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Jardin du Poète – A gift from Sicily – March 30, 2012 New Fragrance Listing

Photo - Wikipedia - Parco del Castello

“Buon giorno,  Signora. Welcome to my garden. This is the Jardin du Poète, and I am the Poet. My name is Alessandro............”

The man stands beside the tall salon doors and welcomes me as I step down onto the flagstone patio, sweeping his arm back to bring my focus to the vista before me, the vast garden that surrounds this fabulous Sicilian villa. Bordered on the far sides by tall cypress pines, the garden reaches all the way down to the steep cliff, and the blue Mediterranean beyond sparkles in the late morning sun, dotted with yachts at their moorings.

“It’s so beautiful – this is your garden?”  I look at his tanned face, greyish hair, whiter-than-white linen shirt, and take a quick survey of this guy. His feet are in expensive leather sandals. Not bad, I think. “And you are a poet?”

“Si.” he smiles. “This garden is my inspiration, a place of beauty and solitude where I come to create. Come, let me show you.”

I take another good look – he’s well-dressed, well-mannered, well-spoken – what the hell. He could truly be a poet, plus he looks like he might even own this place. “All right, Alessandro – let’s go. Show me your garden.”

“Bene, vieni con me, signora”. We start along a pathway bordered with tall frothy plants, turn a corner and we’re in a small grove of leafy trees, laden with citrus fruits – oranges, bergamot, lemons, grapefruit! Alessandro reaches up and picking one of each, says “You must smell, and taste. You have never met fruits such as these.” He peels the skins, and the aromas which spurt out are luscious and pungent – green, orange, pink, tart, sweet, bitter citrus notes warmed by the sun. The glorious citrus scent intensifies as we savour some juicy segments, then he drops the remaining pieces, and the peels, into his canvas shoulder bag.  He’s right - I’ve never met such fruits.

I follow him through the grove to the far side of the garden, an open area filled with plants, growing through a layer of cream-coloured hay. “For the kitchen – orto!” Tomatoes, peppers, fennel, beans, eggplant, squash, cucumber, raspberry vines, blackcurrents, and herbs, herbs, herbs. Oregano. Sage. Rosemary. Basil. I crush basil leaves between thumb and fingers and inhale the familiar green scent with its hint of anise. Another plant – green with lemon. A third – green with mint. I do the same with tomato leaves, a different scent of summer green. The aroma of the herbs and damp hay warmed by the sun makes a pure perfume that starts a flood of memories and I steal away for a few seconds. I come back to hear Alessandro’s voice – he’s talking about the beauty in leaves and stems as he picks up the crushed basil and tomato leaves I’ve dropped on the hay. He puts them in the canvas bag, along with some of the hay, and a sprig of blackcurrent. 

We turn and follow a path into the middle of the garden, which is breathtaking. Curved marble benches, statues of Greek gods and goddesses, and a tall fountain with lilies floating at the edges of the surrounding pool. Garden beds filled with roses, cyclamen, lily of the valley, angelica, pink bay, and immortelle spread outward in concentric circles, buzzing softly with the sound of bees at work.  Alessandro picks blooms from the flowers, creating a fragrant bouquet in his right hand as he tells me the myths about each of the tall statues. He’s fascinating, his story-telling is humorous, passionate, and he is very charming. As we move through the flower garden and reach the path leading to the cliff, he tucks the bouquet into the canvas bag. I have this bizarre notion that he’s made it just for me, and will offer it with a little speech about beautiful flowers for a beautiful lady...or maybe something more grown-up and a little more poetic. The heat must be getting to me.

The path to the cliff follows the line of tall cypress pines at the edge of this huge garden. I love these stately trees – their shape and graceful height, their blue-green colour and their distinctive smell. When I imagine Italy, I see cypress trees. They have moss on their trunks and on the knobby roots which poke through the earth. Their cones are everywhere. Alessandro stoops and picks one up, holds it out, “Smell this, signora. It is fresh, no?”  Then he offers a piece of dried moss “This is not fresh, this is old, signora, but good, too. Just like people.” Is he talking about me? He’s seems obsessed with smells. He adds the cone and the moss to the collection in his canvas bag.

We stand near the edge of the cliff,  he talks about the sea and the ancient history of Sicily, the importance of place, time and memory. We smell the salt air, listen to gulls, watch hawks diving for fish, and talk. He recites a poem he says he has just written. I know very little Italian, but to my ears it is music. We turn and as we walk back through the garden to the villa, he randomly pulls strands of tall green grasses, winds them around his hand, then stuffs them in the bag. He thanks me for listening to the story of his garden, the Jardin du Poète, I thank him for his kindness, then, “Ciao, grazie, Signora,” and Alessandro disappears into the villa.

His canvas bag is lying on the ground next to my feet. I pick it up and run after him into the big house to find that he’s left, so I get into the car and put the bag on the seat beside me. I briefly wonder if maybe he meant to leave it for me – no, why would he leave a bag of garden scraps? I look inside at what he’s collected, a jumble of citrus peels, pieces of fruit, flower petals, crushed leaves, hay, grass, pine cones, moss, and then I unthinkingly lift the open bag up to my face and inhale big lungfuls of their pure scents. The aroma is fantastic - all mixed together, the bits and pieces make the heavenly smell of the Jardin du Poète, the true, rich scent of summer in Sicily. Citrus with herbs, flowers, woods.

Later in the afternoon, I’m in the town sitting outside a little trattoria with friends sipping wine, and I see Alessandro drive by in a pick-up, rakes, shovels, lawn mower, bedding plant flats stacked in the back. The sign on the side says in Italian “Jardin du Poète” Landscape Design + Gardening. Hmm, seems that Alessandro isn’t only a poet. It explains the smell obsession, and the collecting, during our walk in “his” garden.

I decide to keep the canvas bag.

Jardin du Poète is listed in our Decant Store.  It was created by Bertrand Duchaufour for Eau d’Italie and released in 2011. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.