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Gardenias: Rethinking a Corsage Flower

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Gardenias: Rethinking a Corsage Flower

April 14, 2017

My mother loved the scent of gardenias so much that year after year my father tried to grow them for her in Chicago, where we can now confirm definitively they will never survive the winter. She made do with an annual Mother’s Day corsage, sniffing her wrist and warning us not to touch the delicate white petals lest they turn yellow.

How my mother would have loved the gardenias at my house last week—dozens of velvety flowers on stems long enough to make bouquets. Raised on a California farm, High Camp Supply’s gardenias were cut just before they were ready to bloom, packed in bubble wrap, nestled on top of ice packs, and shipped overnight. They made a dramatic entrance:

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

A Vine & Bloom Box with 30 gardenias is $loading=
Above: A Vine & Bloom Box with 30 gardenias is $129 from High Camp Supply. A Deluxe Box with 50 gardenias is $189.
Gardenias have the sort of intoxicating, Proustian fragrance that reminds everyone of something. For me, the memory is Mother’s Day circa 1968: The crabapple tree in the front yard is in bloom, my mother and my grandmothers have their white corsages, and we’re in the Buick, headed to a restaurant for brunch. I am wearing my black patent leather Mary Janes (as in every important memory from my childhood).

You can see why I jumped at the chance to field-test High Camp Supply’s gardenias.

Upon arrival, I took the High Camp Supply flowers out of the box and put them into a vase filled with room-temperature water. They started within hours and by the next day looked like this:
Above: Upon arrival, I took the High Camp Supply flowers out of the box and put them into a vase filled with room-temperature water. They started within hours and by the next day looked like this:
In addition to the stemmed flowers, the High Camp Supply box included loose blooms (the kind you float in a shallow saucer of water).
Above: In addition to the stemmed flowers, the High Camp Supply box included loose blooms (the kind you float in a shallow saucer of water).
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Above: Here’s what I used to think about gardenias: prom flower destined to quickly turn brown.
Here’s what I think now: God, my house smells good.
Like any cut flowers, the gardenias require conditioning before you put them into a vase. Instead of snipping the stem, snap it to create an angled cut to allow the flower to absorb maximum water.
Above: Like any cut flowers, the gardenias require conditioning before you put them into a vase. Instead of snipping the stem, snap it to create an angled cut to allow the flower to absorb maximum water.
I stripped off enough foliage to make sure no leaves would be underwater after the flowers went into a vase.
Above: I stripped off enough foliage to make sure no leaves would be underwater after the flowers went into a vase.
My mother was right. You should never, ever touch a petal or else the finicky, fragile flower will  turn yellow.
Above: My mother was right. You should never, ever touch a petal or else the finicky, fragile flower will  turn yellow.
The gardenias are easy to arrange. Sturdy stems hold them upright and all those leaves fill in any gaps in a floral arrangement.
Above: The gardenias are easy to arrange. Sturdy stems hold them upright and all those leaves fill in any gaps in a floral arrangement.
The common gardenia, which goes by the horticultural name Gardenia jasminoides, hails from Asia. It has been growing in temperate English gardens since the 00s and also thrives in Southern gardens in the US.
Above: The common gardenia, which goes by the horticultural name Gardenia jasminoides, hails from Asia. It has been growing in temperate English gardens since the 1700s and also thrives in Southern gardens in the US.
I personally have had no luck growing gardenias; even in my current Northern California garden the leaves turn yellow. (Probably I need to add Epsom salts to my soil.)
Above: I personally have had no luck growing gardenias; even in my current Northern California garden the leaves turn yellow. (Probably I need to add Epsom salts to my soil.)
High Camp Supply&#8
Above: High Camp Supply’s gardenias lasted five days before they started to droop. Yes, that is black bubble wrap.
Possibly the most luxurious thing you can do, having so many gardenias, is to put a bowlful of loose blooms next to the kitchen sink to keep you company when you doing the dishes or staring out the window thinking about your mother.
Above: Possibly the most luxurious thing you can do, having so many gardenias, is to put a bowlful of loose blooms next to the kitchen sink to keep you company when you doing the dishes or staring out the window thinking about your mother.

N.B.: If you are thinking ahead to Mother’s Day (or a bridal bouquet), see more of our favorite fragrant flowers:

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