James Basson and A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane

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.

James Basson being filmed in the garden he designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 'A Perfumer's Garden in Grasse by L'Occitane'

James Basson being filmed in the garden he designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, ‘A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane’

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.

A Perfumer's Garden in Grasse by L'Occitane was designed to show the importance of the French town of Grasse in the perfume industry. Deliciously scented plants which are grown and used in the perfume industry in Grasse were featured throughout the garden.

A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane was designed to show the importance of the French town of Grasse in the perfume industry. Deliciously scented plants which are grown and used in the perfume industry in Grasse were featured throughout the garden.

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.

The perfume capital of the world, grasse, had fallen into a period of some decline, many of the areas where the plants used in the various perfume processes were grown, had become overgrown and were untended. Now, the perfume industry in Grasse is experiencing a revival and many of the traditional fields are being planted with beautifully fragrant flowers and plants which will be used in perfumes and other scented beauty products.

The perfume capital of the world, Grasse, had fallen into a period of some decline, many of the areas where the plants used in the various perfume processes were grown, had become overgrown and were untended. Now, the perfume industry in Grasse is experiencing a revival and many of the traditional fields are being planted with beautifully fragrant flowers and plants which will be used in perfumes and other scented beauty products.

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.

A Perfumer's Garden in Grass by L'Occitane was designed by James Basson and built by Peter Dowle. The plants were supplied by Jekka's Herb Farm, Kelways and Gaudissart.

A Perfumer’s Garden in Grass by L’Occitane was designed by James Basson and built by Peter Dowle. The plants were supplied by Jekka’s Herb Farm, Kelways and Gaudissart.

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.

The poppies contrasted well with the other plants in the garden, and shone out through the rain at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The poppies contrasted well with the other plants in the garden, and shone out through the rain at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

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.

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The seating area of the garden gave a secluded, relaxed and private, holiday feel to the garden.

The seating area of the garden gave a secluded, relaxed and private, holiday feel to the garden.

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 plants were supplied by Jekka’s Herb Farm, Kelways and Gaudissart

The furnishings by Cartiona McLean

With thanks to Musee International de la Perfumerie in Grasse

This pretty garden had a very warm and welcoming feel. I enjoyed the relaxed planting and natural feel of the garden.

This pretty garden had a very warm and welcoming feel. I enjoyed the relaxed planting and natural feel of the garden.

Even in the rain at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this garden had a lightness and delicacy to its beauty.

Even in the rain at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this garden had a lightness and delicacy to its beauty.

A close up of the planting in James Basson's Gold Medal winning Chelsea Garden, A Perfumer's Garden in Grasse by L'Occitane.

A close up of the planting in James Basson’s Gold Medal winning Chelsea Garden, A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane.

Other articles that may interest you………

To see the 20 shortlisted plants, including the finalists and winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year 2015, please click here.

To read my interview with Chris Beardshaw and find out more about The Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, please click here

To read about The Festival Of Roses at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and see photographs of some of the new rose introductions, including the 2016 Rose Of The Year, please click here.

To see all of the Gold Medal Winning Show Gardens at the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Please click here.

To see what happens to the show gardens after the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show closed, please click here.

To see photographs from the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, please click here.

To read about some of the Gold Medal winning nurseries at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, please click here.

To find out about the Water Station Garden by Pepa s Krasa, a Fresh Garden featuring drought tolerant plants at the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, please click here.

To read an interview with Adam Frost and find out more about the Gold Medal winning Homebase Garden – An Urban Retreat, that Adam designed for the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, please click here.

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