Rebels with a Cause

You should never judge a book by its cover, as they say – and the same is true of plants. Our Wild Flowers & Weeds scent collection features some of nature’s most fragrant outlaws and renegades – all full of spirit, complexity and contradiction. And, when all is said and done, who doesn’t love a troublemaker?

There’s more to the common nettle than a sting in the tail. Packed with iron, calcium and magnesium, nutrient-rich nettles not only make a healthy, earthy-tasting tea, soup and even wine (no need to worry about the sting – that disappears), they also provide a haven for ladybirds. The plant’s formic acid-filled spines keep predators away, allowing the scarlet bugs to grow in perfect safety until they are old enough to zoom off. All this, and you can even turn the fibrous leaves into string and cloth, bringing a new meaning to notion of being ‘sharply dressed’.

Wild Achillea
Said to stem blood flow and reduce bruising, Wild Achillea – sometimes known as ‘soldier’s herb’ – was used on warriors injured in battle. In Greek mythology, the centaur Chiron, who was known for his great wisdom and knowledge of medicinal plants, trained many famous heroes who went on to fight in the Trojan war. He gave Achilles, his most beloved pupil, this plant to treat his wounds – hence its name, Achillea.

Nature’s chief mourner, the weeping willow is so named because of how the rain resembles tears when it drips off the overhanging leaves. The willow, in all its beauty and sorrow, loves nothing more than the untimely death of a literary heroine. Desdemona sings ‘The Willow Song’, an unhappy folk ballad on the night that she is murdered by her jealous husband, Othello. In Hamlet, Gertrude tells of how Ophelia succumbs to madness, and falls from a weeping willow into a brook and drowns. The beautiful, melancholic willow weeps for all of them.

This luscious, honey-coloured tree resin, with a pedigree that quite literally dates back hundreds of millions of years, was once believed to be the residue left by the rays of the setting sun. Its solid form, sometimes known as ‘the gold of the north’, contains a static charge (indeed, the word ‘electricity’ comes from ‘elektron’, the Greek name for amber). Over the centuries it has been treasured for its supposed healing capabilities, with pharaohs, kings and everyone in between wearing amber jewellery.

The mysterious, moody cousin of the juniper, cade – also known as prickly cedar – is the wry relation with hidden depths. While the juniper berry is the bright, zesty, optimistic girl at dinner, who regales the table with witty stories. Cade is the sultry, enigmatic beauty, suggesting all the while that she has powers beyond your understanding. Known for its supposed antiseptic properties, during the Middle Ages the powder from burnt cade wood was used to make incense to ward off illness and evil spirits. Exactly the kind of glamour and drama one might expect from cade.

Our Wild Flowers & Weeds scent collection
features some of nature’s most fragrant
outlaws and renegades’

The aromatic, slightly spicy oil from the imperious cedar is thought to be the first ever distilled by man, and has been employed ever since to both stimulate the mind and calm the body. It is used in traditional Tibetan ceremonies for this very reason, while Native Americans have always believed that animals sleep under cedars at night for protection and to absorb the trees’ mysterious energy. The ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamum was buried in a sarcophagus made partially of cedar wood, as were many of the sacred offerings that surrounded it.

Who would suspect these innocent white flowers, with their tiny petals, hold such a dark secret? Officially known as Conium maculatum, you might be better acquainted with its more informal title – hemlock. Such is the nature of the most heartless of killers that it shamelessly produces leaves that can be mistaken for carrots or parsley – and that never ends well. Ancient Greek and Persian doctors used hemlock to treat arthritis, but the balance between relief and death was always perilously close.

The bergamot orange is a contrary creature. Its fruit is inedible – and it’s not actually an orange. In fact, it looks more like a lime, and even the name ‘bergamot’ means ‘the prince’s pear’ in Turkish. It’s a mass of contradictions. However, no one can dispute the aromatic delights of its essential oil. Floral, zesty and clean, Louis XIV, who was terrified of baths, at least had the sense to have his wigs scented with bergamot, for which the entire French court was undoubtedly grateful.

The ‘you can’t sit with us’ demeanour of these beauteous spikes of pink and purple is due to the fact that they thrive where other plants struggle to grow, giving the impression that they have robbed the soil of nutrients. They were named ‘lupine’ after the Latin word for ‘wolf-like’ in an almost accusatory fashion, thanks to the misconception that they ravaged the land like wolves. In fact, the reverse is true. The bacteria in their roots are able to fix nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form they need to grow. Clever, as well as easy on the eye.

This free spirit of the mint family grows in the Tropics. Packed alongside exported fabrics, trinkets and treasures to protect them against the hearty appetites of insects and moths, patchouli made its way west to Europe along the Silk Route. When the traders’ trunks were opened, this powerful, heady scent would fill the air with the essence of the exotic and magical faraway lands it had come from.

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