THE PERFUME GARDEN
Winner of the Most Creative award at the Chelsea Flower Show, the Perfume Garden was definitely a polysensorial wonder. The inspiration for the two gardeners, Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, came from a 16th century perfume developed for Elizabeth I. Their idea was to tell the story of a fragrance, from plant to bottle.
Four hundred years ago in Europe, gardening became quite fashionable, and the medicinal gardens of medieval times began to include elements that were purely decorative as well as plants that were grown for their beauty and scent. In their research, Proctor and Gamble prestige products delved into the archives of Jean Patou in France to find the fragrance originally developed for the queen. The recipe was simple: “Take eight grains of musk and put in rose-water eight spoonfuls, three spoonfuls of Damask water, and a quarter of an ounce of sugar. Boil for five hours and strain it.” Produced specifically for the event, the P&G version uses contemporary ingredients and methods, but is so strongly concentrated in rose oil that it will remain a Chelsea exclusivity until a non-allergenic version can be developed.
At the centre of the garden was a 10-metre high architectural apothecary, evoking the heat extraction of rose essence. This column served as a focal point, drawing curious visitors in, where they were met by 8-foot high Elizabeths in contemporary couture, bearing perfume samples. The gardens then spiralled out from this centre, like the petals of a corolla. Planted entirely with scented plants used in the creation of perfumes, the pink, purple, green, grey and white garden included Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, Lavendula pedunculata, Iris germanica, Lilium regale, Hyacinthium orientalis, as well as lily of the valley, sage, thyme, fern, fennel and Mugo pine, among others.
Above, a perfumer from P&G gives a noseworthy presentation of the garden, which, by the way, also incorporates renewable energy features, including rainwater harvesting, solar lighting, and a wind turbine. Do check out the 360° virtual visit of the garden here on the Royal Horticultural Society website.
Besides being picture perfect, fragrant and sustainable, the most significant aspect of the garden was the very clear link it established for the public between plants and perfume, putting botanical essences (not to mention roses) at the heart of fragrance matter.