Monday, 23 January 2006

Mimosa R.I.P.

I have on my desk a small bunch of mimosa. The tiny yellow powder puffs are all shrivelled because they’ve been with me since Friday afternoon and they didn’t have a drink of water for several hours. I’m not intentionally cruel to flowers: I was at the Vive la France! exhibition and I got those few sprigs right at the start of my visit. By the way, how can the organizers of that event justify the £16 entrance fee? For a few stands selling expensive French products; a few others selling crappy non-French crafts; a cookery demonstration by Jean-Christophe Novelli and a fashion show (that’s the best thing, actually, but I managed to miss it). In previous years, I have been able to taste some rather nice liqueurs and cocktails and wine jellies, but not any more: all I had this time was one cashew nut and one very thin slice of wild-boar saucisson – in that order. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay to get in because I pretended to be someone else. I don’t make a habit of that either, but I needed to go to the exhibition in order to collect brochures from the Provence-Côte d’Azur tourist offices (I’m currently updating a guide to that region) so I took the identity of the managing editor of the publishing house that’s employing me. There was a slightly hairy moment when they couldn’t find her/my name on the list and they asked me to fill in a form so they could give me a complimentary ticket and create a badge for me. I wonder whether they noticed, later, that the name I wrote down wasn’t quite spelt the same as the one on the business card I handed them and that the email address was a bit different too. Ssshhhh!

Anyway, I am passionate about mimosa: it’s beautiful; it has the most gorgeous scent and it reminds me of Nice. Anyone who has only sniffed fragrances purporting to smell of mimosa has no idea how wonderful it is. (The only one that’s close to the real thing is the home fragrance by Diptyque. I smelled it in SpaceNK a while ago and for an instant I didn't know where I was. Trust me; it's the only one.)

I live in Central London. (How do I know that? Taxi drivers agree to take me home if I hail one late at night. That’s the test.) You know what the weather is like in London most of the time. Yes? What’s the likelihood of a mimosa tree growing in Shepherds Bush? Nil, I would have said a few years ago. Wrong! There used to be a beautiful mimosa tree in someone’s front garden, in a side street, between here and Hammersmith. I’ve lived in this area for over ten years, but I only discovered it three years ago. So, around this time – when it’s still dark and horrible, I used to go and stand underneath that tree practically every day, and inhale the wonderful scent. I also used to talk to it – it was so lovely.

And then, last year, in April, I think, it was cut down. I couldn’t believe my eyes. One day I’d been walking down to Hammersmith and had automatically looked towards the house as I always did (I don't any more: there's nothing to see). It wasn’t there. I thought I’d made a mistake. I checked the name of the street again and again. I got closer and stood outside the house. Stunned. I felt I’d lost a friend.

That tree was a real delight. I miss it terribly. I’m slapping the people who cut it down. I don’t care why they did it. (It’s quite possible they had a good reason for doing it, but I don’t care.) I doubt they even knew what sort of tree it was and what a treasure they had.



  1. When you first mentioned Mimosa, I thought of the Champagne cocktail. I don't know why, since I've never had one.

    When I was a girl in Memphis TN, our neighbors had a Mimosa tree. It did smell nice. But it tended to get some sort of worm that endangered it. Maybe the tree you used to visit got sick. Sad.

  2. I've never had that cocktail either. Is it yellow, d'you think?

    Someone suggested the roots may have been causing subsidence. Or it was blocking the light. Maybe. Or they just got fed up with having to prune it. Who knows?

    Did your neighbours' mimosa tree have yellow flowers or those fluffy pink fans? I believe the pink variety doesn't smell that good; at least, not good enough to make perfume with.

  3. Why don't you get someone to buy you a nice winter-flowering jasmine to keep indoors? That's another alternative for a sweet-smelling February...

  4. Oy! Sending a slap across the sea from Califonia! Where I am fighting to save 100+ year old tree at my office. While not fragrant, it is lovely and stately and deserves to live.

  5. Oh, I hope someone reads your comment, L: I'd love a winter-flowering jasmine. It could sit on my kitchen windowsill and cheer me up. :-)

    V, I wish you luck in your fight! Trees are wonderful.

  6. Jasmine! Yes! I love those.

    Our neighbors' tree had the pink fan-like blooms. It had a smell, but it was faint. My mother called it a "messy tree." I liked it anyway. It was pretty.

  7. I am happy to report that I now have a jasmine sitting on my kitchen windowsill. Someone read L's comment. ;-)

    Thought as much, TLP. I don't think you have the yellow variety in the US. Which is strange because the ones on the French Riviera originate from Mexico. They were brought there by wealthy Americans wintering in Nice and around, who wanted to have flowers at that time of the year.

  8. I'm quite fond of my mimosa scented Radox bubblebath. An accurate reproduction of mimosa's volatile oils, would you say?

  9. Hmm... I haven't tried that one (probably because I only have showers). I'm sure it's very nice, but I'd be surprised if Radox succeeded where Guerlain, Caron, Coty et al. failed. *Off to my local Tesco for a sniff.*

  10. Oh no what a terrible jolt. There had to be something wrong with the tree because they would not just tear it down. But so nice to hear about the jasmine plant on the window sill. One year I had a night blooming jasmine in my garden *sigh* that I bought at the garden center. It would fragrance my entire yard and apartment in the evening.
    If that doesn't work you can always get the Diptyque candle, light a match and close your eyes. My favorite was always the Baies and also the one that smelled like a burning fire, which was perfect for fall.

  11. Forgot to say that Yes! Mimosa cocktails are yellow. A splash of orange juice in Champaign which is perfect for brunch with salmon on toast, creme fraiche topped with caviar. Actually maybe you need to have that little treat as a farewell toast to your tree friend.

  12. I mourn every time a tree goes down anywhere in my surroundings. Our society places far too little value on them.

    J, I know you're not exactly a fan of Patricia de Nicolai, but I've got a bottle of her Mimosaique coming in a swap - alleged by many to be the closest thing to the real, blooming tree. I'll send you a decant so you can give me your purist's verdict.

  13. I thought orange juice and champagne was Buck's Fizz. In the UK, anyway...

  14. Hah! Indeed:

    Mimosa (cocktail)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

    A Mimosa is a cocktail composed of three parts champagne and two parts thoroughly chilled orange juice, traditionally served in a tall champagne flute with a morning brunch. It is also often served to early guests at weddings, and in first class on jetliners.

    The Mimosa cocktail was reportedly invented at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, France circa 1925. Orangina or a tablespoon of Grand Marnier (technically a Grand Mimosa) are sometimes added.

    A similar (and often identical) British cocktail is called a bucks fizz.

    In a variation of this cocktail, called Hibiscus, cranberry juice replaces orange juice. In another variation, called a Lilosa, pink grapefruit juice replaces orange juice.


    "Champagne and orange juice is a great drink. The orange improves the champagne. The champagne definitely improves the orange." - Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

  15. SL, the jasmine is indeed lovely, but I’m not sure it likes my windowsill (probably too cold right now).

    My favourite Diptyque candle is Bois Ciré. I have one that my partner gave me over ten years ago. It still smells incredibly strong. I don’t burn it; I just sniff it from time to time. It reminds me of French churches (I’m Jewish, what am I doing?) and a boarding school I went to when I was six or seven and where we the kids had to polish everything that was remotely made of wood. Such wonderful memories! LOL!

    And now I know what a Mimosa cocktail is. Very nice.

    That is so kind of you, D! If PdN haven’t thought it necessary to mix the mimosa with coconut or whatever there’s a chance it will smell authentic. :-)

    Thanks, L! As someone else said, you’re such a helpful little thing. LOL!

  16. I am pretty sure there's at least one mimosa on either Ashchurch Terrace or Rylett Road in W12. (And a big fig tree too.) Unless it's the same mimosa as you used to see, in which case boo to whomever has cut it down. I very much used to enjoy seeing it on my walk to work when I lived in W12 and worked in W4.

  17. Oh, really? I must go and have a look. The defunct one in question was in Sterndale Road (off Shepherd's Bush Road).

    Happy New Year, P! :-)