Lord Bateman saw the Reseda odorata, a ‘weed’ of northern Africa, in the Royal Garden of Paris in 1742, and brought seed home to England where it soon became famous for its delightful fresh scent. The French gave it its familiar name, which means “little darling”.
It could be grown in the garden as an annual or a perennial, at the gardener’s whim. In the greenhouse the mignonette could be grown to the height of a man, and half as broad across, while in the garden they self-seeded across the garden (to the either gardener’s delight or irritation). They came in a variety of colours, from white to old gold.
Seed could be sown in August and grown on in the greenhouse, where they could flower anytime from Christmas to spring, making a delightful showing.
If you wanted it to grow into a handsome tree then Hibberd advised that one rule should be observed: “never allow it to ripen a single seed”, and to remove seedpods assiduously as soon as noticed.
Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.