Saturday 23 May 2009

Chelsea, Perfume and Prince Charles?

Dear Mr Postman not the most obvious of connections perhaps .. but this week, as you'll know, Summer really has arrived for the English .. the start of the cricket season .. the gentle echo of leather on wood, and the Chelsea Flower Show setting the standard for future gardens ..

Anemones - my mother's favourite flower is Chelsea's 2009 brand
The Victoria Medal of Honour is awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society to horticulturists whom they consider to be highly deserving. There can only ever be 63 at any given time - the number of years that Queen Victoria reigned -when the first one was issued in 1897 (together with fifty nine others! - two of whom I recognise .. Gertrude Jekyll (the influential British garden designer, writer and artist) and Lionel Walter Rothschild (banker and zoologist). The RHS this year awarded their highest accolade to HRH The Prince of Wales for 'his passion for plants, sustainable gardening and the environment'.

The Cancer Garden - the People's Choice at Chelsea 2009

Should I have started with royalty? - I don't know .. but it leads me towards the others .. The Queen presented her son with his medal .. & I guess perhaps he said "thank you, Mummy" .. at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. Years ago the Prince famously admitted that he talked to plants during a tv interview in 1986 .. as you'd expect 20+ years ago that earned him much derision .. but he said his gardening practice and philosophy was to 'come and talk to the plants .. they seem to respond'. His reasoning .. appears to be correct - though no-one knows quite why! Any ideas?

Chelsea this year has been hit by the recession .. only 13 show gardens instead of the usual 20+ and a number of smaller gardens being created with a credit crunch theme .. watering and environmental tips, raised beds, fruit or vegetables everywhere .. so we save food miles and have a healthier diet. I saw hanging tomatoes when I was out in the States .. now those I haven't seen here .. yet. Presumably they'd work just as well for strawberries?

The Perfume Garden at Chelsea has been designed as a sensory experience .. and though you cannot receive scent via the net .. you can have a look at an excellent 5 minute video made by the BBC on this garden - it's well worth a look.

This comes from English Heritage's Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle.

I believe the designers have been involved in the Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle that's been restored (see more at the English Heritage site) using advances in garden achaeology and which has been described in some detail from a letter dated 1575 (available for reading on the English Heritate site) .. whereby they've managed to create the sight, scent and sounds that would have greeted Queen Elizabeth I when she first walked the gardens.

In the ancient world plant perfumes were enjoyed and used as necessary accoutrements .. perfume balls like the later pomanders, pot pourri, nosegays etc all became essential to ward off the smells of life, when no sanitation existed. Scented flowers, herbs, leaves, bulbs and rhyzomes were all used appropriately for their beneficial oils or scents. It's been said that the mortar used in the building of some of the ancient temples was partly mixed with musk, and for many years the walls continued to give out a powerful scent.

Jars of perfume more than 4,000 years old have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs in Cyprus, together with stills, the utensils for a huge factory; the making of perfume is not easy and even though we have the technological advances today .. we still need a huge of amount of flowers: it is estimated that it takes one hectare of roses to produce a single kilo of the essential essence attar of roses, first discovered in Persia.

Perfume waters are easier to make using the distillation process - and rose water was brought to Europe by the knights returning from the Crusades .. the alchemists of the medieval ages started to weave their magic bringing new and pleasant scents to the rulers of the time .. encouraging the herbalists, plantsmen to develop new waters, syrups, pomanders, pot pourris from the local plants. Before that perfumes were made by boiling plants in fat to make a fragrant ointment.

Early Medieval recipes for the making of perfume, ointments and pomanders consisting of lavender, elderflower, lily waters have been found, together with violet and rose syrups, dried leaves and petal mixes for bags to hang on chairs, take to bed or use in the house to ward off unpleasant smells.

Fortunately today we have sanitation, we smell sweet - mostly! .. we can make ourselves smell sweeter and as our learning continues we are embracing the ancients' knowledge as to the many benefits of a sensory garden and its uses. We are learning to be extremely grateful for those explorers, scientists, experimenters, recorders and plantsmen of the past centuries, without whom we would we would all be so much poorer as far as our gardens are concerned - we are finally truly embracing our roots and the benefit of our lands.

Chelsea this year had so much to offer - plants and gardens of course, knots, embroidery, quilts, pillboxes, east meeting west, toys ..... what a mix - tales to tell.

Mr Postman thank you for bringing us these tales .. my mother will enjoy the story and we have our first summer scents in her room - I found some wonderful large stocks .. purple, lilac and white .. they are wafting their perfume towards her. I'm grateful to you for keeping an eye on her while I was away .. this year hasn't been very kind to her .. and she will never truly get over the trials - which considering she actually hasn't been ill .. seem somewhat unfair - but we live on and I will keep her as happy as I can. We will talk about our visits to the Chelsea Flower Show and the amazing gardens she has created.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary

The Cancer Garden look amazing! I did listen in at a perfume speech once, I didn't understand a much of it. However, I found it very interesting.
Thank you for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Peter Baca said...

Hi Hilary,

Interesting information on perfumes! Fascinating reading about perfumes from the the middle the current times.

They primarily were used in the middle ages since they did not take baths as often. Perfumes are more abundant than ever...just go into any department store and see the wide selection.

Thank you for your informative post!

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio ..thanks for listening in to the Perfume Garden .. unfortunately I couldn't find a picture to put up .. but thought the talk with its distillation process and views of the garden at least represented something.

Yes - the cancer garden is pretty special .. and looks wonderfully clean

Thanks for visiting's good to see you here and to have your comments
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete ..yes in those days they simply didn't have baths .. so needed all the help they could get.

So many of us don't pay attention to the scents of nature .. or for that matter all the other aspects of sensory that benefits us all.

Thanks for enjoying the information ..

All the best
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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RAM said...

Wow what beauty and history. It's too bad the recession has to effect it all. It gives us the opportunity to enjoy what we do have and can get even more.

I think talking to plants works because they are living things. Our words, thought and actions effect all not just humans. Keep talking! My mom did.

Also growing up on a farm we grea acres of tomatoes. I think the tomatoes hanging would have a limited time period but don't know for sure. I think it would work for strawberries. Why not?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Roger .. thanks for these great comments .. funnily enough the recession doesn't seem to have affected us (the Brits!)buying plants to keep ourselves and our gardens bright and beautiful.

re talking .. I keep talking to my mother in her dying days .. and today she came 'to life' again .. - things were not good before that and she's been in hospital and things haven't been good since .. she hasn't been communicating, or smiling or laughing .. so today to find she's come back 'to life' .. we had such fun .. - so I talk to my Mum .. later it'll be plants!

Re tomatoes .. I'm sure I saw the advert when I was in California .. & yes you say why not .. try everything ..

Thanks for visiting .. please come again!
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, Great post as always. The hanging tomatoes and strawberries You can find them at this website. You can grow these on your anywhere that they will get the sun light. Go to:|af
The gardens are beautiful. Great information on perfume. Have a great day.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Dan and Deanna .. and great to know that they're available .. so far .. can't think re that sort of thing! But it's good to know they're around ..
Glad you enjoyed the gardens and the perfume ..
Thank you .. you too have a good day ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, how is your mother doing. Any better since you got home?
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deanna and Dan .. thanks for asking .. she is sleeping much more - obviously to be expected after a major operation .. not something that normally happens at 88! I have been worried as the stitches have become infected .. but as you'll see from today's post - we had a good day on Tuesday. She was sleeping today.

Thanks for asking .. I can't expect improvements unfortunately .. but it's nice when she's awake, and as long as she's "alright" and comfortable .. there's not much I can do. Sometimes I just sit with her .. but I'm not good at that -- but I'll have to start doing more of it ..

We keep cheerful .. she's just told me to get rid of this morning's square computer eyes .. before I sit and do some more work this p.m. .. so you see she's still with it!!

Thanks so much - very much appreciated your thoughts ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Liara Covert said...

The cancer garden is exquisite. I know a few cancer patients to show that idea to soon. Thanks for sharing.

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, We are glad that she is still with it. We hope that you get to have many more great talks with her. Enjoy it when you can. Have a good day.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. it looks wonderful doesn't it .. and certainly peace and tranquility are what we need in times of deep trouble in our life .. cancer is a terrible disease .. my blessings and peace to your friends.

Thanks for enjoying the Chelsea story ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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