I met up with James Basson, to find out more about the Gold Medal winning garden, A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane, that James designed for the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Pumpkin Beth: What’s your favourite thing about your garden A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse? What’s your favourite plant?
James Basson: The dead bits! I am very happy with the dead bits, that’s what made the garden feel authentic and without that it would have just been another pretty garden, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to make something that felt real and for L’Occitane it’s good for them, as it shows what they are really about, that authentic, real quality they produce in their perfumes and soaps.
Pumpkin Beth: Did you learn a lot about perfumes and soaps while you were designing the garden?
James: Well, I did a bit, but we live in Grasse, so we’ve taken lots of our friends to the perfume industries, we’ve got quite a bit of knowledge about how it’s done and why it’s done. And we’ve read the book – have you read the book, Perfume? It’s brutal, but it’s really good book, by Patrick Süskind, and it teaches you loads about the Perfume industry and how it was done in the old days. It’s quite macabre, the story, it is a really brilliant book, beautifully written, it talks about Grasse so it really is about the garden.
Pumpkin Beth: So was Patrick Süskind’s book on Perfume an influence for this garden?
James: No, I wouldn’t say so, the influence of the garden is through the landscape in Grasse, and what the landscape looks like.
Pumpkin Beth: Are any of the plants featured in your L’Occitane Garden from your garden at home in Grasse?
James: Yeah, there are – these dead grasses, all these grasses, there’s a gravel path behind our garden, it’s like a public footpath, they all self-seeded last year, and I just – a week before coming I just pulled them out the gravel, there’s no roots, it’s all just through the gravel, these big flat beds roots, stuck them on a tray, and now they’re front of house at Chelsea! Not bad! They did their job.
Pumpkin Beth: What’s happening to the garden after Chelsea?
James: There’s no home for it, so it’s being broken up and put into different gardens. It’ll be used – most of the stone will be used again, it’s all in one piece, all the wood will be used, all the tiles, all the trees will be replanted.
Pumpkin Beth: What message is your garden bringing to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show?
James: There’s two messages: we managed to bring nature to Chelsea, which is a big deal – because it’s not nature at Chelsea, it’s all false and hyper-nature, and that’s a nice message to bring. And the other thing is the people, I came up with the idea and held it together myself, but the personalities that make the garden happen are what really made the garden, allowing those personalities to flourish and show themselves. Different people did different areas of the garden, and that’s what really gives the garden so many different points.
Pumpkin Beth: Apart from your garden, whose is your favourite garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show
James: Dan Pearson’s – no doubt there, he’s a master, he’s done a really beautiful job. He’s a really wonderful man, a real gent.
A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane
The Garden was designed by James Basson
It was built by Peter Dowle
The garden was sponsored by L’Occitane En Provence
Featuring lighting design by JPW Group
The furnishings by Cartiona McLean
With thanks to Musee International de la Perfumerie in Grasse
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