Devon violets: a symbol of modesty or a little flirt?

I was peering in a junk shop window the other day – it was closed so no time for a rummage sadly – when I spotted a little pottery perfume bottle with ‘Sweet Devon Violets’ on it… and I remembered an elderly aunt (who was probably not that elderly at all) who always had handkerchiefs scented with sweet Devon violets.

Devon is a wonderful place for wildflowers and violets seem to grow particularly well in the climate here and are usually plentiful in the springtime. Beautiful and delicate, the pungent perfume of the variety Viola Odorata is used as a source for scents in the perfume industry.

Violet is known as a ‘flirty’ scent as its fragrance comes and goes. Ionone (a chemical substance) is present in the flowers, which turns off the ability for humans to smell the fragrant compound for moments at a time – isn’t that clever?

The Viola Odorata was one of the first flowering plants to be grown commercially and there are records showing they were for sale in Athens 400BC and being grown in specialist nurseries in Attica. Throughout the centuries violets have been a favourite flower, either for their perfume that scented the rooms and floors or their medicinal qualities that are still being researched today.

Dawlish in Devon was the most important centre for the cultivation of violets in 1916 and a special train ran from Cornwall to London carrying all the flowers on their way to Covent Garden Market on a daily basis. By 1936 there was a flourishing trade from this area and flowers were sent regularly to the Queen and ladies at the Court. During the war years, the land was requisitioned for growing much needed food, and violets went out of fashion, sadly never to return.

As a result, nowadays we tend to associate the perfume with elderly ladies and as being rather old-fashioned. As a flower, the violet represents modesty–hence the phrase ‘a shrinking violet’–so perhaps that has something to do with it being regarded as rather shy and retiring and old hat! Yet the sweet violet is really the true flower of Valentine’s Day as legend has it that, while in prison, St Valentine wrote a letter to his lover with ink made from violets.

Sweet Devon Violet products are still popular today with Devon violet soaps, bath bombs, perfume, essential oils, candles and much more, all being widely available on line. Look into any Devon gift shop and you are sure to find some products too! So perhaps the popularity of this lovely fragrance won’t fade away like our aged aunts and does still have a place in modern life, albeit a slightly shy and retiring one!

 

 

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Secret gardens just waiting for you…

Spring is so slow to get going this year that I am trying to convince myself it will be doubly good when it finally does arrive!

In eager anticipation of this, I thought that I’d mention the National Garden Scheme in this week’s blog. Some of you may already know it – it’s often referred to as ‘The Yellow Book’ scheme – if not, you are missing out on a real gardening treat. The National Garden Scheme (NGS) is a wonderful idea that not only raises lots of money for charity, but also allows you to visit some absolutely stunning private gardens.

Most gardens that open for the NGS are privately owned and open just a few times each year. Some gardens open as part of a group with the whole community involved. The gardens give all the money raised directly to us (including from the sale of teas and plants); the only exceptions being in some cases they ask that a small proportion goes to a nominated local charity.

When a garden is open, it puts out a distinctive yellow poster – look out for these! A few years ago, I had a wonderful afternoon wandering round a garden that was right next to somewhere I’d lived as a child. It had been home to Enid Blyton many years before and the current owners had done a fantastic job restoring the garden. I had been visiting the area and drove past the end of the road and saw the sign – pure chance. Sadly, that particular garden isn’t open this year, but there are no less than 3,700 across England and Wales that are, and some of them are bound to be near you. 

Buy a copy of their ‘Yellow Book’ Guide and it will tell you all the gardens that open, and when. There are some absolute gems! Their website is also very useful and includes details of when you can stay near particular gardens, details of plant fairs and nurseries etc.

 

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Keeping the children amused during the Easter Holidays!

There are several ideas here for you to use with your children or grandchildren if they are visiting at Easter. Crafting can never start too early I reckon! It’s best to get everything prepared so that you can get straight into the ‘interesting’ bits with them rather than boring old getting things ready!

Easter Basket

There are dozens of free basket/small box templates on the internet if you do a Google search. Just choose a pretty basic one, you could try this one.

You’ll need coloured card, a butterfly punch or similar and some pretty ribbon. Use the punch all round your basket once it is made up and keep the butterfly pieces for decoration.

We used PVA glue to stick it together and while it’s drying, hold together with a large paper clip or a clothes peg to stop it slipping. We then cut a length of card and glued on a handle then added more butterfly decorations.

Decorated Eggs

These polystyrene eggs are a lovely way to craft with children and use up all sorts of odds and ends that you have in your craft room.

You can paint the eggs, decorate them with scraps of ribbon or self adhesive gems and pearls (as the blue one at the front of the picture).

Try wrapping them in tissue paper, decorating with punched out butterflies and snowflakes or maybe just draw a funny face on them!

Pipe Cleaner Pets

These easy projects need pipe cleaners, pompoms, googly eyes and some coloured card.

Twist the pipe cleaner around your finger (or two children’s fingers as they are so much smaller) and then take another pipe cleaner to make wings for chicks or ears for the rabbits. Attach them to the back of the first spiral by twisting them on. Glue on the pompoms and googly eyes using PVA glue. Then cut small pieces of card for the mouth and the feet.

What a lot of wobbly fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicks and mice and all things nice!

House-Mouse cards are fun at any time of year but there are lots of suitable Easter designs and so they always seem to come out at this time of year. Everyone in the family enjoys the drawings anyway so I know my cards are going to be well received!

Whether rubber stamped, decoupaged or just printed from a CD, there’s something for everyone in this range and we thought they went rather well with these funny little chicks!

PomPom Chicks

To make the chicks you just need yellow pompoms in various sizes, orange card and pipe cleaners and some googly eyes and perhaps some feathers.

Cut some feet and beak shapes from the orange card then glue the pompoms to the feet and add the eyes and beak and finally feathers for wings.

We’ve got some more Easter crafts for kids for you in next week’s blog!

 

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Flowers in a box

I am always looking for a more unusual way to give flowers to my Mother and this was my solution this Mother’s Day.

The circular hat box is not too expensive and can be bought online or from a local craft store. Line the hatbox with some polythene and then pack with soaked Oasis. Then you have an easy container to fill with flowers. Add a satin ribbon at the end and there you go!

The papier mache containers that are available, range from very large to very small and cover such a wide range of ideas. I sometimes paint and crackle finish them, or you can use them with napkin craft, traditional flat decoupage, painting and stamping or just plain colour them with your promarkers.

I will be writing more blogs for you in the coming months to show what imaginative things you can do with containers… and maybe I can add the finished result of my Mum’s hatbox as you can be sure she will be decorating and playing with it the moment the flowers have gone!

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