Welcome to Spring!


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This is my favourite time of year… when the clocks go forward and we leap into longer days. I always feel a lift of energy and a renewed interest in my garden which is usually in need of a good tidy-up after the winter. This year I’m replanting my front garden, which means digging out a lot of old herbs like lavender and sage that have gone woody. Even with regular trimming it happens eventually. I like to put fragrant plants in the borders to attract bees and butterflies.

Most people in my street have turned their front gardens into parking spaces… mine is one of the last remaining gardens. What’s funny to see is that later in the summer when all the flowers are out, people stop and look at it because it stands out like a little floral oasis in a sea of cars. I like the fact that people notice it. I know a parking space would be more practical, but I love to come home and be welcomed by the sight of the flowers.

Little green spaces in an urban landscape are very important… and need to be preserved!



The White Rose


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Continuing the Richard III theme; it has been interesting seeing the vast number of white roses strewn along roads, draped over statues and offered in honour of the King from the House of York. Beautiful creamy white blooms decorated the coffin of the King when it was first carried out of Leicester University at the beginning of the journey to the cathedral, and all along the way there people waved and threw the flowers along the way. Yet I wonder how many people realized that these white roses are modern hybrids, rather than the roses of Richard’s time.


The heraldic badge of the White Rose – the emblem of the House of York – holds a clue as to the origin of the flower.


It’s clear when you look at the emblem that this is a stylized representation of a very simple rose shape with five-petalled simplicity. Modern hybrid roses with their complex array of petals did not exist back then. Poetry from the middle ages onwards celebrates wild roses, like the briar rose, or the dog rose,  which grew in woodland and hedgerows. Wild white roses look like this.

Dog Roses in Flower by Niels Peter Rasmussen

The simple five-petalled form of this wild rose shows clearly where the shape of the heraldic badge comes from. I love this picture of this simple little rose which gave rise to such a powerful emblem. It’s my white rose offering in memory of the King.

Basil – fit for a King


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The name Basil comes down to us from ancient Greece [basileus], Rome [basilicum] and medieval France [basilic]. I love the pungent green delicious aroma of Basil herb with its whiff of cloves, such a brilliant partner to ripe tomatoes. There are so many varieties to try – my favourites include purple ruffled Basil, with a strong hint of spice, and Greek Basil which has smaller leaves but a very strong aroma indeed.


Basil’s name has been translated as ‘kingly’ or ‘fit for a king’.  Its aroma is cephalic, meaning it has a powerful effect on the brain. It clears a foggy mind, stimulates new ideas and fires up courage. Essential oil of Western Basil, Ocimum basilicum, is extremely stimulating and powerful. [Safety note – it’s important to buy Basil essential oil called ‘the linalool type’. There is a type of Basil essential oil that contains an ingredient called methyl chavicol, which is considered to be toxic. Check with your supplier.]

In India they have a special kind of Basil called Tulsi – or Holy Basil – with more velvety leaves and a strong spice note. Tulsi is sacred to the goddess of the same name – the consort of the god Vishnu. The plant is grown in many Indian gardens and used to make a fortifying tea, as well as being used in local medicine. It is interesting that in India Tulsi is a very female-centred worship, as opposed to the Basil of the West with its kingly associations.


Coming back to the notion of kingly Basil, I can’t help but have a king on my mind, thanks to  the extraordinary procession on TV yesterday in Leicester UK, to welcome the bones of our last Plantagenet King Richard III back to the cathedral, to lie in state for three days and then to be reinterred this Thursday. As a lifelong Plantagenet lover, I am so pleased to see Richard welcomed into a place of sanctified rest after all the controversy of his life and his subsequent vilification at the hands of Shakespeare. I’m in the Ricardian camp that maintains there was more to Richard than we can ever know and he has been sadly misrepresented in our history. Yesterday it was wonderful to witness ‘The Return of the King’ and the way it means so much to so many people. Not surprising then, that Basil is my herb and oil of today… in honour of the King who has come back into our consciousness. Here he is, in full scientific reconstruction from his bones and genetic evidence. The face of the king, indeed – and new genetic data suggests he may even have been fair-haired and blue-eyed.

May he finally rest in peace.

Richard the fair

Majestic Olive


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There is something absolutely magical about ancient olive trees. They carry on growing for hundreds of years, becoming gnarled and coiled and knobbly, with fascinating holes in their bark which from far can conjure up images of ancient faces. Their crown of branches and olives look like elaborate head-dresses.

Ancient OliveTreeI’ve seen trees like this growing in statuesque majesty in the middle of arid landscapes in the eastern Mediterranean. They remind me of  JRR Tolkien’s ‘Ents’ – the ancient tree spirits with their slow understanding of the unfolding of time.

The olive tree has many associations – its ability to survive, its toughness and longevity make it one of the original Bach flower remedies for stamina and the courage to keep going. Its delicious fruit are the perfect appetizer, also yielding glorious green-golden olive oil, another star item in the Mediterranean diet.

Also worthy of mention are olive leaves, which yield an extract as a tonic to the system, particularly good during the wintertime. Olive leaf extract is well-documented as being beneficial to the immune and digestive systems; traditionally the leaves have been brewed as a refreshing and tonic tea in local Mediterranean medicine.

When I think of the olive tree, I cannot forget its many gifts, nor its enduring majesty.


Moon Goddess Neroli


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I never feel bothered by Friday 13th. 13 is a number I find fascinating… a prime number, divisible only by itself and one… and it is also a number associated with the Moon, and its 13 lunar cycles. A number for the Goddess…interestingly uneven…!

As the Moon goes through its phases – new to waxing to waning to dark – so feminine energies pass through similar ebbs and flows. Life in today’s world often makes it difficult to stay in touch with these subtle changes which still affect us, nevertheless. Over the years, my work with essential oils has mostly been with women. Fortunately there are many essential oils that work very beautifully to remind me and my sisters of our goddess-selves.

Neroli [Orange Blossom] is one of them. Neroli is a very fascinating essential oil because like the moon, it has three very distinct notes and vibrations. There is a light creamy- sweet floral top note, innocent and carefree like the energy of the maiden. There is a green fresh mid note – full of growth and expanding energy – for the mother energy, the woman in her fullness. Then there is a deep base note with hints of earth and musk, for the wise woman, the mysterious Morgan le Fay in us all…together, these three main notes combine in this beautiful balanced aroma. Neroli is a perfume in its own right.

So here is a little lunar Neroli magic for this number 13 day… 🙂neroli INT

Vetiver – a Scent of Earth


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Essential oils cover a wide variety of fragrance types, from the very familiar like Lavender, Lemon or Peppermint, to the deep and mysterious – of which Vetiver is a wonderful example. Extracted from the roots of a tropical grass, the essential oil is thick, sticky, darkest brown, with a rich, deep, earthy and smoky aroma.

Vetiver challenges the nose and opens deep doorways to the unknown. Often I have seen people make terrible faces on first smelling it, even coughing and turning away from it, because it is not – on first acquaintance – an essential oil that makes most folk go ‘wow’.

It grows on you, though… like all the deep oils, it takes time to learn its secrets. To me, the smell reminds me of walking through autumn trees, the air scented with wood smoke, walking on layers of leaf mulch that release a deep aroma of earth. It is sometimes called ‘the oil of tranquillity’; smelling it brings a sense of being grounded, quite literally – it creates a strong connection to Earth. For all the spiritual space cadets out there [and I include myself here] Vetiver is a very useful essential oil to keep the feet very firmly on the ground. It’s needed when a person is very spaced out, mind scattered, thoughts all over the place.

In a blend, only a very small amount is needed – just a few drops – to create a base note that lingers. It works well with Jasmine Absolute, Patchouli, Frankincense and other intense oils to make very exotic and sensual aromas. A very simple blend of 2 drops Vetiver, 2 drops Rose Absolute in 20ml[4 teaspoons] base oil makes a wonderful general restorative massage blend for women, especially at difficult times of the cycle, or during menopause. Those two aromas together are a celebration of Mother Earth, creating a warm enveloping aroma, a celebration of the deep Feminine.rsz_vetiver1

Cardamom for Courage


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I love all the ‘Indian’ essential oils for their rich and exotic aromas; a strong favourite has to be Cardamom, a sweet spice full of fire. I love the spice in curries, or cooked with rice to infuse it with flavour, or even boiled in milk as a comforting night time drink in the winter. A friend of mine also brews up Cardamom in her own delicious ‘chai’ tea recipe that she learned in an Indian ashram.

In traditional herbal medicine and aromatherapy, Cardamom is venerated for its restorative warming and restorative effect on the immune system and the lungs, easing chesty coughs and catarrh. It’s a tonic to the circulation as well, a great ingredient in blends for cold hands and feet, or to ease muscle spasm. Like all spices, it is also a wonderful tonic to maintain digestive health.

I reach for the essential oil myself when my spirits are low and my energy is flagging. I like to put it on my heart centre where it spreads its warmth and helps me to breathe deeply, bringing a sense of inner peace.  I’ve also used Cardamom with Rose Absolute essential oil to make a very beautiful rich rose aroma, spicy and deeply fragrant, a tonic for the heart, the emotions, to lift the spirits. It’s a very versatile essential oil, working so well with many different fragrance themes. It will always infuse a blend with vitality and dynamism – the rich cheering aroma gives me energy and courage!cardamom

Taking an Aromatic Journey


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It’s one thing to read about an essential oil and what it does, but quite another to explore it for yourself. There is a very easy and fun way to do this just by smelling the scent of the oil in a focused way. It’s a good way to ‘educate’ your nose at the same time – the more you practice this, the more your nose will pick out the main notes in a smell, getting to know the natural complexity of individual essential oils.

Just get comfortable sitting in a chair, preferably in a space without distractions. A little gentle music in the background is fine. Open your bottle of essential oil and put two drops onto a tissue, then put the bottle aside. Let the smell on the tissue find its way into your space as the oil begins to spread out and evaporate. Then lift the tissue up to your nose and inhale the aroma a few times, and put it down on your lap.

Close your eyes, and just keep focused on the aroma. Notice any sensations you may be feeling in your body…just notice, and let them flow. Relax, keep breathing slowly and steadily. If you need to, return to the aroma on the tissue, then put it down again.

As you relax, now just let go and let your mind wander. You may see colours, or even have memories triggered; or you may just stay with sensations. Let the full rich complexity of the essential oil aroma do its work. Calming, stimulating, energising, refreshing, soothing… all these feelings are possible.

When you are ready – make some notes. It’s interesting to compare reactions to the same essential oil  another time. I still do this exercise every time I open a new bottle… and sometimes the results are quite unexpected!gather_ye_rosebuds_while_ye_may_1908

Roman Chamomile – a gentle treasure


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It pleases me to find essential oils that come from England, my home country. So many essential oils are produced in far-flung locations, which is of course part of their charm, but also means they have to travel a long way to get to me. Of course, this is also because many essential oils come from plants that thrive in very different climates to the UK. Here we are ‘blessed’ with the ups and downs of a temperate location, with even more variations in rainfall over the past few years, and only occasional hot summers.

Roman chamomile [Anthemis nobilis] is a plant that thrives in our temperate climate. Not to be confused with its cousin German or Blue Chamomile, with the well-known ‘daisy’ flower heads, the blooms of Roman Chamomile are creamy white in colour with a delicate golden centre. The whole plant smells apple-like and fresh; a non-flowering variety of this chamomile can be planted to make chamomile lawns, delightfully springy and fragrant under the feet.

Here I sing the praises of Norfolk Oils www.neoils.com who grow and distill a wonderful English Roman chamomile. Soft, apple-like, yet warm and sweet, this is a delightfully soothing essential oil, slightly tinted blue due to anti-inflammatory azulene content. It intrigues and delights the senses, bringing light and a sense of calm relaxation. It makes a delightful massage blend with Sweet Orange – try 5 drops of each in 20ml base oil – to soothe the skin and spirits at the end of a hard day.

The simple aroma of this oil is like rays of warm sunshine… whatever the climate!

roman chamomile

Smell and Memory


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The power of smells to trigger vivid memories is well known. In his famous literary work ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu’, the French writer Marcel Proust highlighted the aromatic combination of a cup of herbal tea and a little cake called a ‘madeleine’  as a trigger, releasing an entire ‘stream of consciousness’ of memories of his childhood.

Part of the mystery of the sense of smell is its instant link to emotions and feelings which can be very powerful, somehow by-passing the conscious mind and diving into its deeper layers. Only the other day I had such an experience with Lavender, which is an essential oil that has been part of my smell tapestry for years and years. I opened a new bottle and just smelled it as I have done so many times before, and suddenly I remembered being little and walking with my grandmother. Suddenly she put a hand into the pocket of her coat and drew out a handful of dried lavender flowers. She held them out to me to smell… she put them in her coats to keep moths away, it was an old fashioned thing to do for clothes and linen. That was probably my first contact with lavender as a child… little did I know how important it would become later. It was lovely to remember this, and my grandmother’s gentle energy, her sky blue eyes and her laugh. The smell brought her back to me.

This just shows that memory recall can happen spontaneously, even with smells that are very familiar…and make a moment very special.dried-flowers-purple-blue-lavender_3