephanie Vinson
  • Robert Tisserand Aromatherapy - Robert Tisserand
  • Green Scentsations - Mindy Green
  • Nothing Perfume – Michael O’Malley
  • Ingrid K - Ingrid Kutschbach
  • Fragrance Sciences – Barry Gibson


  • Flora Medica - Valerie Cooksley

  •  Aromatics International - Karen Williiams
  • Aqua Oleum - Alec Lawless


  •  Heather Tobin
  • Pat White
  • Dr. Peter Stefanides

  • Susan Anderson

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia Morton - An Economic Botanist's Legacy

Green bananas just two days ago - ripened into the lovely fruits, below

I'd love to share a wonderful resource with you.  This is for all who live in warm climates and who love to grow their own.  I just harvested some rare small bananas from my garden today (unknown variety) and received an email query from a Guild member, asking for an ID on a sour orange someone had given her.  She intends to macerate the skin in some fixed oil.  I sent her the link with a joke - more info than you ever need to know!

Yummy hand of organic small bananas harvested 
today, Dec. 27, 2011 in Miami 
- some missing because the cook had dibs.
In 1977/78, as I was in my senior year at the University of California, Riverside, one of the world's great think tanks, I asked my major professor, Dr. Gene Anderson, if I could obtain a change of major from anthropology (ethnobotany), which I was working on under him, to economic botany, since I felt closely aligned with Julia Morton, who had been named the Society of Economic Botany's first Economic Botanist.  Gene helped me navigate the system via an appeal to the University of California Board of Regents, and I was awarded the first-ever degree in economic botany from UCR in 1978.

Imagine my delight, years later, when I got to meet Dr. Morton at several Miami events, and obtained a signed copy of her most well-known work, Fruits of Warm Climates.  I've since lost the book, but love that it is available online, free of charge.  You can access it here.  I hope it is of help to some of you, and that you find the perfect lemon, lime, fig, cherimoya or other fruit here :-)

These bananas will be ripening in a day or two.  Banana bread, banana pudding, bananas in the freezer, too!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 25, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

There won't be any Ask the Perfumer this week or next, Dec. 25, 2011 or Jan. 1, 2012.  Do subscribe to this blog, or check my links from various sites, because I will be blogging about natural isolates, frankincense and some other topics of interest to the perfumery community.

Best Wishes for you and yours in celebrating the holidays this time of year, and the most wonderful wishes for a prosperous and healthy 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Don't Panic About the Frankincense Panic! Let's Make Plans for Plantations, though! A tree grows in Miami!

!!!Debunking alert!!! - Joking with all the exclamation points, including those in the title of this blog, but c'mon, what an overwrought, slightly incorrect article we're talking about.  In case you haven't heard, the perfumery media is buzzing with alarm over the doom and gloom article cited below.

Who doesn't love Scientific American?  Well, they posted an "EXTINCTION ALERT" (my caps, as a salute to the tabloid-type hype they incurred a few days before Christmas) on frankincense that has the perfume world alarmed.  Repeating some rather scary stats from the Journal of Applied Ecology, everyone is now on edge that frankincense, the Biblical, historical iconic resin tree that has survived for thousands of years in some of the worst growing conditions on the plant, may only last another 50 years.

I say baloney. The headline "Bad News for Christmas: Frankincense Future Uncertain" only adds to the sensationalist nature of this article, in a supposedly well-vetted (peer reviewed, I would think) publication/blog.   I do hope a real journalist takes on that Applied Ecology report, but I don't have high hopes, as sensation sells and seduces.

First of all, they looked at one species of frankincense, Boswellia papyrifera, growing in one region - Ethiopia.  There are many species of Boswellia, and papyrifera is not a major player in the frankincense resin field, and that's what everyone is interested in, the sweet fragrance of the resin.  They say the papyrifera is tapped for resin, but it's not a major crop, and I've been collecting various Boswellia resins for a number of years.

Granted, they also quote: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources includes 10 Boswellia species on the Red List of Threatened Species, eight of which are listed as vulnerable to extinction.  I went to the website and couldn't figure out how to use the Red List, and I'm sure that B. sacra/carterii is on there, and that is the frankincense most treasured by us perfumers.

My dear friend, Trygve Harris, who lives in Oman a good part of the year, is, in my opinion, and by the opinion of many others, one of the world's experts on frankincense.  A few days ago, upon hearing of my purchase of a tiny B. sacra sapling, Trygve began to send me LOTS of great pictures of frankincense trees in Oman. When they arrived, I urged her to add a SEARCH function to her amazing blog, and she did, and I encourage you to go to AbsoluteTrygve and have a good look at her posts on frankincense.  She senses the air and the rain and the soil they grow in like a spiritual earth mother of frankincense, and she balances out the problems and opportunities of this tree like no one I know.  Oh, plus, she makes frankincense ice cream and now has a shop opening in Salalah to sell the yummy dessert. Wallah! (I've picked up Trygve's often use of this Arabic word, which basically means "I swear to God".)

So in the past week or so, since the NYT article that sparked a "buy a frankincense tree"  (and a run on the book that details growing frankincense) among many I know, and the tabloid-type scare article in SciAmer, I'd like to share some more info and photos.  If you'd just landed on this blog post, please search frankincense on this blog, and see the photo of the rather puny sapling I got a few days ago, bareroot and a bit dessicated.  I had to hide it in a drawer so my cat Lulu wouldn't run off with it, she was obsessed with it.  I just planted it today, and there are two new little leaves bursting forth!  This bareroot, scraggly tree is a survivor!

A tree grows in Miami.  Light was fading fast - but I needed to document my little tree's first day potted. Notice heritage oak and pineapples in background, along with jasmine fence.

Blurry closeup of one of the two sprouting green leaves.  I'll get better pictures soon, as I was in a hurry to get this blog post out and didn't notice it was blurry when I snapped it, and now it's dark outside.

Ok, I couldn't wait - I went outside and got this flash shot - I put the tree under the table's umbrella to protect it.

I researched the climate of Oman, you can read about it here.   Water and cold need to be very carefully watched in growing this tree. I'll post images later of the coastal frankincense trees that Trygve sent me, "monsoon" franks, "old lady" franks, and ones that seem to love humidity.

Everyone remember when the vanilla plantations of Madagascar were damaged by hurricanes, a war broke out, and other calamaties affected the stock, and prices soared?  Well, entrepreneurs in India and Indonesia and other countries with similar climates stepped in, planted farms of vanilla, and now we're assured of a steady crop of vanilla from various locales. I predict the same thing will happen with frankincense!

I'm going to get seeds and follow the rather discouraging instructions on their low germination rate.  I'm sure others will follow.

Here are Trygve's photos of a plantation of sacra trees, and her comment:

"These are the UNESCO trees in Wadi Dowka. This is not considered desert in Oman because there are trees. it's the Nejd, which is the area between the desert and the coast.  Although meant to be a gift from God, and therefore not planted, they are.......and a fence erected around to keep out the camels and goats. These giant old friendly trees get no monsoon rains or mists at all, wallah. They might get a little flash flood action. Can't say for sure."

Click to enlarge the photos.  


Please share this blog because not only will it help stop the doom and gloom attitude, but it might actually encourage someone, somewhere in the world, to start growing these gorgeous trees!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Repotting and Growing Instructions for your Frankincense Tree

Guild Supplier Trygve Harris of Enfleurage with Frankincense Tree in Oman - read more about Frankincense on her blog

EXCITING update!  Trygve has sent me about 20 photos of different-looking Boswellia sacra frankincense growing in different regions in Oman.  I'll be adding them as I post more about my little tree. 
Here's the very informative email I got from Bob at Arid Lands:

Most of our customers are used to dealing with bare root plants and general care of succulent or "special" plants, such as Boswellia, so thank you for reminding us to include care instructions. They are on our website,, and I will repeat some of them here.

Boswellia sacra/carteri is considered to be the same species by taxonomists. This hemisucculent plant stores water in its trunk, thus producing the aromatic sap, but that also allows it to be shipped out of a pot. That species is a summer growing one and will go dormant in the winter (now); as well, it tends to shock when bare rooted anyway, so you can expect the leaves to dry and fall off. That is in no way shape or form a bad thing, it is normal but it scares a lot of people not used to this type of plant.

We generally use a soil mix that is roughly 50% pumice, 20% organic material (usually compost), some peat moss, around 10-15% sand, and several additives, such as vermiculite and some pH balancing compounds. You can simply buy what is known as "cactus mix" at most nurseries or home supply stores and use that. You can substitute small gravel or other things, such as perlite, for the pumice. The important thing is to have a fast-draining mix that retains water but does not stay saturated. Good drainage is essential for these plants and other ones that we grow.

We may use fertilizer during the growing season perhaps 3 of every 4 waterings. We always use fertilizer high in potassium as a natural fungicide and aid to growth of strong stems and roots; that is the third number. So while maybe 20-20-20 is the normal fertilizer, we would use something more like 11-17-29 or thereabouts.  In Tucson, where it is very hot and dry, our maximum watering frequency is every 3-4 days. During the winter, that grows to every week to every month, depending upon conditions. Boswellia tends to be watered more frequently at our nursery but not much more.

There is a new book out on cultivation of Boswellias, but unfortunately it is rather expensive. Feel free to ask questions if you want to know anything in more depth.

Bob Webb

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Frankincense Tree Arrived in Time for Christmas - Day One

   Boswellia sacra - first day.  Click on image to enlarge
A recent New York Times article on frankincense tree growers provided links, and I ordered one from Arid Lands in Arizona.  It was sent priority mail with a heat pack, since it is winter.  I paid $40 for a "one gallon" sapling plus $8 shipping and $2 for the heat pack. One gallon is a trade term, and it generally means a pot that meansures about 7" tall by 7" wide.  I was a bit surprised when the plant arrived bareroot.  It makes sense that it was bareroot, but that information was lacking on the website.  (I have received one-gallon potted plants) Also lacking were any repotting instructions.  I've ordered from many mail order nurseries in the past, and repotting information, also general care information, was always included, and perhaps duplicated on the website.  I've written the Arid Lands people, since there is no phone number contact for them.  I'll report back when I've heard from them.

I have a lot of experience growing arid plants, from lithops to peyote to cacti and succulents too numerous to mention. I'll keep posting tips on the frankincense, combining Arid Lands reply and my own observations.

First, buy coarse sand, or if you're lucky enough, dig some from your garden.  I would not repot this sampling in a one-gallon pot, I'm going to repot in maybe a four or five-inch pot. The sampling needs to send out new roots, and a tight container helps this process.  Do NOT fertilize. For the first month, water every other day, allowing all the water to drain out.  Do not let it sit in a pot in a saucer that holds water.   Keep it in the sunniest, warmest place in your home.  Protect from night chills if you live in a cold climate by moving it at least two feet away from the window when the sun goes down.

That's it for now. Do you have any questions?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 18, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

What are your favorite holiday smells?  Christmas tree? Brisket? Mulled apples and spices?  Well, except for the brisket, the others are easily made from essential oils.  You can make a room spray to perfume your nest this time of year.  Any perfumery questions today? I'll be here until 10 PM.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Ask the Perfumer is open for questions this balmy Sunday in December. Feel free to ask perfumery questions until 10 PM tonight EST USA.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

When you LOVE a perfume, but your skin hates it

I wrote an article for CaFleureBon that gives you alternatives.

"Scrubber"; the dreaded word of every die hard perfumista . We want to love you  Guerlain's Vol A Nuit, but you can be a swamp thing on our our skin, Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion can be a venus flytrap, Chanel No 5 is an adehydlic nightmare and Fairchild by Anya McCoy is an unloved-child.  So what do you, if you love the fragrance  but not on you? You ask a perfumer who created a difficult scent to wear…(Disclaimer: On Editor's skin all of the above people have been known to run away in fear).
Anya McCoy of  Anya's Garden:  When you go to a department store, perfume boutique, or buy a perfume sample online, the first thing you should do, after smelling the perfume out of the bottle or on a scent strip, is conduct a skin test. Most of us just dab or spritz on our wrist and pulse points, then wait an hour or so to see how the perfume intermingles with our personal skin chemistry.  The more careful among us do a "patch test" on our inner elbow, cover the perfume with a band aid, and wait 24 hours to see if there is redness or irritation.
One possible outcome is that disappointment will roll over you, like a dark cloud on a sunny day, when a perfume your nose loves, hates your skin. Maybe it has a musty, urinous, or just plain horrible scent that develops on your wrist.  These are commonly called "scrubbers" – you can't wait to scrub them off your skin.  The dilemma is that your nose craves the scent from the bottle!
Or, in another scenario, you love vintage perfumes, perhaps have a leaning towards Chypres, but are cautious because of the dire warnings of the International Fragrance Association (IFRA)about the bergamot and oakmoss in Chypres (and other alleged allergens in most vintage perfumes) IFRA is a nanny-state doom and gloom organization that has forced the reformulation of most vintage perfumes into pale ghosts of their former selves. You've consigned your vintage bottles to a back closet, and are afraid to wear them. What can you do?

Although many classic perfumes have been ruined when they were formulated to comply with IFRA standards, classic perfumes in the chypre family have been especially hard-hit due to two of their most-glorious aromatics being drastically restricted by IFRA (only members of IFRA are required to submit to their restrictions, but that includes all the big houses – small indie perfumers need not comply). Bergamot, that luscious citrus top note made from the rinds of the Bergamot orange, is limited to 0.4% in skin-contact cosmetics.(Index of IFRA Standards 46th Amendment) Oakmoss, that deep, delicious base note, is now limited to .02 to .5%, depending upon the cosmetic. (Index of IFRA Standards Î 46th Amendment). Bergaptene-free bergamot is not available, since the "offending" chemical constituent was discovered, but it smells flat compared to the true bergamot. An anthrole-free (or lowered anthrole) oakmoss is also available.  But what if you own vintage chypres, or other perfumes that contain these or other "offending" aromatics?

Bergamot can be a real problem on the skin, and a disfiguring scar, known as Berloque dermatitis, can result.  (photo attached, used by permission). Bergamot oil on the skin, when the skin is exposed to sunlight, can cause this.  The scar lasts for years, so you don't want bergamot on your skin, unless you're wearing the perfume under clothes, or at night.  Not to worry, there are sunlight and daytime solutions that are available to overcome this problem.
There's another way your skin can hate your perfume: it can cause the perfume to evaporate off prematurely, leaving you scentless an hour or so after application.  This may be a problem related to skin chemistry and body heat. This article will show you ways to overcome these three problems that you may have wearing perfume.

So, when the perfume smells wonderful on you, and there is no rash, it's a great outcome, but there are two possible negative outcomes, and we've all been there: the perfume our nose loves hates our skin and becomes rank smelling on some level, or, we get a rash where the perfume was applied. Disclaimer: I'm sensitized to oakmoss. I love oakmoss, so what to do?  I love my Temple perfume, but it smells awful on my skin.  What can we do?
—-> Keep the perfume near, but off your skin.
There are some simple, and sometimes aesthetically beautiful ways to do this.
One important point to emphasize is that the perfume, especially natural perfume doesn't "evolve" so much when you use these methods.  Yes, the topnotes evaporate off first, but you may find they last longer then with conventional skin application of the perfume.  The great news – the middle and base notes go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. – without the heat of your skin volatilizing them, they last very, very long.
Disclaimer: during a summer heatwave, all promises of longevity are off. 100F temps plus high humidity will even wilt the flowers growing in your garden, so don't expect any perfume to survive, despite any efforts to prolong the scent.
Tactics to beat the skin love/hate relationship:

Wear your perfume in your hair
My hair is long, and sometimes I dab a drop or two on the tips of the curls framing my face.  Every time I move, a waft of the pure scent of the perfume fills the air. This works well with short hair, too.  Don't worry about a drop or two of alcohol; it won't be enough to dry your hair out.
Wear your perfume on your clothes
For this method, you have to do a test on an unseen, inconspicuous part of the garment or scarf.  If it doesn't stain, you may like to apply some perfume on the collar or cuff or scarf. Wearing long pants?  Take a tip from Greek philosopher Diogenes, who preferred to anoint his feet. He said “When you anoint your head with perfume, it flies away in the air and birds only get the benefit of it, whilst if I rub it on my lower limbs it envelopes my whole body and gratefully ascends to my nose." From Book of Perfume by Eugene Rimmel. 

In his glorious painting  Fumée d'Ambre Gris, artist John Singer Sargeant portrays a North African woman standing in front of an incense pot that is giving off scented smoke from chunks of ambergris being burned.  The  history of fragrancing clothes is not new, and a spritz inside of a sweater or jacket may give you pleasure for hours as the perfume gently wafts off the fabric as you move.

Wear your perfume in jewelry…
Lockets, earrings, pins, bracelets and rings with "pierced" metal designs, or woven metal openings can allow you to spray or dab your perfume onto a cotton or felt piece of material and place the material inside the jewelry, allowing the scent to be released over time.  History is rich with gorgeous aromatic jewelry made to adorn the wearer, and the aroma fills the "Scent Circle" around them. For the purposes of this article, we won't focus on perfume lockets that have caps and hold small amounts of precious liquid or solid perfume.  After all, those are made for the wearer to open, and apply the perfume, and we're looking at jewelry that will give off the scent without any action on the part of the wearer; the scent is always wafting.  This method also allows the wearer to avoid putting the liquid on their skin for the issues of perfumes that "hate" your skin (turn rank or horrible smelling due to your skin chemistry), or may cause a rash.
There are vintage and modern pieces available that can suit any aesthetic you wish to adorn your body with. In the 1800s, "viniagrettes" became popular for ladies to wear.

The point is – you can wear a perfume that might not agree with your skin chemistry, or one that you're afraid may cause an irritation on your skin, or one you definitely know irritates your skin because of previous episodes of rash or discomfort. You can look on eBay, or google "aroma jewelry", "aromatherapy jewelry" or "perfume jewelry", and start testing on your clothing, and spraying or dabbing fine fragrance in your hair.  Welcome to the world of long-lasting, easy-on-the-nose, easy-on-the skin creative perfume alternatives.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Fragrantica Chooses all 12 of Anya's Garden Perfumes for the Perfumed Horoscope Week Dec 5 - 11, 2011

I clicked on the link and was truly surprised and delighted - Fragrantica chose my entire line of 12 perfumes to feature this week.  Each perfume is linked to an astrological sign, according to the selection by Hieronimuss, the astrologer for Fragrantica. Click here to read his savvy suggestions.

I'm offering all of my perfumes and botanicals for 25% off to celebrate this fun event. Click here and use the code fragrantica for 25% off through Dec. 11th.  For 10% off my perfumery course and kits, use the code F73480022F at the Natural Perfumery Institute page by clicking here.

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 4, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Good morning/afternoon all!  I went out early today and didn't get Ask the Perfumer posted before I did.  I'll be here until 10 PM tonight, so please feel free to submit your questions about perfumery, any aspect of perfumery.

PS Doreen and Sandi - I didn't see your messages for the 13th Sign post until today.  I announced the winner for the drawing the other day, but she hasn't responded yet.  I'll wait one more day and put everyone, you two included, into another random draw for White Smoke - a lush, floral, pretty ambery perfume.  Good luck!