Monthly Archives: May 2012

Frangipani, Hawkmoths, God & Sex

Frangipani - plumeria rubra
Frangipani - plumeria rubra

One of the most exotic oils we sell is frangipani. We describe it as ‘rich, heady, exotic, deeply floral’ but that does not do it justice. Together with jasmine, gardenia, lotus, the roses, and a few other flower scents, frangipani is an aristocrat of the sweet, in-your-face, ‘feminine,’ essential oils/absolutes.

Some people baulk at the scent. It’s so sweet. Rose, for example, can be understated. But not frangipani. In its raw form, as an absolute, it grabs you by the throat and may make the eyes water. The variety we sell — plumeria rubra — is coloured blood red.

frangipani-cutting

The frangipani tree enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the Frangipani Hawkmoth (pseudosphinx tetrio). The caterpillars are tremendous: six inches long, a poisonous yellow and black, a spike on abdominal segment eight, feeding on the frangipani leaves before pupating and emerging as a moth with a five inch wing-span.

Frangipani Hawkmoth - pseudosphinx tetrio
Frangipani Hawkmoth - pseudosphinx tetrio

The moth returns to the frangipani flowers, attracted by the perfume, in search of nectar, and a dirty trick is pulled on it: there is no nectar, only pollen, which the moth distributes unwittingly to other trees, causing fertilisation to occur.

Frangipani Hawkmoth - pseudosphinx tetrio -1

There’s much more to be said about frangipani. It has a role in both religion and sex. It is the national tree of Laos (called dok jampa) and every Buddhist temple has one or more in their courtyard.

frangipani - Laos

In Polynesian culture, the frangipani is worn by women to indicate their relationship status – over the right ear if seeking a relationship, over the left if taken.

Frangipani Polynesia

Osmanthus Absolute – Coming Soon

osmanthus - osmanthus fragrans
Osmanthus - osmanthus fragrans

A rare, expensive, and (in Chinese culture) historically important scent: Osmanthus (osmanthus fragrans).

The scent is described variously as a blend of jasmine, gardenia and ripe apricots and like new shoe leather with cherry-like overtones. This will be available once we source a good, reputable, supplier who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg!

Also known as Sweet Olive, Tea Olive and Fragrant Olive. It can be seen in the Temperate House at Kew.

osmanthus - osmanthus fragrans -1

Biological Warfare at St James’s Church

Piccadilly Market Plane Tree

The beautiful gardens at St James’s Church, next to Piccadilly Market, contain seven magnificent London plane trees which have just decided to shed their flowers.

Plane Tree Flower

See those spines? As the flowers spin through the air — the trees are air pollinators — the spines break off and turn into highly efficient bioaerosols. These attach themselves to the skin, mouth, throat, eyes, and may penetrate into the lungs. Result: coughing, sneezing, watering eyes, itching. Asthmatics need to be careful.

High temperatures and a strong hot wind don’t help (humans) but, of course, help the trees. Heat = perspiration = more plane tree bioaerosols sticking to the skin = more itching.

planetree-bioaerosol-nasal-hair
Plane tree bioaerosol attached to nasal hair

What can be done? Tree surgeons wear gas masks when dealing with a flowering plane tree. It’s that bad. Or refuse to go near them until winter. Those forced into close proximity should chew gum to wash the spines from the throat, and bathe regularly to remove the spines from the skin. Lavender essential oil — a natural antihistamine — may help a bit but pollen isn’t really the problem.

piccadilly-market-planetree-2
Itchy

Essential Oils — beauty on many levels

Essential oils:

  • smell fabulous — used for millennia in scents and balms
  • good for you — we sell lots of Tea Tree for spots and Athlete’s Foot!
  • go deep into human history — Mary Magdalen poured Spikenard on the feet of Christ and wiped it away with her hair

Not only that but the plants they come from are often exquisitely beautiful:

caraway - carum carvi
Caraway - carum carvi
Cardamom - elettaria cardamomum
Cardamom - elettaria cardamomum
Carrot seed - daucus carota
Carrot Seed - daucus carota
Chamomile moroccan - ormenis multicaulis
Chamomile moroccan - ormenis multicaulis
Dill - anethum graveolens
Dill - anethum graveolens
Frangipani - plumeria rubra
Frangipani - plumeria rubra
Grapefruit - citrus paradisi
Grapefruit - citrus paradisi
Jasmine - jasminum grandiflorum L
Jasmine - jasminum grandiflorum L
Oakmoss - evernia prunastri
Oakmoss - evernia prunastri

Piccadilly Market Jubilee

Piccadilly Market at St James’s Church sprouted Jubilee flags this morning…

Piccadilly Market Jubilee 1

…in preparation for the Big Event…

Piccadilly Market Jubilee 2

… on Sat 2nd June to Tues 5th June. Here’s the view from the North side of Piccadilly:

Piccadilly Market Jubilee 3

Yet looking east, towards Fortnum’s and The Ritz, where are the flags? Has London’s wealthiest area turned Republican?

Piccadilly London
Where are the flags?

Street Markets London

Welcome to our sister site, Street Markets London, which aims to:

… tell the story of London’s covered, outdoor and street markets, including their history, location, goods sold, opening hours, plus news of notable events and traders.

Markets are where supply meets demand at a most basic level. Anyone with a few pounds in their pocket to rent a stall can set out their wares — supply — and discover if the public wants it — demand.

Derek Edward Trotter
Derek Edward Trotter

Street Markets London is a work in progress. All London’s major markets will be visited, photographed, and written about. There are a lot of them so it will take a while.

And then, because markets are dynamic, they’ll need to be visited again…

Piccadilly Market London

Women in summer hats and frocks, men in t-shirts and sandals, lovers holding hands in the church gardens, tourists perspiring but happy. It’s the first day of summer

St James's Church Gardens
St James's Church Gardens

at Piccadilly Market!

After months of cold, snow, hail, a wind like the devil running round the churchyard (as if attempting, fruitlessly, to gain entry to the church) the warmth comes as a blessed relief.

The St James’s Church gardens are a secret delight. The stretch of central London from Piccadilly Circus to Green Park is a heavily built environment with little greenery. The property developers are in permanent action, knocking down buildings and building new ones, driven by some of the highest property prices in the world.

So in this dusty, car exhaust-laden, glass and concrete urban desert, the St James’s Church gardens, between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street, are important.

Piccadilly Market On the Map

Piccadilly Market St James Church Piccadilly-1

A Google revealed that Piccadilly Market appeared neither on the St James’s Church Wikipedia page nor on Wikipedia’s List of Markets in London. That has been rectified.

piccadilly-market-st-james-church-piccadilly-wiki-entry

Piccadilly Market, in the courtyard of St James’s Church Piccadilly, is often referred to as a ‘hidden gem.’ But gems should be worn. They should sparkle and give pleasure. They should not be hidden away.

Piccadilly Market St James Church Piccadilly-2

When someone Googles ‘london markets’ or ‘london street markets’ Piccadilly Market should appear near the top of the search result. It has, after all, existed since 1981.

People can then visit, enjoy the market, tell their friends, eat their lunch in the beautiful gardens, attend a concert, walk round the church, discover that William Blake was baptised there in 1757, and attend a church service. But they need to know about it.

Piccadilly Market St James Church Piccadilly-2

Galbanum Essential Oil

Galbanum - ferula galbaniflua

We are proud to supply Galbanum essential oil, steam distilled in England from resin of the ferula galbaniflua plant imported from Iran.

Galbanum, a green, fruity-floral odour reminiscent of green apples, sometimes referred to as the sacred “mother oil” goes deep into human history.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; [these] sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like [weight]:

And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure [and] holy… Exodus 30:35-6

Often used as a “green” note in perfumery, it is the ingredient which gives the distinctive odour to “Must” by Cartier, “Vent Vert” by Balmain, “Chanel No. 19” and “Vol De Nuit” by Guerlain.

Initial notes are bitter, acrid, peculiar, followed by a complex green, spicy, woody, apple-like balsamic odour: reminiscent of crushed foliage at the height of summer.

Supplied in 5 ml bottles only. Best to telephone before visiting as stocks are low. A tester is available.