LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mountain Girl Perfume



We drove over to the Biltmore Estate again today to see the tulips.  The day was overcast, but no problem.  We go over a couple of times most months anyway and it was nice to get out and walk on the trails there.


We saw tulips.  Lots and lots of tulips




And the azalea gardens were near peak.  Only a bit of sun could have made them more beautiful



But I was drawn to a large shrub that grows wild all over the NC mountains and Piedmont.  I haven't seen one for a while.

Calycanthus floridus

We had these shrubs growing in our woods when I was a child.  My mother told me they were sweet bubbies.  (OK, she actually called them sweet boobies.)  She said that she and her six sisters would gather them in the summer and put them inside their bras to use as perfume, so apparently the legend of their use is actually true.  (Vanilla was the winter perfume.)

Known as Carolina allspice, sweet shrub, sweet shade as well as sweet bubby bush, (and probably many other names) all parts of this plant are fragrant.  The leaves, the flowers, and the stems.  You can smell a sweet shrub bush from quite a distance when it is blooming.  Seeing and smelling the plant made me think of my mother and our childhood summer activities when we played outdoors from morning until dinner and then went back out and played in the twilight.  Games that are probably not known to today's children; "Ghosts in the graveyard," "Ain't no bears out tonight," "Kick the can," "Freeze tag," and so many more.

A word of caution about sweet shrub:  don't be fooled by the name Carolina allspice.  It is NOT the allspice used for flavoring; in fact many parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.

My husband laughed that of all the wondrous flowers and trees at the Biltmore, I should have taken a picture of this rather plain looking shrub.  Let him laugh.  I plan to buy at least one for him to plant.


17 comments:

Janie said...

The tulips and azaleas look gorgeous, but I can understand why you're drawn to the sweet bubbies, since it has some strong childhood memories. For me, pleasant memories are firmly attached to lilacs and honeysuckle.

Arkansas Patti said...

Oh I love fragrant plants. I will have to see if it will grown in Arkansas.

Cicero Sings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cicero Sings said...

I have never seen or heard of that plant but sure enjoyed the anecdote.

KB said...

I love the story behind that shrub. I hope that you enjoy having one in your yard - a touch of the past.

The tulips are gorgeous too!

Vicki Lane said...

We have some sweet shrub crowing wild -- it smells like pineapple to me. Love your memories!

Ms. A said...

Smells that evoke good memories, I like that! However, if many parts of this shrub are poisonous, I'm not sure I'd touch it, much less stick it in my bra.

Carolina Linthead said...

Sweet bubbies!!! My father LOVES sweet bubbies! Thank you so much for this, and for your organic understanding of where you live and the people with whom you share that space. OMG! You have no idea what this meant to me.

troutbirder said...

Bubbies is a new one to me. How I wish I could grow azaleas in our very alkeline soil....

robin andrea said...

What a wonderful find! So sweet to be reminded of the flowers of youth. Lovely.

The Bug said...

I can attest to how much Mike loves this post - he had to read the whole thing to me last night & THEN go read more about sweet bubbies. I told him to call his dad today so they could reminisce :)

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I think many of us are drawn to smells that remind us of childhood. Witch hazel is another one that brings me memories.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

We are visiting over around Greenville TN and are so close to Biltmore, and wanted to go and see the flowers, etc., but with my husband on crutches it would just be too much--THANKS for all the lovely photos, now I feel like I have been able to have the next best thing to being there!

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Like your family history on the sweet shrub. Any plant that has a nice scent is worth plantings especially if it is native to the area. Good post -- barbara

Ruth said...

I like your sweet boobies story. Your tulips are beautiful. I expect ours will be out by next week if the warm weather we are enjoying continues.

merrilymarylee said...

So funny because I grew up with one of those shrubs--we called them Sweet Betsy--under my bedroom window. I was in a plant nursery last week and was so tempted to buy one. But then this delightful mock orange fragrance wafted over from the next aisle and I decided I'd better come home and decide where the heck I could put them before I came home with a load of plants. sigh. Isn't spring gorgeous...?!

Jayne said...

What lovely memories from a simple plant. BTW, I remember kick the can well. :c)