Herbs

What's a man doing among Gardening Women?

You may well ask! The reason is that a favourite company of mine, The Chocolate Elephant, have been writing about family connections on their blog, and lo and behold, it turns out that the father of CE's owners, Ian Thomas, rescued the herbal shop, Culpeper's, in the 1970s. It had run into financial difficulties in the 1970s after the death of its founder, Hilda Leyel.

Mrs C E Leyel, as she was always known, started the revivial in popularity of herbs in the 1920s and 1930s, started the Society of Herbalists, and founded Culpeper's shop selling long-forgotten herbs and remedies. Because of all this, she features in Gardening Women.

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The original shop, in London's Baker Street, sold wholesome sweet-scented distillations of plants in various forms of medicines, perfumes, lotions, superior soaps and creams, the latter made from such healing flowers as lilies, roses and cowslips. Culpeper’s also offered many of the simple tisanes, such as camomile and lime-blossom tea, so popular abroad but at that time almost unknown in this country.’ A male visitor to her new shop was entranced.

"A certain new establishment which I was tempted into the other day is radiant and alluring with its green facade, its barrels and jars and bottles, and not a little of the atmosphere of the garden about it - not merely the physic garden, but the garden of the flowered walls, and birds and spaniels and lawns. Yet to my eye it is the words on the jars and bottles that are the most attractive feature of this new herbalist. On the herbalist’s labels I found words that, if not actually new to me, had been long forgotten, and just for that reason came back with added charm: such words a Comfrey and Agrimony, Eyebridge and Melilot, Borage and Basil, Silverweed and Marjoram, Betony and Lovage."

Thanks to Ian Thomas, Culpeper's have several shops across the UK and abroad, and Mrs Leyel's dream continues.