There is a magic to the month of May
that is off the scale of flower power. In Hawaii, May is Gardenia Season. Florists sell bundles of gardenia
buds wrapped in Ti leaves, like a present, with the spine of the
Ti leaf tied in a tiny bow around the bouquet. As the
flowers open, I put an ice cube in their water each morning to
keep the water cooled and the flowers freshened. The trade-winds
stir the scent around the room, giving a note of gardenia grace to
all who enter.
For the thirty years I have been formulating skin food
under my business name Alexandra Avery Purely Natural, I have had
the unique pleasure of infusing fresh gardenias for the Hawaiian
Aloe Sun Oil. It is a procedure that in itself is infused
with magic. Here's my secret: It begins with a morning jaunt to a
farm at the base of our
mountain range, where the air is cooler and the rain is consistent
in the afternoons.
Once the dew has evaporated, when there is no visible
water on the blooms, I pick to my hearts content from a hedge that
is 8 feet tall and 300 feet long. I take only the fully
opened blooms because their scent is strongest. Once I have
filled my back seat with upwards of 1000 blossoms, I begin the
first of several infusions. When infusing
fresh flowers, you want to head them, to take off any green parts
and stems. The flowers are then placed in a stainless steel
or glass bowl, large enough to submerge the petals. In Hawaii, I
am lucky to live near a kukui nut factory so I pour a few gallons
of fresh kukui nut oil over the gardenias, just enough to cover
them. I put a cloth or thin towel over the bowl to keep
insects out but to allow for water evaporation. All fresh
plants contain water, which is a potential bacteria problem, so
when making fresh flower infusions you want to be careful not to
trap the water evaporation in your infusion.
Depending on the temperature in your home, you will be
infusing for up to five days. Each day, look into the
infusion, making sure that all petals are covered by the oil.
To strain off the oil, I use a rice sieve lined with a paint
strainer bag. Lining a suitably sized strainer with cheesecloth
also works well. pour the oil through your
strainer into a clean bucket or gallon jar. When you are
down to just flowers, put them into the strainer or paint bag and
let them drip into a separate jar, squeezing out all the excess
oil. A separate jar is good for the flower matter because
you will see some water and particulate matter. I use this
jar for squeezing the following infusions and finely strain it at
the end of the infusion process.
To get a good strong scent, you will need to infuse a few
more flower pickings into the same oil. For the best
gardenia infusion, I go for three to four pickings, using the same
oil each time. This is the easiest way to handle fresh
flowers in an oil base. To handle fresh flowers in a water
base, the following method is easiest.
Fill a glass, stainless, or ceramic bowl with rain,
spring or distilled water. Take the bowl to the flower
source, and begin pinching the flowers from their stems, placing
them directly in the water. When the water surface is
completely covered with flowers, place the bowl in the direct sun
where no shadows will pass over it. You want full sunlight
to most effectively distill the essences. At the end of the
day, strain the flowers (you may want to use a few in your evening
salad or as a garnish), pour the water into a clean bottle, and
preserve in the refrigerator. Use this potent flower
extraction by the droplet in masks, toners, facial steams,
cleansers, and creams. Put a few drops into a glass of water
for an aromatic elixir and float a flower in the glass.
You may want to collect the thin film of essential oil that floats
to the surface of the bowl. Take a Q-Tip or small piece of
cotton and skim the surface of the water, pressing the drops into
a small clean bottle. Add some grain alcohol to this
collection of oils, and use as an essential oil.
The Scent Atelier
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The Gardenia flower above is Copyright © Fax Sinclair. To see other photos by Fax, visit http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/gallery.asp?memberID=58718
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