For a century the good burghers of Perth knew when Spring had arrived.
Unexpectedly, a beguiling scent filled the busy streets.
A perfume loved by most, unnoticed by a few and detested by a small but vocal group.
On street corners, empty the previous day, women would be standing beside buckets filled with nondescript branches covered in flowers as shy as the smiles of the schoolgirls walking to the railway station.
At lunchtime, secretaries would buy a bunch to take back to the office. After work, businessmen would relax in the bar of the Palace, Savoy or Adelphi hotels and buy a bunch on the way home as a peace offering to their wives.
Coming from a tiny, dark brown, almost black bloom, the perfume spread along St Georges Terrace and Hay Street masking, temporarily, the fumes from the traffic.
Cut by farmer’s wives in the swamps of the forests south of Perth and brought by train to the city, this was an important harvest and an income for many struggling new farmers. In modern days the oil is extracted from the blooms and sold worldwide as an essential oil for use in specialist soaps, candles and incense.
There are a number of different types of Boronia. Yet it is only the brown variety which has the all-pervasive perfume. The pale pink “aniseed” and the darker pink Kalgan Boronias, while visually less modest, have a much shyer scent.
Wonderful as these harbingers of Spring are in the crowded streets of Perth, they have their own beauty in their native habitat.
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