Next month:
March 2010

February 2010

Sweet smelling homes

G83.1.1178 This beautiful flatback bulb grower would have stood proud on an eighteenth century mantelpiece helping to scent the room around it. But long before that, plants were brought into the home to help get rid of nasty odours. 'Fresh, sweet, and pleasant air' was vital in the Elizabethan home. After all, this was a time when tussie-mussies (scented posies) were still needed as much within the household as on the streets to combat noxious smells.  With scent so important in the home, it is not surprising that rare sightings of plants in paintings often turn out to be that most perfumed plant, the carnation.  In his book Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, the poet Thomas Tusser (1524-80) listed 40 'herbs, branches, and flowers for windows'. In addition to bulbs such as 'Flower de Luce' (iris), 'Daffadowndillies' (narcissus) he recommended three sorts of gillyflower for scent: Queen's (hesperis matronalis), Stock (matthiola incana) and Wall (erysimum cheiri).