'Many of these fragrances wouldn't have existed if he hadn't been so totally immersed in nature on a daily basis,' says Roudnitska's son, Michel. 'He even had several beds of lily of the valley planted, which he sniffed at different times of the day to catch its subtlety, as well as the surrounding atmosphere with its green and fresh tones, which can be found in Diorissimo.'
Among the cedar, cypress, sequoia, maple, magnolia and willow trees that Edmond Roudnitska planted in his seven-acre garden, there thrive jasmine, roses, violet, wisteria, lilac, irises and lush herbs. 'This land - dominant, wild, even a bit austere - resembled him,' says Michel Roudnitska. 'He was a man of challenge and ideal. His motto, "I will make flowers bloom on stones and birds sing", is engraved at the entrance of the property and summarises the thought that drove him during those 48 years of fierce labour.'
But Lutens with his 9 acres private garden rivals the 7 acres of Roudnitska's. In Morocco, where Serge has built his private haven, his magnificent seraglio that no one sees, he also takes refuge in his wild garden overgrown with many of the plants that inspire him for his scents.
'When I arrived in Marrakech there were women with big white sheets underneath orange trees shaking the trunks to make the flowers fall,' he recalls. 'The whole city was perfumed with the orange-blossom. I stayed for three months; it nearly brought my contract with Dior to an end. I was deeply in love. Without Morocco I'd never have done perfumery.'
Lutens's nine-acre private garden lies down a dusty road in the Palmeraie, the national palm grove, hidden away from the camels and tourists. After walking through a large dark wooden door set into a traditional Moroccan wall, you are greeted with a series of paths that cut through a gentle jungle in which chickens, turkeys, peacocks, frogs and a couple of cats happily cohabit. Inside grow many of the plants that inspire Serge Lutens scents - rose, jasmine, laurel, myrtle, pepper, fig, apricot, almond, orange - plus arid vegetation such as cacti, eucalyptus, Australian bottle-brush, lantana, prune trees and cyprus.
'This garden has a personality that doesn't want to expose itself,' he says in his thoughtful, poetic manner. 'Except for the palm trees, everything else grows in the shade. The garden and I are similar. I wouldn't like to be too public and this is not a public garden. Every time I walk around here I discover something I don't know, because the garden grows itself.'
I cannot imagine the costs of gardening! Then again, I know lots of us who are willing to keep his gardeners in business...
After Instanbul and the Arab world, next post will reprise travelling in exotic destinations. Stay tuned!
Link brought to my attention by Arsinoe on MUA. Thanks!
Pic of Lutens's private garden, courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk