Billie Holiday & Gardenias

How Lady Day made the flower cool again

Having been known for two centuries as a smart buttonhole for rich gentlemen, the Gardenia had gained a rather old-fashioned reputation by the 1930s. Jazz legend Billie Holiday (1915-1959) changed all of that. Before a performance at the start of her career she scorched her hair with an overheated curling tong. In the club’s cloakroom there was a girl selling gardenias to guests, so Billie bought a couple to hide the holes in her hairstyle. It was such a success that it became her trademark.  

Billie Holiday & Gardenias Thejoyofplants.co.ukCopyright: Billie in 1946 in The Downbeat Club © Getty Images

Suddenly the Gardenia was exotic and sexy  

Billie became incredibly successful, and thanks to her the Gardenia acquired a completely different image. Both the plant and the flower became ‘cool jazz’ and came to symbolise sensuality, glamour and femininity, but also mystery: Billie liked to wear several flowers or one very large Gardenia above her ear. Too big to ignore, but also almost big enough to hide behind, this gave the Gardenia an extra hint of excitement. 

Roaring Gardenia  

The Gardenia has recently made its umpteenth comeback, thanks to a fresh appreciation for vintage elements. As both The Great Gatsby and Downton Abbey had a massive influence on the fashion world, the Gardenia’s ‘razzle-dazzle’ factor also became hot again. Thanks to the hipster scene, the Gardenia has remained on trend and the plant is now also being widely embraced by lovers of pure nature for its delectable fragrance. Bring it into your home to experience this for yourself: this flower will suit you too!       

You can read more about the Gardenia in our plant guide