Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Mock orange

1.  [According to my grandparents, b.1856 and 1858] we were not allowed to bring into the house: snowdrops [Galanthus nivalis], may blossom [Crataegus spp.] and mock orange (philadelphus) [Cinderford, Gloucestershire, November 1993].

2. My other story concerns an elderly patient in the little nursing home [in Eastbourne, Sussex, 1941], a very sick old lady who had been in India nearly all her life as the wife of a soldier or official.  I used to go and talk to her … However, I put my foot wrong with her as I marched into her room with a bunch of Philadelphus, vulgarly and erroneously known as Syringa, hoping it would cheer her up.  ‘Take that out of my room!’ was the welcome I got!  ‘But it has such a lovely smell’ I wailed.  ‘That’s just what I can’t stand,’ she shrieked.  ‘If you leave it outside the door I’ll tell you why I don’t like it.’  The story was that during her days in India Hindus put Philadelphus all over the dead bodies before they were cremated.  On account of the heat corpses were burnt very soon after death, but in a really hot season four or five hours, which is what it took to arrange a cremation, often wasn’t quick enough, and the mock orange’s powerful scent masked the smell of decay.  This old lady associated this lovely flower with death, which was a shame.  It could be that she had, in fact, smelt the smell of decay through the smell of Philadelphus [Kensington, London, January 1983].

Comments, etc., on item 2 above would be greatly appreciated; is mock orange widely grown in India?

Image:  Battersea Park, London Borough of Wandsworth; June 2014.