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Debunking my personal plumeria myth

Years ago, I lived with a roommate who was addicted to Bath and Body Works shower gels and moisturizers. Her scent of choice? Plumeria, which I eschewed in favor of Sun-Ripened Raspberry or Warm Vanilla Sugar (so many mornings of seeing that B&BW label in the shower finally wore off on me). Even then, my priority was all things edible. Or, at least, edibly scented.

In the echo chamber of my head, I pronounced the name of the flower like a fast food place that specialized in stone fruit. Not a taqueria, but a PLUM-ehr-EE-ah. I persisted in this belief that the scent had something to do with plums, even though the flowers on the label gave no indication of that whatsoever.

Plumeria blossoms, Hanalei

Plumeria blossoms, Hanalei

Then, a few weeks ago, I ended up on vacation on Kaua’i with The Mint Killer and her family. On the way out of Lihue, The Mint Killer pointed at a line of trees with white blossoms and said, “Plum-AIR-ee-ah. That’s my favorite.”

It had been more than 10 years since I pondered the mysteries of my roommate’s fast food stone fruit body wash, but suddenly it was as if the clouds over Hanalei Bay had broken and a rainbow had appeared.

“OH!” I said. “Plum-AIR-ee-ah. I always thought Bath and Body Works made up that fragrance.”

The Mint Killer gave me the oddest of looks, the kind of look that says, up until now, you have demonstrated most of a grasp on smart, even when it comes to plants, but now I’m not so sure.

But I say this: if a stone fruit fast food place opens in your neighborhood, you will be the first to know how to pronounce its name. So there.

20 Comments on “Debunking my personal plumeria myth”

  1. #1 cole
    on Jul 16th, 2008 at 8:29 am

    We bought a lei of those while in Oahu and they smelled so heavenly. I swear, that is only vacation spot I would ever return to. It was amazing. I liked Kauai too. I mean, a river on an island, the wettest spot in the world and home to a semi-arid climate. All on one island. It was fake looking it was all so beautiful. sigh. I long to go on vacation again.

    but alone.


  2. #2 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 16th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Cole, as someone who has no kids to chase around, I can only imagine that a vacation alone would be, um, quite awesome for you! I will agree, though, that Hawaii was amazing.

  3. #3 Annie in Austin
    on Jul 16th, 2008 at 9:12 am

    The pronunciation thing works both ways, Genie – my son laughed when I said Tahk-Aeir’-ee-ah.

    Would you have given that Plumeria a chance if you’d known it was also called Frangipani?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. #4 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 16th, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Annie, it was only after I left Hawaii that I learned the connection between plumeria and frangipani, believe it or not!

  5. #5 chigiy
    on Jul 17th, 2008 at 9:25 am

    O.k. I read this whole post and all I saw was Kauai. Lucky.
    I want to go to Kauai and smell the Plum-er-EE-ah.
    I hope to see you at BlogHer.

  6. #6 malavika
    on Jul 17th, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Brought back wonderful memories of my childhood reading about Plumeria blossoms…

    In Marathi (language spoken in Maharashtra, west coast- India) we call Plumeria blossoms- ‘chafa’ . My grandparents in Mumbai (Bombay) have huge trees of white, yellow and red ‘chafa’. It was great to walk through the garden in the evening’s.


  7. #7 Heather's Garden
    on Jul 17th, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I pronounce all kinds of words incorrectly. It’s one of the pitfalls of learning most of your vocabulary from reading. Not only does my husband laugh at me, but younger step-son asks me to define words all the time. Try defining a word that you gleaned the meaning of from the context in which you found it — at age 12! I spend a lot of time on

  8. #8 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 18th, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Chigiy, I highly recommend it as a vacation destination — it’s pretty darn fabulous. And yes, I hope we see each other at BlogHer this weekend!

    Malavika, that Indian memory sounds so gorgeous — I love the name ‘chaka’ just as much as frangipani and plumeria!

    Heather, when I was a little kid, I thought the world “island” was pronounced “IS-land.” For years, I thought I was reading “Treasure IS-land.” Luckily, I exposed my pronunciation indiscretion to my parents rather than, you know, anyone at school. ;-)

  9. #9 Susan from Food Blogga
    on Jul 18th, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    In our last apartment we had a pair of pink plumeria bushes outside of our living room windows. The fragrance was enchanting, and I even have a plumeria candle from Yankee Candle! Looking forward to meeting you at the conference.

  10. #10 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 20th, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Susan, having those bushes outside the window would be outstanding! How cool. It was great to meet you at BlogHer — glad we were able to connect!

  11. #11 magpie
    on Jul 20th, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Sun ripened raspberry was always my favorite scent too. I walked into B&BW recently and they were having a sale of all things discontinued – and they just discontinued sun ripened raspberry! I grabbed the last two bottles of lotion. It was sad.

  12. #12 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 21st, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Magpie, really? That is sad!

  13. #13 weirgeld
    on Jul 24th, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Many, many years ago I my uncle gave me an exotic plant called a frangipani. I had it for years, knowing virtually nothing about the plant, other than it should not freeze. For twenty years, I dragged the darn plant in and out of the house when the weather got to freezing. After owning the plant for over 20 years, I got married and I went over to my new mother-in-law’s house. She was a gardener, so I wanted to sound smart and impress her. I started describing the plant and at this point she said, “That sounds like a plumeria.” I told her I didn’t think so, I was sure that it was called a frangipani. She then took me around the corner of the greenhouse, and there was a whole grove of several different colors of frangipani, or should I way plumeria! After I got over the embarrassment, she gave me cuttings of the colors that I didn’t have (I only had one)! I have traded and purchased several varieties around city. Once you start collecting, it turns into quite an addiction. I had a grower tell me, “you can never have too many plumeria, just not enought land.” Now I understand what he was saying!!

  14. #14 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 25th, 2008 at 7:25 am

    Weirgeld, that is a fabulous story! Thanks for sharing it with me. How many plumeria/frangipani plants do you have now?

  15. #15 Slow Food Nation approaches at The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Aug 27th, 2008 at 7:36 am

    [...] all Americans. I can’t make it because of work commitments, but if you go, keep an eye out for The Mint Killer, who has been one of the architects of this [...]

  16. #16 Thrilled to be here at The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Sep 2nd, 2008 at 12:11 am

    [...] Friday night, as The Mint Killer and I arrived home from the VIP Preview of the Slow Food Nation Taste Pavilion, I checked my mail [...]

  17. #17 Eating at Bill’s: A visit to the Monterey Market at The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    [...] The Mint Killer arrived in the Bay Area the Wednesday night before Slow Food Nation began, she told me to make sure [...]

  18. #18 My indoor plant license should be revoked « The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    [...] course, the following weekend, I was leaving for Hawaii for a week’s vacation, with no plan for watering the Gerbera while I was gone. It still has barely-surviving foliage, to [...]

  19. #19 Al_Pal
    on Feb 5th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    One of my favorites!

    Love love LOVE plumeria! Though I’d say plumeAIRia! ;p

    The Koko crater botanical garden on Oahu has trees and trees of it. Love!

    I bought a little one at the Santa Cruz flea market a couple years ago. She’s not doing too good right now–needs a bigger pot & more nutrients!!! But keeps growing taller and making more leaves. I’ll accept that. :P

  20. #20 inadvertentgardener
    on Feb 5th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Al_Pal, do you grow it indoors? Or outdoors?

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