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WWD Beauty Radar: January 14, 2010

The art of perfumery will be explored in a multisensory exhibition at one of the country’s largest botanical displays, Longwood Gardens.

Making Scents at Longwood Gardens

It’s easy to forget that fragrances come from the stuff of life: plants, flowers, even animals. The art of perfumery and the delicate nuances that have launched certain scents into iconic territory will be explored in a multisensory exhibition at one of the country’s largest botanical displays, Longwood Gardens.

From April 10 to Nov. 21, Longwood Gardens, located in Kennett Square, Pa., will host “Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance.” The exhibition will teach guests about the history and science of scent, adding more than 260 aromatic plants and flowers to the Gardens’ existing collection of 5,500 plants. “Making Scents” also will feature a collection of 150 vintage perfume bottles (and later editions of original designs) from iconic brands such as Guerlain, Dolce & Gabbana, Lalique and YSL.

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There will be an educational walk through the garden highlighting the history of perfume, from early Egyptian fragrances to Chanel No.5. Guests also will be given the opportunity to smell and interact with the actual plants and other organic matter included in these scents. Visitors will be given an explanation about the science of smell and how the brain interprets scent molecules, which trigger moods, emotions and memories. Participants will be shown the technical process of perfume creation and will be given the opportunity to compose their own personalized fragrance.

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“[Those in attendance will] learn the process of perfume manufacturing from antiquity to the present,” said Richard Stamelman, academic consultant for the exhibition and author of “Perfume: Joy, Obsession, Scandal, Sin — A Cultural History of Perfume From 1750 to the Present.”

Stamelman said many of the bottles in the collection reflect the social and political climate of the time, offering a glimpse and sniff into history. Jean Patou’s iconic Joy fragrance, launched in 1930 during the height of the Great Depression, for example, was a much-needed ray of light in an otherwise dark time.

Longwood Gardens is a 1,050-acre conservatory and horticultural center, founded in 1906 by philanthropist and industrialist Pierre du Pont. The land was a working farm in the 1700s and was known for its fine collection of trees. In the 1900s, water gardens, fountains and an open-air amphitheater were added to Longwood, and in the past 20 years, various outreach and educational initiatives also have been added.