Floral Flavors: Gardenia Ice Cream

Interior designer and host extraordinaire James Farmer adds a gardenia to vanilla ice cream, upgrading the simple treat to an elegant summer dessert.
A large fluffy gardenia sits atop a dollop of vanilla ice cream in a silver tea cup.
Cold silver punch cups add to the sensational dessert. From CELEBRATING HOME: A TIME FOR EVERY SEASON (Gibbs Smith 2022). Photo by Emily Followill.

The FLOWER team saw James Farmer’s sophisticated gardenia ice cream idea and decided we had to try it! In an excerpt from his book Celebrating Home: A Time for Every Season, James details several tips for a lovely birthday celebration. One of his suggestions is to add a gardenia as a garnish to homemade vanilla ice cream. He says, “The essence of the scent flavors the ice cream.” We all agreed that it was a beautiful idea that captured the season’s favorite food and one of its most beloved flowers and had to taste it for ourselves.

But first, are gardenias even edible? Yes. Gardenia jasminoides flowers can be served raw, cooked, or even pickled. As with other edible flowers and herbs, you want to be sure that any pesticides that might have been used are labeled as safe for edible crops. As with any edible flowers, know who grew them or use blossoms from your own backyard to guarantee the flowers are safe to eat.

Gardenia ice cream garnishes. Vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice sit in pink, blue, and yellow ceramic bowls with gardenias on top.
The opulent white gardenias were complimented by Ginori bowls from Table Matters and a zesty floral tablecloth from Amano.

The whole office gathered around tubs of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and lemon Bluebell ice cream. We sourced non-sprayed gardenias and some charming Ginori bowls from Table Matters to ensure that our experience pleased all the senses. On top of being a great excuse for an office party, we wanted to know if the ice cream acquired a distinct gardenia flavor or if the taste would be so subtle that only the more refined palates on our team could pick up on it.

Tasting Notes

Vanilla ice cream sits on top a colorful table cloth with a gardenia.


The gardenia did compliment the vanilla well, but the flavor could be difficult to pick up on at times. We experienced the flavor best when we held the ice cream close to our noses while eating. This ensured that the scent of the gardenia would inform our tastebuds. Once the ice cream started to soften, the fragrance and flavor came through a bit more as well.


Most team members found that the gardenia changed the flavor of the chocolate more significantly than any of the other flavors. While some found this unique taste to be pleasing, others felt like the two flavors clashed too much.

Pink strawberry ice cream sits in a bowl with a white gardenia.


The strawberry combination turned out to be the most disappointing. While the flavors were compatible, the strawberry ultimately overwhelmed the gardenia. A couple of Flower team members found that mixing the gardenia in with the ice cream helped bring out the flavor a little more.


Some team members found this combination to be their favorite because the flavors harmonized well without overwhelming one another. We found that the last little drips of ice cream at the bottom of the bowl had the most distinct gardenia flavor.

Office colleagues gather around tubs of ice cream while smiling.
If there's one thing our team can agree on, it's that ice cream is always a good idea.

Final Thoughts

We will definitely be serving this at our own tables this summer! The flavor was subtle, but the fragrant experience can’t be beat. Though delicate, the flavor is still more interesting than regular ice cream. If you have gardenias in your backyard, this is an easy way to elevate your final course with something that not only tastes scrumptious but looks stylish as well. It makes a wonderful, conversation-worthy garnish, and it’s a great way to bring even more flowers to your table!

Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate sit in a row on a floral tablecloth.

By Carrie Clay

Photography and Styling by Nicole Haas

See more from FLOWER contributing editor James Farmer on his website and Instagram.


Tablecloth by Tisch New York through Amano.

Bowls by Ginori in Oriente Italiano through Table Matters.

See More Summer Recipes