Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Blossoming Passion: Cath Kidston on the Joy of Year-Round Growth and the Art of Gardening

Blossoming Passion: Cath Kidston on the Joy of Year-Round Growth and the Art of Gardening
Friday, 15 December 2023 15:01

Scented Chronicles: Cath Kidston's Love Affair with Geraniums and the Roots of a Retail Empire

In the heart of her Cotswold garden, amidst the rain-soaked air of late November, Cath Kidston reminisces about her earliest encounter with flowers — an incident that sparked a lifelong fascination. "One of my earliest memories is being told off by my mother for picking flowers in the garden," she recounts. "I could touch them and smell them, but that was it. And that's really where my journey with geraniums began.

Now, at 64, Kidston stands in her greenhouse, a haven bursting with scented geraniums, courtesy of her enduring passion for these seemingly humble plants. The greenhouse, made by Hartley Botanic, is a sensory wonderland, every surface adorned with the various fragrances of geraniums. "I've lost count of how many there are in here," she exclaims, her eyes reflecting the joy of a child in a sweetshop. "I definitely need to get another greenhouse now.

As the rain intensifies outside, Kidston remains engrossed in her aromatic sanctuary. Inviting others to experience the olfactory delights, she enthusiastically points out different varieties, each with its unique scent — from lemon and rose to minty and woody notes. Kidston's expertise reveals a world of geraniums that extend beyond the conventional, with hints of cinnamon, cedar, ginger, strawberry, and even Coca-Cola.

Amidst the intoxicating fragrance, it's easy to forget that Kidston was once the creative force behind a retail empire. A few years ago, her name adorned shops across major high streets, offering clothes and homeware in her signature vintage florals and polka dots. Reflecting on her journey, she chuckles, "Looking back, I just thought I'd be doing well if I had one shop and made just enough money to pay my mortgage." Little did she anticipate that her passion for design would blossom into a £100 million retail phenomenon.

Cath Kidston's greenhouse odyssey serves as a testament to the enduring allure of nature and the unexpected paths that passion can lead us down. In the scented embrace of geraniums, she finds not only a refuge from the world but a continuation of a lifelong journey that began with a scolding from her mother and bloomed into a flourishing retail legacy.

Beyond the Blooms: Cath Kidston's Retreat — From Business Heights to Countryside Delights

In 2015, Cath Kidston made a pivotal decision to step away from the empire she had built. Despite the company's remarkable growth and success, the shift towards a corporate structure clashed with Kidston's creative spirit. Although she had sold her majority stake to private equity investors a few years earlier and agreed to stay on the board as the creative director, the allure of the business world had waned. "I'd had the most extraordinary creative journey building it up from nothing, and I was very rewarded financially, but it was time to go," she reflects.

Now, nestled in the warmth of her spacious kitchen, adorned with a vast open stone fireplace, Kidston shares the story of her tranquil Gloucestershire haven. Her two dogs, Gracie and Billie, doze contentedly by the Aga, adding a touch of domestic charm to the scene. The house, a 17th-century farmhouse with 18th-century and 20th-century additions, reflects the region's historical ties to the wool trade.

Kidston and her husband, Hugh Padgham, an award-winning record producer known for his work with iconic artists like the Police, Genesis, and Phil Collins, stumbled upon this Gloucestershire gem in a copy of Country Life in 2012. The house, situated in relative obscurity, captivated them with its unique charm and history. The property, accompanied by 15 acres, offered not just a home but an unparalleled view. Kidston describes the drive, flanked by copper beech, hazel, and holly, leading to a raised orchard on one side and a natural drop on the other, revealing a breathtaking panorama.

Above the house lies Painswick Beacon, an Iron Age fort that once served as a lookout post on the Cotswold Way, offering vistas stretching from England to Wales. This idyllic setting, with its blend of history and natural beauty, became the sanctuary where Kidston found solace after bidding adieu to the corporate world. Beyond the boardrooms and business meetings, her retreat in the Cotswolds is a testament to the allure of a simpler, more serene existence.

Beyond Paradise: Cath Kidston's Cotswold Haven and the Blossoming of a New Chapter

Nestled within the picturesque Cotswold landscape, Cath Kidston's retreat unfolds like a storybook, with each turn revealing a new chapter of natural splendor. As she guides through her sanctuary, she points to the snowdrop-covered drop, leading to Paradise Valley, a name bestowed by a 12th-century king who, captivated by the view, deemed it "paradise." The drop, adorned with snowdrops in spring, descends to a realm where a small wood, an Iron Age burial ground, and a stream adorned with ponds create an enchanting tapestry. "This place has been inhabited for centuries," Kidston remarks, her appreciation for the timeless beauty evident.

The journey through the seasons in her garden mirrors the evolving tapestry of nature. Kidston, a lover of year-round blooms, confesses to not being a proficient gardener, prompting the move from a more demanding garden to the Cotswolds haven. While the last garden held a formal allure, the current one beckoned with its low-maintenance charm. Projects ensued, including the installation of a new greenhouse, the reconstruction of a terrace to embrace panoramic views, and the meticulous cultivation of woodland flowers like bluebells and aconites.

In this carefully curated space, tulips and alliums grace the orchard's long grasses, complementing the apple and plum trees. Small borders encircling the house host a vibrant ensemble of verbena, fennel, and erigeron. Beside the greenhouse, Kidston tends to beds dedicated to her favorite herbs and cut flowers, nurturing cosmos, sweet peas, and dahlias. For her, the presence of flowers within the home is not merely decorative but a vital part of the house's vitality. "I don’t feel the house is awake unless I have vases of flowers in it," she confesses, a sentiment inherited from her mother.

Born into a family of garden enthusiasts in Hampshire, Kidston spent her childhood amidst the verdant embrace of the countryside. Today, her Cotswold haven serves as a canvas where memories, history, and nature converge, creating a space where every bloom and blade of grass tells a tale. In the rhythmic cycle of growth and blossoming, Kidston finds solace, nurturing not just a garden but a living testament to the enduring connection between humans and the land they call home.

Roots of Resilience: Cath Kidston's Journey from Loss to Blooms

In the tapestry of Cath Kidston's life, the threads of resilience and growth are woven amidst the petals and leaves of gardens that have shaped her journey. A pivotal moment marked the turning point for her family when, at the tender age of 19, Kidston's father succumbed to a brain tumor. It was a time of profound change, prompting a move to mid-Wales, where the healing embrace of nature played a crucial role in their lives.

Reflecting on those challenging days, Kidston recognizes the solace her mother found in the garden. Even in the seemingly mundane tasks like weeding, there was a therapeutic power that drew her mother closer to nature. The move to mid-Wales brought them to a house along the River Wye, a place that still holds familial ties today. Gardens became more than just spaces; they became sanctuaries, offering a healing touch that resonated with Kidston's entire family.

The gardening legacy extended through the generations, with both grandmothers cultivating a passion for the soil. Nancy Sheffield, on Kidston's father's side, gained fame for the garden at Sutton Park in North Yorkshire. On her mother's side, Isabel Atherley, who resided near their current location, inspired the name of Kidston's latest venture, C. Atherley, a loving tribute to her familial roots.

When Kidston bid farewell to her eponymous brand, she envisioned a life of leisure, filled with lazy afternoons and well-deserved holidays. However, the absence of work revealed that idleness wasn't in her DNA. The turning point arrived during lockdown, as her fascination with scented geraniums burgeoned into an all-consuming passion. What started as a hobby transformed into a profound connection with nature, with Kidston counting 250 geraniums in her greenhouse.

The journey from loss to blooms, from grief to growth, is etched in the chapters of Cath Kidston's life. Her story is not just one of entrepreneurship and creativity but a testament to the enduring power of gardens to heal, inspire, and give rise to new beginnings.

From Sketches to Scents: Cath Kidston's Botanical Journey with C. Atherley

In the quiet corners of her Cotswold sanctuary, Cath Kidston found solace in the simple elegance of geraniums. As the petals and leaves of these seemingly unassuming flowers captivated her, a new chapter unfolded. Drawing became an intuitive expression of her connection with nature, a form of relaxation that led her to transform a building off the side of her house into a dedicated office space.

Her artistic endeavors coincided with the establishment of Joy of Print, a small print studio in London. The fateful reconnection with Denis and Lesley Aaronson, owners of Heathcote & Ivory, marked the beginning of a collaborative journey. Amidst discussions about their respective ventures, the idea of working together blossomed. Kidston, inspired by her newfound love for geraniums, envisioned a business that would capture the essence of their scent.

The pieces fell into place as Kidston collaborated with a master perfumer in Somerset, embarking on a two-year journey to perfect the fragrance. The result was Geranium No. 1, launched earlier this year as part of C. Atherley's debut collection. A symphony of lemon, mint, and cedar notes, the collection includes bath and body products that epitomize Kidston's botanical vision. Just in time for Christmas, a geranium-scented candle graced the collection, with the anticipation of the first bar of soap in the coming spring.

As Kidston navigates the fragrant landscape she has cultivated, Geranium No. 2 and No. 3 are already in the making, with the seeds of No. 4 germinating in her mind. The love affair with geraniums, far from waning, is evolving into an aromatic journey under the banner of C. Atherley. The scents, like chapters in a book, tell a story of passion, creativity, and the enduring allure of nature. The Geranium No. 1 collection is now available, inviting others to experience the fragrant bloom that has become an integral part of Cath Kidston's botanical narrative at c-atherley.com.

From Sketches to Scents: Cath Kidston's Botanical Journey with C. Atherley

In the quiet corners of her Cotswold sanctuary, Cath Kidston found solace in the simple elegance of geraniums. As the petals and leaves of these seemingly unassuming flowers captivated her, a new chapter unfolded. Drawing became an intuitive expression of her connection with nature, a form of relaxation that led her to transform a building off the side of her house into a dedicated office space.

Her artistic endeavors coincided with the establishment of Joy of Print, a small print studio in London. The fateful reconnection with Denis and Lesley Aaronson, owners of Heathcote & Ivory, marked the beginning of a collaborative journey. Amidst discussions about their respective ventures, the idea of working together blossomed. Kidston, inspired by her newfound love for geraniums, envisioned a business that would capture the essence of their scent.

The pieces fell into place as Kidston collaborated with a master perfumer in Somerset, embarking on a two-year journey to perfect the fragrance. The result was Geranium No. 1, launched earlier this year as part of C. Atherley's debut collection. A symphony of lemon, mint, and cedar notes, the collection includes bath and body products that epitomize Kidston's botanical vision. Just in time for Christmas, a geranium-scented candle graced the collection, with the anticipation of the first bar of soap in the coming spring.

As Kidston navigates the fragrant landscape she has cultivated, Geranium No. 2 and No. 3 are already in the making, with the seeds of No. 4 germinating in her mind. The love affair with geraniums, far from waning, is evolving into an aromatic journey under the banner of C. Atherley. The scents, like chapters in a book, tell a story of passion, creativity, and the enduring allure of nature. The Geranium No. 1 collection is now available, inviting others to experience the fragrant bloom that has become an integral part of Cath Kidston's botanical narrative at c-atherley.com.

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