Wild about Weeds

7th June 2019

Lisa Botwright celebrates the underdog of the English country garden…

At this time of year, the natural landscape is at its most glorious and abundant. The dull muddy field, where you walk your dog every morning, has turned into a stunning carpet of daisies and buttercups; roadside verges burst into colour as spring bulbs morph into vibrant poppies; cracks in the pavement yield tiny forget-me-nots. Colour explodes from everywhere to remind us that this is the high point in nature’s annual cycle.

But as our gardens begin to flourish, so too do the weeds: the arch-enemy of the dedicated gardener. Amongst all this verdant expansion, it becomes a daily battle to nurture some plants and to vanquish others. Some flowers are welcomed; some are deemed interlopers. But who decides which is which? Isn’t one person’s weed another person’s favourite wildflower?

As American writer Doug Larson said of our untameable garden foe, ‘a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.’
It’s the same when it comes to skincare and makeup. Some flowers, like rose, sunflower and lavender, are lauded; others are rejected. But as a beauty fan, I’ve noticed that things are slowly changing. It’s becoming fashionable to celebrate the wild side of beauty, and brands are beginning to give more than a nod to the underdog of the English country garden: the previously disdained, vexatious weed.

Jo Malone has made nettle one of the hero ingredients of her latest limited edition of colognes, launched earlier this spring. Her Nettle & Wild Achillea cologne, part of the new Wild Flowers & Weeds collection, is inspired by the ‘unruly weeds and wildly-wonderful plants and flowers that line our banks: surprising concoctions, breaking through the cracks with no rhyme or reason’. The tangy, peppery sting of nettle is softened by a mellow soft base of white musk in this unusual and edgy scent.

The Royal Horticultural Society, the guardians of gardening excellence, are no less averse to giving one humble weed a raise in status. They’ve made the tiny white and yellow flower, so redolent of lazy childhood picnics, the star of their Daisy Garland skincare range. The hand cream is divine and smells just like a countryside walk.

Not only do I have happy memories of making daisy chains as a child, but I would also pluck dandelions and make a wish before I closed my eyes and blew the seeds into the air. This diaphanous waft of lighter-than-air seedlings must be the inspiration for Benefit’s brightening face powder; a baby-pink blush that can be used all over the face, as an alternative to bronzer, for a natural summer glow.

Primrose is a wild flower native to England, and means ‘first rose’ of the year. It can spring up everywhere from motorway verges to wood clearings and the oil of the pale yellow flower has been used as a potent multi-tasking lip treatment in the quirky Yes To range.

And for a fully immersive experience, Lush’s Furze bath oil allows you to bathe in a weed concoction made of amaranth flowers, a kind of summer annual often referred to as pigweed. This delightfully pretty, hand-packed sphere of organic shea butter and neroli oil is topped with the flowers. As the oils melt away in the bath, the amaranth petals disperse across the surface of the water, leaving an earthy, smoky scent like the garden after heavy rain.

These products make you want to reject the romantic rose, save the sassy sunflower for someone else and leave lavender to languish on the shelf. The weeds are fighting back to reclaim our affection.

Dandelion Brightening Face Powder £26


RHS Daisy Garland Hand Cream £8


Yes To primRose lip oil £7.99


Nettle & Wild Achillea cologne 30ml £49


Furze Bath Oil £2.95


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