Raw Materials Peonies in Perfumery and Cultivation

Peonies in Perfumery and Cultivation

08/12/16 09:34:59 (22 comments)

by: Evgeniya Chudakova, Matvey Yudov

Not so long ago at the Moscow Botanical Garden there was an exposition of peonies with dozens of cultivars including garden hybrids and itoh-hybrids. I visited this exposition and today I want to share with you my photos of these beautiful flowers and to talk a bit about the story of the cultivation and development of peonies and their aromas. I also will mention the difference of the smell from cultivar to cultivar.

Peony (lat. Paeónia) — is a genus of perennial herbaceous and deciduous shrubs. Peony is the only Genus of the Family Paeoniaceae. The most typical species is Paeonia officinalis L..

Cultivated, these flowers are interesting first of all due to their decorative properties. According to certain Chinese sources of the time of Qin and Han rule, interest in peonies as decorative plants has been documented since 200 BC.

 Goldmine cultivar, China, near 1100 

Genus Paeonia counts more than 30 species. The most popular and widespread in cultivation is Paeonia lactiflora, also known as Paeonia albiflora, that was the first white peony brought to Europe.  First introduced in England in the mid 1700s, this species became the ancestor for most garden peonies.

 Venus cultivar, Great Britain, 1888

According to The American Peony Society, there are 6455 peony cultivars registered today.

Paeonia lactiflora unlike Paeonia officinalis is more persistent for weather change and for illnesses; it became the ancestor for a huge amount of cultivars that were firstly mainly famous in France.

 Duchesse de Nemours cultivar, France, 1856 

 Marie Lemoine cultivar, France, 1869 

 La Perle cultivar, France, 1886 

 Albert Crousse cultivar, France, 1893

 Sarah Bernhardt cultivar, France, 1906 

Selectionists in the USA (peonies became known there in 1771) crossbred Paeonia lactiflora with wild species in order to obtain new cultivars. Considering the flower became more and more popular, the American Peony Society was founded in 1903.

 Myrtle Gentry cultivar, USA, 1925 

 Krinkled White cultivar, USA, 1928 

Considering the structure of a flower, peonies are divided into flat/single, Japanese type, anemone type, semi-double and double (polypetalous) that in their turn can be (considering the form of a flower) coronate, semi-spherical, spherical, semi-rose type and rose type. 

Single/flat flowers are all wild peonies and their hybrids. The blossom consists of five or more large zonated petals with numerous stamens in the center. 

The Japanese type flowers are characterized with one or two rows of petals and numerous stamens without pollen. Parastemons (staminodiums) are more often colored more brightly than petals. The Anemone type flowers are often compared to the Japanese group. Their flowers have one or two rows of petals, many stamens without pollen, but colored the same tint as the petals.

 Ursa Major cultivar, USA, 2000 

 Gold Standard cultivar, USA, 1934 

 Nellie Saylor cultivar, USA, 1967

 Yellow Charm cultivar, USA

 Neon cultivar, USA, 1941

 White Sands cultivar, USA, 1968

 Bouquet Perfect cultivar, USA, 1987

Semi-double peonies have flowers with many petals in several rows; stamens are located annulately, rarely mixing with petals and stamens are grouped in the center of a flower.

 Green Halo cultivar, USA, 1999

 Coral Charm cultivar, USA, 1964

Double or polypetalous flowers with numerous petals are the most aromatic (having this very "classical" scent that we are used to calling peony: light and transparent, floral, slightly powdery) and most recognizable as a typical "peony".  

 Big Ben cultuvar, USA, 1943

 Chiffon Parfait cultivar, USA, 1981

 Chinook cultivar, USA, 1981 

 Fringed Ivory cultivar, USA, 1989

 Jacorma cultivar, Netherlands, 1969

 Jadwiga cultivar, Romania

 Joker cultivar, USA, 2004 

 Junior Miss cultivar, USA, 1989

 Moon River cultivar, USA

 Victorian Blush cultivar, USA, 1999 

 Pink Parfait cultivar, USA, 1975 

 Princess Margareth cultivar, USA, 1960 

 Diana Parks cultivar, USA, 1942

The most aromatic peonies I sniffed at the exposition were: rather simple Festiva Powder Puff, that had the brightest among "classical" peony scents — subtle and soft-powdery; Steve's Choice — a flowery scent with shades of lemonade and caramel; Venus — a thick, rich flowery scent. A rather interesting fragrance was the Myrtle Gentry cultivar, its smell included the balmy hints of myrtle. 

 Festiva Powder Puff cultivar, USA, 1986

 Steve's Choice cultuvar, USA

Besides habitual flowers about 10 centimeters in diameter, there were hybrids with flowers of more than 20 centimeters.

 Carol cultuvar, USA, 1955

There is a separate group called itoh-hybrids (intersectional hybrids) with very big flowers, an original form and color. The story of itoh-hybrids started with a battle among selectionists trying to develop a cultivar with pure yellow petals. The result was obtained when Tree peonies were taken into consideration for crossbreeding. In 1958, resulting from the crossbreeding between Herbaceous and Tree peonies, Japanese selectionist Toichi Itoh created the first herbaceous plants with real yellow flowers.

In 1967 Louis Smirnov, the owner of a peony breeding nursery in New-York, bought the rights for these hybrids and later in 1974 registered with the American Peony Society (in co-operation with Itoh) four cultivars: Yellow Crown, Yellow Emperor, Yellow Dream and Yellow Heaven. The selection of intersectional hybrids that was continued in the USA led to putting them into separate group (Itoh-Hybrids or Intersectional Hybrids).

The most remarkable itoh-hybrids are considered to be Garden Treasure and Bartzella, that is up until today the only double yellow peony in existence. Now the list of itoh-hybrids includes the cultivars not only with yellow petals. There are the ones with pink and even burgundy-red flowers (for example the Old Rose Dandy cultivar with flat beige-yellow pink flowers).

 Garden Treasure cultivar, USA, 1984 

 Bartzella cultivar, USA, 1986

 Old Rose Dandy cultuvar, USA, 1993

 Anderson Kaleidoscope cultuvar, USA, 2006

 

 

Peonies are very popular garden flowers. Different cultivars bloom in different time from May until August offering the possibility to enjoy the beauty and the wonderful bright but subtle and sophisticated smell of these flowers all summer long.

 Old Faithful cultivar, USA, 1964 

 Pillow Talk cultivar, USA, 1973

 White Frost cultivar, USA, 1991

 Ivory Victory cultivar, USA, 1988 

Volatile components that define the smell of the blooming peony, as strange as it may seem, are not thoroughly examined and this theme is still waiting for an attentive researcher. I must admit that the most important work on peonies appeared only last year. 

Earlier in the study of peony there were found such components (in rather big amounts) as phenylethyl alcohol, citronellol, geraniol, linalool, nerol (so called «rose alcohols») and their esters. Among ketones and esters it worth to mention methylheptenon with its green apple scent (there is a lot of it in essential oils of verbena and lemongrass) and fruity-balmy methyl cinnamate

The important components of peony smell are farnesol with a lily of the valley scent, nerolidol with a flowery-green scent, benzaldehyde smelling of bitter almond, the smoky-vanilla scent of guaiacol and dymethyl hydrohinon that smells of hay and fennel. Terpenes and their oxygen-containing derivatives make a substantial contribution to the peony aroma (besides the ones mentioned above there is eucaliptolcaryophyllene, terpineol and others) and rather important components are certain aldehydes, ketones and  arenes.

But I have to distress you a bit: any attempt to mix these components, even respecting natural quantities, more likely would not lead to an appropriate result. As it often occurs, the secret of an amazing smell is in the combination of many unique minor components. Maybe this is the reason why there is not so many good and realistic fragrances with a peony note. 

But still there are several synthetic ingredients having an aromatic profile characteristic of peony. One of the most important odorants with peony nuances is Peonile, synthesized for the first time in 1976 by Givaudan chemist Jean-Pierre Bachmann. This ingredient came to the market only in 1995, and in 2006 Petalia was created, being the Peonile close analog with  hints of rose and litchi. For today this is the Givaudan captive odorant. Phenylethyl analogues 4-phenylbutan-2-ol (phenyl methyl carbinol, PEMC) and о-methylphenyl alcohol (Peony Alcohol, Peomosa) also have a nice rose-waxy scent with the hints of peony and mimosa. Besides, there is a bright peony note in 9-decenylacetate (Rose Petal Acetate, Roseate) and peony aldehyde.

I hope this brief chemistry course in the peony smell will help you to have a look at the fragrances with peony note from another point of view and to admire the work of perfumers. One of my favorite peony soliflores is Yves Rocher's Pur Desir de Pivoine, simple but very nice. What are your favorites?

Mat Yudov

 Photo: Jane Wonder

EDITOR'S NOTE: In addition to Mat's recommendation of Pur Desir de Pivoine, and our Fragrantica Peony page, we'd like to suggest the following additional fragrances that include peony notes:

 

 

Mat Yudov

Mat Yudov is a chemist, perfumer, and musician. Mat is a researcher and specialist in the chemistry of aromatic materials. He graduated from Moscow State University "Lomonosov" in 1999. He writes for the popular perfume blog leopoldray.blogspot.com (in Russian).


MEH



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Suzybee
Suzybee

LOVE all of the pictures in this article as Peony is one of my favorite flowers: delicate, creamy, and feminine. One of my all time favorite Peony fragrance came out of B&BW, many years ago. They brought it back this past Spring in a new formulated package but not quite what it was!! I've tried others, like L'Occitane's Pivoine Flora, it's nice but not great.

Aug
19
2016
LadyPilot
LadyPilot

Thank you for this amazing article - I adore peonies!!! It's the symbol of beginning of the summer for me and of course the most romantic flower/scent in the world!
Most of my beloved scents have benn mentioned below, including Peoneve.
My favorite low-price peony scents are Oriflame's Dancing Lady, Avon's Be Romantic (the pink one), Avon Sensuelle.

Aug
19
2016
SuzanneS
SuzanneS

Peonies in Dune And Natori are lovely too.

Aug
19
2016
HOUSTONHOUSTON
HOUSTONHOUSTON

Estee Lauder PLEASURES INTENSE (pink bottle). Best peony for me.

Aug
19
2016
felicite34
felicite34

I love the photos. I am a gardener, so I am well aware of the lovely scents from peonies.
Funny is that most red peonies do not have much scent.

I have a white one (unnamed) that is in my yard - and it smells identical to a rugosa shrub rose I have blanc double de coubert. Kind of a baby powder type smell that is very beautiful.

And a co-worker this past spring had a bouquet of light pink peonies on her desk, she had just picked from her yard. I happened to be wearing Love2Love perfume brand, Violet and Freesia - and the peonies smelled exactly like that!
After that, I could not help but think that perfume should be called something "peony"...

Aug
18
2016
odoro
odoro

I grow both, tree and herbaceous. Every one has a different scent. They are so delightful it is worth the space, time and attention for the 1-2 weeks of fragrance and the gorgeous blooms.

Regrettably nothing in a bottle closely resembles any of the fragrances produced by the plants. Wish they did as they would be definite addition to the wardrobe. Maybe one day....

Aug
14
2016
smelling_gr8
smelling_gr8

Love peony scents. My fave is YR Pivoine, a very realistic peony scent. Stunning pics!

Aug
13
2016
aglow
aglow

Beautiful photographs! And I appreciate the flower even more knowing about its history and unique scent component profile. Thank you!

Aug
13
2016
rp6969
rp6969

Absolutely gorgeous photos!

Aug
13
2016
little parrot
little parrot

A real peony perfume is Histoires de parfums
VERT PIVOINE it's not famous therefore forgotten......

Aug
13
2016
BorisKodjoesNo1Fan
BorisKodjoesNo1Fan

The smell of peony is one of my favorite scents. I love Bath & Body Works version of it, but would love to find an eau de parfum that holds similar qualities (peony/light rose). Any suggestions?

Aug
12
2016
HUEbris
HUEbris

Thank you... you are my hero...

Aug
12
2016
ladyarizel
ladyarizel

Peonies are so beautiful! I just see them in pictures :(

Aug
12
2016
Pollyflower
Pollyflower

I watched an interview with the nose behind Pivoine Flora and it was very interesting - on you tube L’occitane

Aug
12
2016
StellaDiverFlynn
StellaDiverFlynn

Thank you so much for this article! The peonies shown here are truly amazing! The peonies I had the chance to smell, their fragrances are all very delicately rosy. As a result, I kind of dismissed peony note in perfumery as a soft, pale pink rose without the multidimensional of a rose. You can imagine my surprise when reading from the article, that there are actually so many fragrant molecules emitted by peony! I'll surely look at peony note in a new light.

I quite like Yves Rocher's Pur Désir de Pivoine, and actually went through a bottle. I also enjoy Penhaligon's Peoneve, with rooty vetiver supporting the very feminine peony.

Aug
12
2016
glitteralex
glitteralex

A very beautiful and illuminating article on this very favorite of mine. Thank you so very much!

Aug
12
2016
lemonzest
lemonzest

Peonies don't grow where I live because it gets too hot. So the only experience I have of their scent is through perfumes. I have learned to recognize the peony note. Wonder what real ones smell like. Hope I can try some of the recommendations here for realistic peony soliflores.

Funny because my mother painted many pictures of peonies; my grandmother's family was from Boston, and it was her favorite flower. They are lovely. I imagine they smell like Pleasures Eau Fraiche.

Aug
12
2016
bibibling
bibibling

Wow, that explains a lot! Peonies are my ultimate favorite flower so I'm always on the lookout for a good soliflore peony perfume, or at least a perfume where peony is a major player and unfortunately it feels like "peony" in so many fragrances is just a "fantasy note" comprised of other elements! And thanks to this article, I know my nose was right!

Anyone have any more recommendations for good peony perfumes (besides the ones already provided below)?

Oh, and I was also wondering, since there are so many varieties out there and I'm familiar mainly with the big pink ones they sell in America, have you guys found that different cultivars have different scents?

Aug
12
2016
zoka
zoka

I like Escada Joyful Moments it's peonies, litchi and rose... I would not notice it in perfumery most probably and smelling from paper but when I sniffed it in air from Elena it smelled really nice.

Aug
12
2016
Perfumeaddict777
Perfumeaddict777

I love the smell of peonies. My husband always smells peony and thinks it's roses . My favorite peony perfume is oscar de larenta oscar flor.

Aug
12
2016
Vivelafete
Vivelafete

For me it is L'occitane's Pivoine Flora. They use the real extract of peony flowers from Drome.

Aug
12
2016
jeca
jeca

I love peonies and always buy them to put in a vase. For now I haven't found anything similar to their scent in perfumery, but there were so many tries, and they appear every year.

Aug
12
2016

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