Monday, May 10, 2010

Joy to the world

Michelia champaca 'alba' with flower and buds.
Its seven months before December so I must be talking about something else.

The Champaca belongs to the Magnolia family of trees. Although its blooms are not as beautiful as those of its cousins, it is the source of one of the most fragrant flowers in the world. There are two variants, the yellow Champaca (Michelia champaca) and white Champaca (Michelia champaca 'alba'). And according to some online literatures, the flower of this plant is the main essence in 'JOY' perfume. Whether this is true or not, to me it really doesn't matter. What matters is that we have this in our garden. And come to think of it we almost missed this opportunity.

Flowering yellow Michelia champaca
When I was in the Philippines, I was browsing through the plants in one garden store when I was approached by one of the sellers. He offered me this slender plant with a few branches. It was about six feet tall with several glossy leaves and a couple of white flowers. One glance from a distance and there is nothing about this tree that is worth a second look. Even the flowers had no visual appeal.

Not to appear rude, I feigned interest and went to check on the said plant. But as I got closer, I could smell this familiar scent in the air. It was a very sweet fragrance and it got stronger as I got nearer to this sickly looking tree. Then the seller disclosed the identity of the unassuming but very fragrant flowers - Champaca.

One of our little Champaca trees in our nursery.
I knew I've seen this flower in my youth. It is sometimes found strung in garlands which are usually sold outside every Catholic churches in the Philippines. And that was the extent of my knowledge of this flower back then. Many, many years later, there I was standing in front of the tree that produces those sweetly scented flowers.

I didn't immediately buy the tree though. Weeks later, when I was back in Utah (USA), that's when I decided to go for it. So I called home, told them to buy as much as they can on their next visit to the garden stores. That's how we ended up with eight (six whites, two yellows) little Champaca trees in our nursery.

Even though our Champacas are still in the garden's nursery, with roots confined in cramped spaces within their plastic containers, right now they are aggressively in bloom and is filling the air with an aroma so pleasing, so crisp and so fresh.

I will attest that the bloom of this tree is very sweet and very fragrant.