"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626


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Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Leaf of the Day: The Joy of White Champaca.

Today I had to eat that last fragrant little guava, it has scented the whole house over the weekend, but I have replaced it with the superb White Champaca blossom. It has been in a container in the fridge for 3 days but as I brought it out , the whole room was filled with the most exquisite perfume. It is quite unbelievable and, it is not only sweet smelling, but beautiful too, the kind of flower I like, simple with slender creamy white petals, most elegant. You just have to keep going back to it for one more noseful of delight. If you live near one, beg a blossom or if your garden is big enough, grow one for yourself. If I had a garden it would be my number one tree. For an artist it is a delight, everything about it is worth painting, from leaves and flowers to the twisted pods with the red seeds and the tree itself.
The White Champaca is the Magnolia (once termed Michelia) alba. It is a tall, evergreen tree with these spidery creamy white flowers and the delicious sweet fragrance which starts early in the morning becoming more intense in the afternoon and filling the air at night. It is Shanghai's floral emblem and in Thailand the blossoms are hung about the temple altars and floated in bowls of water to perfume the air.


It is known in Florida too as the 'Joy Perfume Tree' because it is said to be one of the 3 base flowers of the world famous 'Joy' perfume by Jean Patou.
I have read some reviews of the smell of Joy and after my encounter with the champaca I think I need to get some! 'Joy' was at one time considered the most expensive perfume in the world due to its exotic floral ingredients, each ounce said to contain the essence of ten thousand flowers including Bulgarian roses and Grasse jasmine, as well as the Champaca. I know nothing about fine perfumes but do have some queasy recollections of a childhood visit to Grasse, feeling it my duty to doggedly try each and every perfume, of course.

I have to start the next piece for the course submission, somewhat reluctantly I have to say, as I am not looking forward to painting flower heads. It seems odd to have these disembodied things floating about on a piece of paper so maybe I will add a bit of forbidden shadow! This lovely blossom is a possible but is tricky because it is a cream flower to be painted on white paper, so surely it is all about shadow?? ? ... well I will try. However today, this one is starting to wilt and is dropping more stamens as I look at it, so I have just made a quick watercolour with a nice dark background and will try another one another day as a final study. Having finished for the day I am now putting this lovely thing in a little dish of water, as an optimistic offering to the kitchen gods...so who knows from where tonight's meal may materialise ...


White Champaca

1 comment:

asha said...

Hi there,

I'm starting a blog called the Champaca Tree and I would love to use your Champaca leaf sketch as a background.

I would credit and link to your site of course.

Please let me know what you think.