The Aromatic Allotment

I had a wonderful day on Tuesday, with my good friend Anita, on her aromatic allotment in Somercotes. She gave us (my friend Barbara came too) a tour of the extensive plot where she grows all sorts of wonderful plants, some for their healing properties, some to use as cut flowers and some to eat.

Rosa Dascena ‘Kazanlak’

Her Damascena roses (Rosa Damascena ‘Kazanlak’) were blooming in full, beautiful flower, so we picked the petals to distill into rose water. Why haven’t humans invented a way to smell things through the internet yet?! If only you could, it was heavenly, sweet and floral and smooth and rounded and delicious. It’s like getting a hug from your favourite auntie, all encompassing and so comforting and uplifting.

Once we had picked the rose petals, Anita selected some cut flowers to make into a gorgeous hand-tied bouquet for me. Centred around a peony, she added different types of mint, geraniums, black currant stems, nigella, valerian and more, with vetch trailing around the edges. Again, I wish you could smell it as it just smells of summer. Light and fresh, floral and minty, green and bright and refreshing.

My beautiful, locally grown, hand-tied bouquet

With our arms full of fragrant loveliness, we took the short walk to Anita’s house where her still was set up on her hob awaiting the rose petals. They were packed into the bottom of the still with water added on top. The pump to circulate the cold water to cool the distillate was powered up and the gas was lighted below the still. I found the whole process fascinating, and it brought back fond memories for me of touring the Drôme Valley in France in 2008, where a lot of the essential oils I use are grown, harvested and distilled.

The copper still, with rose petals packed into the belly, and the cooling water pumped from the bucket

We watched, mesmerised, as the temperature in the still rose, and the condensed, perfumed water (known as a hydrolat or hydrosol) started to trickle out. As we waited for the process to finish, Anita gave us a yummy lunch of home-made sourdough french stick with a selection of cheeses, tomatoes and cucumber.

Rose petals, now drying in my airing cupboard

I was also given a bag of rose petals to take home, which are drying in my airing cupboard as I type. Every time I open it, I get the most amazing waft of rose. I’m wondering if I should put them into honey and have rose honey in a few weeks?

Anita and me. I’m sure I’m not that much taller than her!

Anita is a very talented florist, and if you’d like a beautiful bouquet (or wedding flowers, floral cake topper, or funeral tribute etc), that is locally grown with love and care, and arranged in the most stunning way, please contact her. You can see her designs on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/aromaticallotment/?hl=en-gb and contact her via her website here http://aromaticallotment.com/

Stopping to smell the roses

Generous Gardener Rose

My beautiful rose, The Generous Gardener, has burst into full bloom in my front garden. Please stop on your way in to take a deep inhalation of it’s gorgeousness, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face!

I am enjoying getting back to normal, although restrictions are still in place for treatments. I am still offering appointments that last no longer than 1 hour, which includes Indian head massage, reflexology, back, neck & shoulder aromatherapy massage or a combination of any of the above! And I’m still keeping up with the hand washing as you enter, mask wearing and of course thorough cleaning and disinfecting between clients.

Hopefully when all restrictions are lifted I can offer 1.5 hour full-body aromatherapy massages again. I’m not sure I’ll know what to do, but I dare say my hands will remember and guide me through, as they have done many times before.

I feel very fortunate that I have been able to continue with my other jobs (at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, packing boxes for my sister’s mail order business and my voluntary work as a breastfeeding counsellor) throughout each lock down. They have given me time out of the house, social interaction, a purpose and reason to get out of bed in the morning. On the couple of occasions when I had to self-isolate (once because my son had scarlet fever – though I didn’t know it was that until the scarlet rash came out – and once because someone in his class at school tested positive for covid-19), it brought home (pun intended!) to me how much I needed that time out of the house and to feel part of a team with all my colleagues.

My office for the morning

I also feel very fortunate that all my jobs offer me flexibility, so that I can fit most of my work around childcare, lie in the sun on beautiful days like today (whilst pretending to work, or at least working on my vitamin D levels!), run errands for my neighbour who has been isolating for over a year and generally do what I want when I want.

Stopping to smell the roses, which is one of my favourite past-times, is included in this list of freedoms and flexibilities . I hope you enjoy the delicious fragrance next time you walk up to my front door on arrival to your appointment. The aromatherapy starts right there!

A Tea Tree in Sheffield

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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.

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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!

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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.

Tea tree, Sheffield, winter gardens, Aromatherapy, massage, essential oils, Belper, Derbyshire

There were also some great examples of New Zealand’s Norfolk Island Pines, which have been around since the Jurassic period.

Norfolk Island Pines, Sheffield, winter gardens, essential oils, Aromatherapy, massage, Belper, Derbyshire

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.

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A selection of Aloes

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Jasmine, it caught my nose before it caught my eye!

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.

The Scent of Christmas

Wrapping presents, writing cards, eating chocolate and listening to classic Christmas tunes all help to get me in the mood for the big day. But there’s something missing from the picture, one of my senses is yet to be fulfilled, and that’s when I reach for my essential oils to concoct a festive feast for my nose. There’s so many to choose from at this time of year, each evoking it’s own memory of Christmas past.

Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling

Pine and fir essential oils remind me of putting up the tree and decorating it, finding those lost baubles I’d forgotten buying and where I lived when they first went on the tree.

Orange and cinnamon bring to mind this delicious Italian chocolate nut Christmas cake by Delia Smith, which is a hit every time. To me it combines my all favourite Christmas flavours in one scrummy treat.

And last but not least, frankincense and myrrh, those most famous of nativity gifts. They bring back memories of my school plays as a girl and more recently my son’s star turn in his play group Christmas play. It was definitely a proud mummy moment.

I add a couple of drops each of 3 – 4 different essential oils to my burner, light the candle and let the scent of Christmas fill my room. If you don’t have a burner, you can always fill a small bowl/dish with water, add the oils to that and carefully balance it on a radiator for the same effect.

Wishing you all peace, joy, love and laughter for Christmas and the new year.

Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling

A wander around Altea, Spain

I had a wonderful few days in Altea, Spain, at the beginning of this month, meeting up with a dear friend and exploring the town.

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Just along the coast from Benidorm, Altea has a beautiful old town with the church of La Mare de Déu del Consol at it’s centre, perched on the top of the hill overlooking the bay.

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La Mare de Déu del Consol (Our Lady of Solace) church, with it’s sky blue domes in the centre of the old town, Altea

The labyrinthine, cobbled streets with white washed houses and small squares are home to some beautiful Mediterranean plants, including olive and orange trees, climbing jasmine, hibiscus and bougainvillea.

I think the locals must have thought me strange as I was more interested in taking photos of the plants than I was in the usual tourist hot spots!

And of course, I couldn’t resist a paddle in the sea! It had been cold, wet and windy the first few days and by the last day, when most of these photos were taken, it was beginning to brighten up. The sea actually felt quite warm (compared to what I’m used to, which is Cornish sea temperatures🥶) and maybe if I’d had another day or two there I’d have swum, but I was content just to get my feet wet ☺️.