My deep and abiding affection for the Royal Horticultural Society was confirmed in my early weeks in London 16 years ago when I went to my first of many RHS London shows. These used to take place almost every month of the year – marvellous, pint-sized and perfect botanical shows in the Lawrence Hall, a stone’s throw from Victoria and the RHS’s London headquarters at 80 Vincent Square. Here, I found not only incredibly knowledgeable and skilled plantsmen and women selling their wares, but kindred spirits passionate about plants and in search of a specific, and undoubtedly rare, variety.
The Royal Horticultural Society and its mission to advance horticulture and promote good gardening have illustrious roots. In an era of unparallelled botanical exploration and innovation, John Wedgwood (scion of the Staffordshire pottery family, son of Josiah Wedgwood – the inventor of modern marketing, and uncle of Charles Darwin) wanted to share his research and thoughts on plants and best horticultural practice, which resulted in the establishment of the RHS. The society has moved on from its first meeting in 1804 at Hatchards bookshop on Piccadilly, but the same values are still at its heart. And it’s the synergy between the RHS’s passion for growing plants and Liz Earle’s passion for using the best botanical ingredients that has led us to collaborate.
2013 marks the centenary of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and what better way to celebrate a landmark year in the life of the world’s most famous flower show than with a fine fragrance named for it! Botanical Essence No.100 is a fresh floral fragrance inspired by the transcendent joy of floral notes that perfume the air in a terrific florist’s shop…or in the Great Marquee at Chelsea.
With the exception of breaks during the two World Wars, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has transformed the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea into an exotic garden of botanical delights. From its beginning in 1913, the show has been a blend of nursery exhibitors and temporary gardens, with floristry and garden sundries joining the mix along the way. First erected in 1951, the Great Marquee made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest tent – a whopping 3½ acres covered by canvas.
On entering the marquee, you’d be enveloped by an indescribable heady fragrance – the result of hundreds of varieties of fragrant flowers mingling with warm soil, grass and the canvas itself. When the canvas marquee was replaced with a contemporary modular structure in 2000, I thought I’d never smell that unique perfume again.
So you can imagine my excitement when we began work on what would become Botanical Essence No.100 with the award-winning and oh-so-talented Alienor Massenet. As I described to her the magic scent of RHS Chelsea Flower Show, she tilted her head, and gave me the smallest of grins. “You mean it should smell like when you open the door at a really good florist,” she said. I nodded. “This, this is very difficult. Perfumers have been trying to do this forever. And with naturals?” She began shaking her head. So we knew were on the right track – after all, if it is elusive and nearing impossible to capture, it’s got to be a Botanical Essence!
As I smell the bottle on my desk today, I can’t help but smile. Alienor has captured that magic in a joyful fresh floral, full of the sublime essence of flower blossoms. It pays tribute to all the iconic, classic florals that have gone before while remaining contemporary, modern and totally of the moment. Something I think you’ll find the RHS Chelsea Flower Show to be in this, its centenary year.