Heliotrope – Plants of Yesteryear

Heliotrope – Plants of Yesteryear
  • Posted January 14, 2015

Some say heliotrope smells like grapes, others insist it is a mix of cherry pie and vanilla. 

Whatever you try to compare it to, heliotrope is the fragrance captured by the department store perfumes of the 1920s. Its peak of popularity was in the Victorian era and it has been on a slow decline ever since – but has never gone entirely off the radar.

‘White Lady’ ‘Florence Nightingale’ ‘Princess Marina’

You can still find old varieties like ‘White Lady’, ‘Florence Nightingale’ or ‘Princess Marina’ on the racks of a well-stocked garden center. The scent is as fresh as ever in the garden and has a way of casting a nostalgic spell, much like the ragtime piano tune named for it, Heliotrope Bouquet, which was a big hit back in 1907.

The basic purple variety has been around in gardens long enough that we’ve named a color after it – it would have been popular on the plain floral print dresses of your grandmother’s generation. But the origin of that peculiar name, heliotrope, is found in its Latin translation — to revolve around the sun — as it was the first plant in which the ability of flowers to track the east-west movement of sun across the sky was observed. It’s one of those timeless, magical qualities shared by many plants and one of the many reasons why we still grow heliotrope.

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Brian Barth
About the Author

After 15 years as a professional landscape designer and horticulturalist, Brian Barth embarked on a second career to share his passion—and the knowledge he's accrued—through writing. His love of plants is all-encompassing, but he has a particular soft spot for culinary crops.

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Heliotrope – Plants of Yesteryear
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