Mum gave us two cyclamen for our graduation, and I’d been watering them in the kitchen. They are the miniature cyclamen, with the more mottled leaves, the smaller flowers, and best of all, they still retain the fragrance the larger ‘florist’ cyclamen have had bred out of them generations ago. I was quietly enjoying the subtle fragrance, redolent – to me – of the pine forests of Persia, and generally communing with some of my favourite plants.

I’ve got a special soft spot for cyclamen – years ago when my sister and I ran ‘Urban Jungle’ – a small business with big ideas – we managed to scoop up an amazing deal on cyclamen and although it would’ve been less than a rounding error for Fletchers, the mega company of the day, for us it really established us, if not financially, then at least attitudinally. We became ‘real businesspeople’ that day.

By the way, if you’re buying cyclamen, if they are well grown you should be able to rest them, on their leaves, upside-down. The leaves and stems should be strong enough to support the pot, mix – the whole bundle. If the stems are soft, leave the plant on the shelf, it has been badly grown or may be diseased.

Back in the kitchen, Zofia was putting cups in the dishwasher. “Mmm, they’ve got quite a strong perfume.”

stanhopea image from www.peripatus.gen.nzI was a bit surprised – Zofia’s not always had an easy relationship with my flowering plants. I’ve definitely resigned myself to never having the wonderful, squid-like flowers of stanhopea orchids in the house. Stanhopea flowers can smell of erotic hot chocolate. “Yes, these cycs do have a fragrance, I’m surprised you can smell it, because it’s fairly delicate.”

Zofia smelled the flowers. She looked a little confused.

I realised she’d just put cups in the dishwasher. “It’s probably the dishwasher you can smell.”

More confused, she opened the dishwasher.

“It’s lab-lemon,” I told her, “One of the finest fragrances ever made by someone who has never smelt a real lemon.”

She nodded and we talked about how amazing it was that lemon had become the new orange which had become the new lime which had become the new lemon. Who knew? Imagine the riches you would’ve made if your big breakthough had been lab-lemon? I’m always amazed at all the places lab-lemon shows up – now in dunnies, dishwashers, detergents, disinfectants – the list of ‘d’ words goes on and on. I feel slightly slack that my big leap was 50 or so cyclamen at better than wholesale rates.

It seems a modern miracle to me that we can buy stuff to make a dishwasher smell of ‘lemons’, but we can’t buy lemons that smell of lemon.

At least they don’t smell of dishwashers…

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