Unexpectedly I find myself sitting – this is unheard of through the Summer when the flowers are reaching their peak and the distilling, drying and plant work flows like an unstoppable tide of greenery to rejoice over and manage. However, having fallen over rather badly whist dashing to the farm last week, I’m now directing operations rather than doing them. It is a very strange sensation.
It is a bright sunny day here, the scent from the jasmine by our door wafts in and roses from the farm brought by Emily our guardian of the garden, offer a reminder of the sheer abundance of this time of year.
For us, guided by the plants and the seasons, June and July are months of intense activity. The first pick of 200 roses covers the long oak table in the workshop several times over, the tiny beetles and earwigs hastily retreat leaving the inevitable caterpillars to return outside as we pick every petal off every flower. There is nothing like it – the piles and piles of flowers, the cool velvety petals and the scent so heady it makes me feel euphoric. We often joke that there may be a market for rose-nose-bags for stressed executives.
It is a harvest of plenty from bushes we have cared for and nurtured organically over years – an investment of time and affection. The 5 different varieties each bringing a different scent profile to the distillation that becomes our Sussex Rose Aromatic Water. Scepter'd Isle offering myrrh, Gertrude Jekyll the classic damascene scent and the others adding gentle spikes of fruity, floral and spicy notes – this is real perfumery where the different notes of our plants are combined into a delectable whole.
Before I fell we had a week of sharing, it was overwhelmingly lovely; a wild perfumery course, a day of Seed to Scent and then a whole day of picking with the team and willing volunteers. We welcomed over 20 people into our magical space that week and in between perfume making, gardening, table top distilling and picking we ate, drank and revelled in the sheer quantities of flowers that were rushing into bloom.
Within days the next Rose blooms had unfurled, the Lavender opened her tiny flowers along each elegant stem, the Clary Sage big and bold had thrown up spires of flowering beauty, Calendula and Chamomile flowered profusely and the Helichrysum I brought back as seed 3 years ago from Cyprus was a mass of yellow flower heads. This is nature in full throttle – wild and wanton.
Slowly and gently amidst laughter and chatter it was harvested and put onto our racks to dry a little before heading to its next destination – the Alembic Still for essential oil and Aromatic Water or big jars of olive oil to slowly extract the active healing ingredients or alcohol for those plants that need a little more than oil or water to offer up their full potential.
Working with plants is truly a daily joy, it grounds and connects you to the earth, it demands that you adapt your rhythms to match its own, it is unfettered and inspirational. It makes a mockery of timetables and then it rewards you with an abundance of gifts, too many to number from the flowers, to the scent, to the butterflies, moths, bees and birds and then to the honey, the steady stir of making and finally the pleasure of putting a product into your hands knowing that you too will benefit from all the beauty and toil that has gone into it, every time you open it and inhale.
You see, these are real products made by nature and guided into pots, jars and bottles by us and our lovely band of volunteers. This is the difference. When you hold one, the label might be slightly askew, the bottle is not Miron glass, there is no hyaluronic acid for a quick fix, we don’t have a huge PR machine or major investment, we don’t make outlandish claims or have wild zeitgeist names but our products deliver quietly and gently, every time, and at the end of the day, that’s all the skin and spirit need to prosper.
Somewhere I Have Never Travelled Gladly Beyond
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
E. E. Cummings