Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Steam-powered Perfumed Gardens

Gardening and steampunk do not readily sit together in the mind's eye. However, the award winning Perfume Garden, designed by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, brings the two concepts together brilliantly at the annual Chelsea Flower Show in London.

The garden's inspiration was the discovery, by Chetwood, of an Elizabethan rosewater perfume recipe in the library of the Royal Horticultural Society - “Take eight grains of musk and put in rosewater eight spoonfuls. Three spoonfuls of damask water and a quarter of an ounce of sugar. Boil for five hours and strain.”

While the garden's floral and conifer design is core to most visitors, steampunks will be more interested in the WSP Group's , Gazeley's, and P&G Prestige Products' contributions. The garden is actually a “pocket perfumery”, with everything from growing plants to distillation, production, bottling and selling. Perfume from the flowers in the garden is being sold, with profits going to the RHS charity and Solar Aid, a charity which supplies energy to third-world countries.

Central to this is the perfumery itself, consisting of a cable-stayed mast supporting fabric ribbons arranged in concentric descending spirals. The actual perfume is produced by steam passing upwards through the ingredients, being distributed by the rotating spirals powered by photovoltaic cells. More details may be found here.

Again, modern design - this time for the outsides, non-industrial world - finds its inspiration from the Age of Steam!