I had a wander around the Winter Gardens in Sheffield the other day, a stunning feat of architecture with huge timber beams soaring cathedral-like towards the heavens.
Inside is housed a collection of plants often found in temperate climates and sections devoted to Australasia, including a tea tree. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the flesh before so I was delighted!
Tea Tree is one of the most commonly used essential oils as it has great antibacterial, anti-infectious and anti-fungal properties, to name just a few. It appears in many different products from skin cleansers to natural toilet cleaners. According to Tisserand, it is also an emotional tonic for lethargy, anxiety and depression. It is often known as the bottle brush tree due to the formation of the needles, as you can see below.
There were also some great examples of New Zealand’s Norfolk Island Pines, which have been around since the Jurassic period.
As far as I’m aware, these pines aren’t used in aromatherapy. I dare say they are used medicinally in some way in their native home though. Other plants I found that are harvested for their healing properties were eucalyptus, aloes, jasmine and the olive pictured above.
A selection of Aloes
There was also some beautiful colours dotted around, although I don’t know the name of those plants as there’s no essential oils produced from them! The Winter Gardens are well worth a visit, I’ll definitely be hanging around in there again soon.
This is a personal one for me, I’m not one for wearing my heart on my sleeve or being in the spotlight but I’ve felt the need to reflect on and share where I’ve been, how far I’ve come and how I want to shape the future for myself and my beloved son.
2.5 years ago I left my husband after our marriage exploded and left me in a heap on the floor (literally). There had been a few rumbles leading up to the explosion, but nothing could have prepared me for the destruction and devastation of that day, or the waves of shite that kept breaking over me and swiping my feet from under me, again and again in the months that followed.
When I got married, I had a house’s worth of savings in the bank. By the time I left, I had incurred more debt than I’ve ever had in my life, and ever will have again. Debt that did not benefit me or my son and yet was in my name. There were other issues during the fall out that caused deep distress and led to ill health, both physical and mental.
I have long been ashamed by the debt and the circumstances that lead to the state I found myself in. This, and the inevitable grief of a relationship ending, led to a period of depression. But as the great Brené Brown says ‘Shame can not survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy’. Which is why I wanted to talk/write about my situation, to shine light into the darkness, for myself and maybe others too.
When I look back on that time in my life, I see a woman who had been trodden down, rolled around in the mud on the floor and expected to be happy down there. I didn’t see it coming, or realised it was happening until I stepped away. And even then it took a while to see just how much I’d been in denial. If I just did this, or that, then everything would be better. It wasn’t better. Not for me anyway.
I am supremely fortunate, and eternally grateful, to have a wonderful mum who took me in (and my son, who was 2.5 at the time) and has supported me in so many ways over the last few years as I have rebuilt my life, piece by piece. I have amazing sisters who have provided loving shoulders to cry on and fabulous friends who have mopped my many tears.
I felt compelled to write this post as there are two significant events that have marked the end of the troubled times and the start of new, exciting and enriching times. The first is the end of my counselling sessions*, that I’ve had on and off for the last 2 years. I highly recommend being brave and digging around your life with the guidance of an experienced, qualified and compassionate counsellor or psychotherapist. It has helped me to grieve, stand up for myself, see situations from a different angle, be more resilient and confident in my ability to handle whatever life throws at me.
The second event is that I will very soon be getting the keys to my own house. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, and what an impact it will make on myself and my son. I’m also anxious about it, as it is a huge responsibility for one person. I’ve no doubt it will be challenging and stretch me in unfamiliar ways but I also know that I’m up for the challenge and can’t wait to have my own space. A home to put my own stamp on and express myself in creating a warm, welcoming and comfortable interior, and a relaxing, healing garden.
I can see a path of where I want my career to take me, and the people I will help as a product of that. I have ambition again, fire in my belly that I’ve not had for a long time. I can see my son and I building a wonderful home together and making lots of mess along the way. I can see myself going on dating sites/apps for the first time in my life. That’s a very scary thought, but you don’t get to feeling brave without feeling scared first.
Thank you to everyone who has been there for me in the last few years. Thank you to everyone who has offered a helping hand or a spare piece of furniture for my new home. It has been the worst of times, and the best of times. To quote Hannah Gadsby, “There’s nothing stronger than a woman who has rebuilt herself”. Here’s to the ones who have rebuilt themselves 💪.
My first guest blog from my dear friend Barbara Goodall. She’s an aromatherapist, gardener and foodie so I couldn’t think of anyone better to write about growing and eating your own lavender. Head on over to http://www.timeout-for-you.co.uk/ for more about what she does.
Lavenders thrive in full sun and well drained soil… Mine loved the conditions this summer!!
Grow your own…
Two species of lavender are growing in my garden, giving a long flowering period for my pleasure as well as providing nectar for many butterflies, bees and other insects.
True Lavenders such as Lavandula angustifolia ‘’Hidcote’ (height c. 30cm x spread c. 30cm) provide a high quality essential oil. This compact plant has blue/green narrow leaves and intense, dark blue flower spikes from late spring to early summer. I also love the effect and simplicity of the vertical stems before the flowers open!
Hybrids such as Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ (Ht 90cm x sp 90cm) are slightly less hardy, have long, loose spikes and flowers a month later..
By cutting back my lavenders after flowering, just above the woody stems, I leave some green tips that will have at least a month’s growth to protect the plant from the frost. In the spring, after the frosts I give them a wee trim back to keep them neat and compact.
Adding fresh lavender to my shortbread and scone recipes is a gentle way to enjoy the therapeutic effects of the essential oil and is a reminder of warm sunny days…
I grind a few chopped lavender flowers (maybe half a teaspoon), in a pestle and mortar for a floral taste and smell, or finely chop the leaves for a more balsamic earthy flavour. See below for the recipe.
So many therapeutic qualities to choose from…
Julia Lawless gives some wonderful descriptions in her book Lavender Oil, Nature’s Soothing Remedy.
An excellent essential oil for skin care, a valuable soothing remedy and a good analgesic, its regulating effect on the nervous system is unique.
Its nature is balancing and harmonising and is neither yin nor yang in the extreme and tends to increase the overall effectiveness of a remedy when used in combination with it.
Lavender is a supreme adaptogen. It can have a restorative effect in cases of listlessness or weakness, yet has a calming effect on those prone to hyperactivity or agitation.
Lavender Shortbread recipe
190C/Gas mark 5/6 for 10 to 15 minutes
100g icing sugar sieved
200g plain flour
Pinch of salt
½ to 1 tsp finely chopped lavender flowers
Caster sugar for sprinkling
Chop butter and soften
Beat in icing sugar
Add flour, salt and lavender little by little kneading well to form a smooth dry paste, initially with a flat bladed knife and then with your lightly floured fingers
Turn onto a floured worktop and roll into a sausage shape, say 5cm in diameter
If you are patient, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for an hour
Slice into discs and place onto baking trays and sprinkle with caster sugar
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or so depending how golden brown you like your biscuits.
Leave on your baking tray for 5 minutes before you transfer them to a cooling tray
From 11-4pm today (Sunday 1st July), it’s Belper Open Gardens and if you’re in the Openwoodgate/Bargate area, call into Barbara’s for beautiful borders, a hands-on, have-a-go sculpture, fascinating before and after photos, a fountain to dip your feet in to cool off and last but definitely not least, the most delicious cakes you’ve ever tasted!