Q for the Oak

Origin Story

“For mine is an old belief ... there is a soul in every leaf.” ~ M.M. Ballou

It was late 2005 and we had been patiently waiting to purchase the empty lot next to my little 1950 ranch style home in the Santa Monica Mountains. To our horror the neighbor who had promised to sell it to us, turned around and sold the tiny, substandard lot to a developer. Our intention with the lot was to preserve the four gigantic oak trees and create an indigenous garden. The intention of the developer was to take out all the trees and construct a 3500 square foot palace.

We had always been told that oak trees were protected. Indeed, Los Angeles has something called "The Protected Tree Ordinance", however, the ordinance means basically nothing when it comes to a developer wanting to build.

The first thing I did was start dialoging with a few neighbors which led me to some neighborhood groups. I set about preparing to defend the trees before the local Specific Plan Board. This took place several times, over several years,  insisting that the trees must not be endangered or cut down, each time we won.

I now perceive native plants, specifically Oaks and the surrounding landscape with new eyes. I have learned the value of an authentic landscape.

Meanwhile, as the drama with the oaks was first starting, the natural perfume blending group I belonged to, had set the next round of perfume making around concept of Beltane, an ancient Druid holy day occurring on May 1st.

After doing a bit of research, on Beltane eve, I went out and gathered leaves from one of the large coastal live oaks with the intention that the trees would stay firmly rooted and thrive.

I carefully cleaned the leaves and tinctured them in a base of high proof perfumers alcohol. While the tincture marinated, I formulated a wood chord of sixteen different essential oils, absolutes and C02 extractions from the wood family.

After one menses, I filtered the tinctured leaves, and began building the perfume with the wood chord by adding other notes until the fragrance was complete.

While pondering what to call the perfume, I settled on Quercus, which is the botanical name for Oak.

The reviewers in my group raved about the fragrance. One of them mentioned the following to me privately: "I cannot stop sniffing your newest which you call quercus. It is the same name as a Penhaligon cologne (not nearly as beautiful as yours) but I thought you should be familiar with it." At the time I thought, okay...well...we will see what transpires with this Quercus of mine.

Then, a friend sent me a note with a little soap enclosed. I gasped when I opened it, on the white paper of the little round, carefully wrapped soap was the word QUERCUS. So, is this a challenge or not?

The soap and my perfume certainly share nothing similar in the fragrance department, although the Penhaligon description works for my interpretation "Quercus: Citrus, Amber and Wood."

How interesting and so synchronistic. From what I saw on their website the Penhaligon cologne did not appear to have a direct link to Oaks, rather, perhaps they liked the name? After all, oaks are strongly connected to England. I noticed that many Penhaligon perfumes were named after botanical nomenclature.

Instead of creating a challenge, I choose to call my Quercus fragrance by the simple letter Q.

As I write this, nearly fifteen years since Q was "formerly launched" with the debut of my website and line at the Ojai Lavender Festival in 2007, the four large oaks and several other small ones on the lot are still standing.

"I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."
~ Dr. Suess

Fast forward, now I am living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The house in the woodland was sold in the summer of 2017 to a young couple who has pledged to continue protecting the trees.

Did you know that all those palm trees that have become symbolic of LA are non-native?

I bow to the mighty oak and all they continue to teach me. If the challenge with the neighbor had never presented itself I may not have become an active proponent of Oaks and native plants. Sometimes our nemesis can facilitate a clear path to what we love and are here to do.

Q was the first botanical perfume in the series titled "Californica", honoring the aromatic landscape of the State of California.

The Perfume

Fragrance family: WOOD, CHYPRE

Q was built upon a complex wood chord containing sixteen essential oils, C02 extracts and absolutes.


  • Cedarwood
  • Guaicwood
  • Sandalwood


  • Peru Balsam
  • Galbanum
  • Labdanum


    • Angelica
    • Orris


      • Ambrette (seed)
      • Bergamot (peel)
      • Oakmoss (lichen)

      The composition also includes a tincture and infusion of leaves from the California oak Quercus agrifolia. This fragrance is neither feminine nor masculine.

      Scent Impressions:

      "I love fragrances and everything that my favorite ones evoke but I was truly captivated by Roxana's Q perfume the first time I experienced it. It evokes something ancient and at the same time very intimate and personal. To me it's a "remembered" fragrance that taps into the green world of Faerie in the same way that a painting or sculpted image can. When I wear it, which is often, I feel closer to that elusive and magical world."
      ~Wendy Froud

      "Illuminated Perfume’s Q: Nobody does dreamy quite like Roxana: her fragrances are a call to an idealized, fairytale version of nature that is not unlike that of my childhood fantasies. Woodland creatures, fairy sprites, and the souls of the ancients live and dance together in the scented scenes that her perfumes create. To try her perfumes (I adore her solids, with their beautiful color-coded seals) is to find one’s ‘happy place’, to reacquaint oneself with the simplicity of the surrounding world. Her gift is to make art out of that which one usually does pay attention to: Q is a perfect example of this - who knew that the oak tree could serve as muse for such a beautiful fragrance?

      Q is a deep and twirling sort of woody scent, and while smelling it, it is easy to imagine oneself standing amongst the sturdy, tall trees. You pick up a fallen leaf and hold it to your face, feel the trace amount of dew which it has collected, and smell the sunshine and greenness. There is a beautiful hint of citrusy snap to Q that marries well to the fresh green powderiness of the wood accords; I wear it and I feel a deeper sensuality. There is an unmistakeable spice to the fragrance, and as it wears, Q reveals an animalic ambered base, an accord which smells to me of benzoin and labdanum. Bark, leaf, twig, sun: the oak is encapsulated, revered, and made magic. It shares the magic with me, and I revel in it."

      The Tree Ogham of Oak

      "With foot beat of the swift Oak,
      Heaven and Earth rung,
      Stout guardian of the door,
      His name on every tongue."
      ~ Gwion

      The circular door opens into the mighty realm of the Oak, with the seventh moon cycle of the Celtic Tree Alphabet. From the first week of June until July 7th the steadfast OAK, the most sacred of all the Druidic trees, empowers us with strong roots as we become who we are meant to be.

      The Celtic word for oak Duir, derived from the sanskrit for door, is the Ogham in this new cyclic phase. This enduring ancient tree stands guardian to the door of self knowledge, tall and steadfast, the wise verdant entity provides courage as we overcome our trials.

      Just as the Oaks of England are struck by lightening and born anew, so the native oaks of the United States display their resistance to fires. As witnessed by new, fresh leaves sprouting triumphantly from the blacken trunks.

      The oak teaches us to send our roots deep into the sustaining earth where stability reigns supreme. From that place of connection to this sacred moment, we then reach out wide and far. The Oak is part of the central creation myth for the Celtic people. From the acorns, embedded in the Earth, the God Dagda and Goddess Brighid are born.

      Find Q HERE

      Find reviews over at my journal here.


      The archetype of the OAK is related to strength in all three realms -> the physical, the spiritual and the mind.
      Longevity and fortitude of the physical body, and elevating our perception out of duality, to the spiritual realm.This concept stems from the wood being hard and dense, without rotting, along with the oaks vast root system. Adding to the idea of power and steadfastness is the oaks ability to withstand the strikes of lightning, amongst other severe conditions.

      Tolkien referred to the ancient oaks as Ents, “shepherd trees”, in his epic and rather foretelling tale of a dark lord attempting to control Earth and her sentient beings.

      Here are a list of symbols relating to the oak:

      • Divine and inner strength
      • Wisdom
      • Knowledge
      • Courage
      • Overcoming any problem, especially in terms of physical health
      • Protection at all levels
      • The recovery of self-confidence
      • Strengthening the auric field
      • Renewing vital forces
      • Balancing the energetic realms of the entire being

      IMAGES: Q is illuminated by artist Greg Spalenka. All photos  ©Roxana Villa, please respect our copyright.