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 DrĂ´me 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/