Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gardens for Lutens and for Roudnitska

Perfumers being inspired by gardens is not something new, but this very interesting article on highlights two of the most illustrious ones: the legendary one of Edmond Roudnitska in France and the exotic one of Serge Lutens in Marrakech.

'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


  1. What a luscious topic. Thanks for linking to the excellent article--why aren't there more stories like that in the US press? And I want to know how Liz Hancock got that gig. Hell will freeze over before anybody flies me to Morocco to hang out in Serge Lutens' garden.

  2. Wasn't that a very GOOD article for a change? It wasn't lazy, it researched its subject well, it saw things from a new angle and it actually told us a couple of things we didn't know before.
    I wish there were more things like that in the press in general, as well :-)

  3. Anonymous12:15

    Oh my god, i would love so much to visit those gardens! I love the idea of calling a lush secret paradise like this my own, one day.

  4. They're fabulous, to say the least. I am with you N!

  5. Love knowing that Serge is spending his money on a garden in the middle of the desert, better than so many other things. And what I wouldn't give to go see it. Dreaming.

  6. It is better than many other things. Then of course he could also build an orphanage or something, but I understand his need for a haven.
    It must be gorgeous if it is anything like described: a wild orgiastic feast of nature...

  7. You got me there, but here in the US where wealth means Rolse Royce, Hummers, BMW's, and boob jobs, well kind've nice seeing the money used on something else. What would make it better is if Serge opened it the public, let the Moroccans enjoy the beauty (and well me of course).

  8. True, J, very true. It would be fab if it was open to the public and we could all visit, huh?

    BTW, are Rolls that popular in the US (Hummers and BMWs I knew about)? Had no idea on that.


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