IN THE FRAGRANT SOUTH. BY FANNY L. GREEN.



IN THE FRAGRANT SOUTH.

BY FANNY L. GREEN.

BUT few of the visitors who stream to the Riviera in search of health or pleasure realise the importance commercially of Grasse and Cannes, of Nimes and Nice. This district of Southern France, like sunny Surrey and the southern slope of the Balkans, is a land of flower farms, the exhaustless hunting-ground of the distiller and perfumer. Many hundreds of people are employed in tending the farms, and in the perfumeries of the district. Cannes is the busy centre of the cultivation of the rose, tuberose, cassie, jasmine, and orange; Nice, of the mignonette, narcissus, and violet; while Nimes, like Mitcham and Wallington, lays claim to the title of lavender land. In Tuscan Italy, the flower farmer's crops are iris and bergamot, and more than a hundred Roumelian and Bulgarian villages are dependent for their prosperity on rose growing.

There are no roses of Shiraz now. The gardens of Ispahan are filled with European rose trees. But it was in Persia that first when

'Some blossoms were gathered, while freshly they shone,

A dew was distilled from their flowers, that gave
All the fragrance of summer, when summer was gone.'

The story goes that the mother of the Shah Nour-Djihan in honour of her son in the year 1612, held a fete in the royal gardens. A canal cut through the grounds was filled with rose water, and on this odorous stream the royal barge floated for a summer day. A small moss-like body was seen by the queenmother clinging to the bows of the boat. She stretched out her hand for it carelessly, and was astonished at the delicious odour it exhaled. It was a mass of rose-petals to which clung drops of attar of roses distilled by the heat from the stream. However this may be, it is certain that in 1684 the distilleries of Shiraz were in full swing.

The rose of commerce is grown for the manufacture of the attar, for the distillation of rose-water, and for the preparation of conserve of roses. It is one of the products cultivated at Mitcham and Wallington, but in this country the rose is a chemist's not a perfumer's product. The best rose water—the only kind used in perfumery—and the fragrant attar of roses come to us from abroad. It is, however, a pretty sight to see the women and girls on the Surrey flower farms gathering the pink Provence roses in the bud before the dew is off them. They arc sent to London in sacks, and immediately on their arrival are spread out on a cool floor, for no flower heats more quickly than the rose. If left in heaps, they would be completely spoilt in the course of two or three hours. To preserve the petals for distillation, they are stripped from their flower stalks, and a pound of common salt is rubbed in every bushel of the flowers. The water contained in the petals thus becomes brine, and the fragrant pulpy mass obtained by this mixture is stored away in casks. For making conserve of roses, the petals are used in a fresh state beaten up with sugar. They are cut off just before expansion near the base, leaving the paler claws attached to the calyx, and are gently sifted to remove any loose stamens there may be among them. The petals then adhere together loosely in the form of little cones, which have a velvety surface of an intense purplish crimson, a delicious rosy odour, and a mildly astringent taste. An infusion of red rose petals, acidulated and slightly sweetened, is a common vehicle for other medicines.

In Provence, the rose is cultivated chiefly for the manufacture of rose pomade, from which the extract of roses which forms the staple rose scent is obtained by distillation. The peasant proprietors of Grasse, Cannes, Nice and the Valois cultivate hedges of Rosa centifolia, and sell the flowers to the perfumers of the towns. They gather the flowers towards the end of April. Their rose-harvest lasts from three weeks to a month. Only a very small quantity of attar of roses is distilled in Provence, but it is of the most exquisite quality.

The most important centre of the production of attar of roses is round the villages on the southern slopes of the Balkan. The red damask rose, Rosa damascena, is the kind cultivated, but Rosa alba is used as a dividing line between the different plantations, and is also grown at the end of each plot so as to prevent the raids of passers-by on the more valuable red rose. Between each plot of roses space is left for a cart to pass along to further the collection of the blossoms. The rose trees bear in their second year, and though they will live more than twenty years, at ten years of age they are usually cut down level with the ground, new branches and even flowers appearing the next year. Towards the end of May the flowers begin to expand, and they are collected daily till the middle of June. The collection begins at dawn, for an opening flower bud left till next day will then have lost its fragrance and its colour. The rose harvest is a time of rejoicing—of songs and dances. The small proprietors collect their own flowers. Larger growers employ women and youths for this purpose. As the blossoms are gathered, they are placed in a basket carried on the left arm, or in the apron. Gradually the fingers of the workers become hardened to the spines till their pricking is hardly felt, but their hands at the end of the day are covered with a kind of blackish resin. This substance they scrape off and roll into little balls which are kept for smoking in cigarettes. It is said to give a delicious odour to the tobacco in which it is inserted. The contents of the gatherers' baskets are weighed in the field and paid for by the dealers. These men live in the towns, and although they sometimes buy the flowers and distil the oil, they rarely cultivate them on their own account. When paid for, the baskets are emptied into sacks which are carried at once to the distillery. The copper stills are heated in a rather curious manner. Long logs of wood lighted at one end are placed under the still, and when the process of distillation is completed, the burning logs are withdrawn. The Turkish attar of roses is generally adulterated by the admixture of oil of rose geranium which is distilled from the leaves of Pelargonium capitatum, a species of geranium largely grown in France and Turkey for this purpose.

At Ghazipour in India the white damask rose has for many years been under cultivation. More than two thousand acres of fields round the town are devoted to its growth. Indian attar of roses in commerce is always mixed with sandal. The pure attar is very rare, and is literally worth its weight in gold.

The rose harvest at Cannes is followed by that of the jasmine and the tuberose. In the months of July and August, the jasmine fields are alive with women, old and young, and children. Each worker has a little basket at her side which is suspended by a strap across her shoulders, so that both hands may be free for picking the flowers and filling the baskets, which are then carried to the shaded laboratory and there weighed. Jasmin grandiJlora, the species grown, is a small bush, not a creeper, like the British jasmine. The plants are grown in rows, and horizontal poles are thrust between them in and out of which the branches are woven. Each blossom is as large as a shilling, and yields an intense fragrance. In Turkey the jasmine is cultivated for quite another purpose. By reserving only a single axis to each stalk, the beautiful straight stems are obtained which are used in the manufacture of pipe stems. Moore has celebrated

'The tuberose with her silv'ry light,

That in the garden of Malay
Is called the mistress of the night,
So like a bride, scented and bright,

She comes out when the sun's away.'

These delicate bulbs need more care than any other flower of the farm, but their exquisite fragrance amply repays the cultivator for his trouble. A good plantation will last from seven to eight years.

'Cassie, sweet to smell,' forms the flower-farmer's latest crop. It is obtained in November and December from a species of acacia, and must not be confused with the cinnamon-smelling cassia yielded by a plant of the laurel tribe. Cassie has rather a sickly smell, when used alone, but is of great service in the composition of the best bouquets. As its blossoms are successive, some being ready for plucking while others are not yet formed, it constitutes a very important flower crop.

The orange flower is one of the most important flowers producing essences or attars. The neroli obtained from it is the chief essence produced in the district between the Var and the Italian frontier. It is obtained from the sweet Portugal orange by distillation in May and June, and is used in enormous quantities in the manufacture of Eau de Cologne and Hungary water. The fruit of the bitter Bigaradier orange yields an attar which is procured in December and January by the process of expression. An tfcuelle, or metal cup covered with spikes, used to be employed for this purpose, the fruit being rolled by hand over and over the spikes till the essential oil collected in the hollow handle, from which it was poured into a vessel. Machinery has now almost supplanted the t'cuelle. The rinds are put into a powerful iron press which is provided with a false bottom and an aperture to allow the expressed oil to escape for collection. When the screw is turned and the little sacs containing the oil are burst, water escapes with the oil, but the latter being the lighter, floats

to the top and is easily separated. After the attar has been expressed from the fruit, the fruit is cut up, mixed with bran, and given to the cows. They are exceedingly fond of this food, and when thus fed yield very fine milk.

Very early in the year, in February, the flower-farms of Nice are fragrant with the odour of the Parma violet. 'Shrinking as violets do in summer's ray,' they are planted under the thick shade of orange and lemon trees, or close to walls and houses. Their tufts, or clumps, have about a foot of space left all round each of them, so that the growers can gather the blossoms without any fear of treading on them. Good extract of violet is of a beautiful green colour. Like the extracts of jonquil and mignonette, whose manufacture immediately follows on that of the violet extract, this perfume is obtained by the enfieurage or absorption system, a process also used for cassie, jasmine, and tuberoses. Sheets of glass, about two feet square, are framed in wood. On both sides of these trays, a layer of pure, inodorous lard is spread, which is then covered with flower petals. Some forty or fifty of the trays are then piled upon one another, and the flowers are changed every twelve, eighteen, or twenty-four hours, according to circumstances, till the lard is sufficiently charged with perfume. Jasmine and tuberose are frequently changed as often as fifty times before the lard is considered to be sufficiently impregnated, cassie and violets from thirty to forty times, and jonquils only about twenty times. The fat thus obtained is pommade, and when packed in air-tight tins is exported to all parts of the world for the preparation of the perfumer's extraits.

Two other processes are also used for extracting the delicate aroma of these choice flowers—the oil process and the nyrogene. In the former, coarse cotton cloths are soaked in the finest olive or almond oil and laid on a frame of wire gauze. Fresh flowers are thrown on the saturated cloths, and renewed at intervals till the required strength of odour is obtained. The latter process is far more poetical. Freshly gathered flowers are placed in a sort of sieve beneath which is a receptacle. Prepared alcohol is then dropped on the flowers from a great height, and soaks through them into the receptacle. After this alcoholic shower has passed a few times through several fresh layers of flowers, it becomes delightfully fragrant.

In the case of less delicate odours, the pommades of commerce are obtained by what is known as the hot process, or maceration. A quantity of inodorous lard is put in a copper vessel with a fourth of its weight of flowers, and melted over a slow fire. The contents are well stirred and boiled for ten minutes. Then the vessel is put on one side for several hours to cool. The flowers are then strained from the fat, a fresh supply is added, and the compound is again subjected to heat. This process is repeated again and again till the fat has absorbed the required strength of perfume. The hot liquid is then poured through a sieve, and the greasy flower-paste. that remains is subjected to hydraulic pressure.

The extraits of the perfumer are obtained from these pommades by heating them with grain spirit, or spirits of wine, the perfume being conveyed from the pomntade into the alcohol by means of a steam perfumery churn, or batteuse a extraits.

The harvest of 'lavender land' takes place during August, both in Surrey and the South of France. The bushes are grown in sunny, open fields, and require a long course of cultivation. Slips from well-established plants, having been struck under handlights, are placed in the autumn in carefully prepared beds, where they must remain twelve months. To strengthen them, they undergo a course of clipping. When they are a year old, the young plants are planted out in the fields in rows four feet apart, a space of three feet being left from bush to bush. Still, for a time the bushes are not allowed to flower. They are kept clipped and short, and manure and superphosphate of lime are put to the roots. When they are four years old, lavender-bushes are at the height of their productiveness, and every fourth year it is usual at Mitcham to take up the old plants and change the crop to potatoes, or some other vegetable. The lavender stalks are cut very carefully in August by men who seem jealous of the office. Two or three stalks are taken in the hand, and severed with a small sickle. Women bind them in sheaves, and lay them carefully on the tops of the bushes, so as not to scatter the blossom. They are then put on carts and removed to the distilling shed, where the stills, furnaces, and receptacles for the oil have been looked over and put in order. The stills are made of copper, and are raised above the floor of the shed. To charge them, a man enters each through an aperture at the top. He carefully fills the still with the sheaves, which have been previously unloaded from the carts on to a stage, level with the top of the still, and there untied. When the still is full, its contents are pressed down and covered with distilled water, and the still-head is linted down with linseed, so that the joint is vapour-tight. It is then connected with a condensing-worm, or coil of copper pipe contained in a tank of cold water. A fire is now lighted under the still, and in about three hours' time attar of lavender and vapour of water distil over, are condensed in the worm, and pass out into a receiver. The oil forms a golden yellow layer on the top of the water from which it is easily removed. The whole process of distillation occupies about eight hours. When the still has cooled its head is removed, and the exhausted stalks, which have the appearance of faded rushes, are spread out to dry. They are used for manure and as litter in stables. The process of distillation is employed for the obtaining of all volatile essences or essential oils, such as the attars of roses, neroli, geranium, lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and eucalyptus. Though a large quantity of lavender is grown in Southern France, French lavender compared with the English product is strong and rank, and yields a much inferior attar, which is usually adulterated with fat oils and resin. This adulteration is easily detected. If the pure attar is dropped on paper and exposed to heat, it will wholly evaporate leaving no sign of its presence, while impure attar thus treated leaves a translucent stain. The finest lavender-water is made by the distillation of pure English oil with the finest rectified spirit and rose-water, and is perfectly colourless however great its age.

The iris (Iris Jlorentind) is the chief plant cultivated on the Tuscan flower-farms. Its flowers are of a very pale blue colour, but it is grown not for their sake but for its rhizome which yields the orris of the perfumer. The harvest of the plant takes place every third year early in the spring. These flags are dug up before they move for the next year's growth, then they are cut back and replanted. The rhizomes are spread out to dry in the open air before being trimmed for the market. In the form of powder, orris root is largely used for filling sachets, but the extract used in the composition of jockey club and other bouquets is obtained by fermentation. Another Italian product, bergamot, obtained from the peel of the fruit of a species of citron, is the chief ingredient in Ess Bouquet.

But few people share the aversion of Anne of Austria for the rose. Yet of attar of roses and the other ' meikle rare perfumes' which have formed the subject of this paper it must be confessed that in quantities they have a cloying sweetness. Few are as wholesome and invigorating as 'sweet lavender.'