This spring, while delivering a soap order to my favorite gift shop and market place, I recieved a request. This shop needed a 'gardener's soap', as it is a popular plant store/gift shop/florist shop, focusing on all things green and plant oriented. Could I create something special for this shop? It would need to be scrubby, smell amazing and be beautiful to look at. I had some brainstorming to do.
Gardener's soap, sometimes called Tradie's soap or Mechanic's soap, usually creates scrubbiness with pummice or an abrasive organic material. My choices were many, and in the end I chose ingreadients readily available. I used pummice, ground walnut shells, ground dried citrus peel and juniper berries.
The next condisderation was color. This needed to be a soap that reminded me of the garden: the lush green color of the leaves contrasting with the soil, the color of beets and dark purple beans. Then the arrangement of the colors, and the shape of the soap. I wanted something organic, and that felt absolutely natural in the hand of a gardener.
Equally important to all of these considerations was the scent. This needed to be something fresh, herbal and a little bit floral. Condidering it is for gardeners, I chose Geranium, Lavender, Chamomile and Coriander essential oils. To bring out the freshness, I added Lime and a smidge of Palmarosa. Then, for the floral component I included Ylang Ylang, an oil I always find to be very uplifting.
This soap needed to have some healing elements to it as well, because gardener's hands get roughed up in the soil with hard work. For the lye solution I used a tea of Nettle and Calendula. Nettle for its ability to heal itchy and inflamed skin, and Calendula for its antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial properties that might make it useful in healing wounds, and soothing eczema.
The oils used in making soap vary greatly. What you choose to use in the soap will determine how well it cleans, how creamy the lather is and how big the bubbles are. Some oils like coconut oiI can be very drying if used alone. A combination of high quality luxurious oils was a must for this one. I decided on oils that were fresh and easy to come by. Homegrown Olive oil and locally sourced grass fed tallow feature in most of my soaps, so these were an easy choice. Coco butter has moisturizing elements as does Castor oil, which also imparts a rich and creamy lather. Grapeseed oil was added for moisture retention properties too as well as its anti-inflamitory properties. And lastly I chose Sweet Almond oil for its ability to produce a rich conditioning lather, perfect for soothing dry, flaky and irritated skin.
Still with me? Lets finish up with the process.
I made one batch combining the oils and the lye tea. Dividing into three containers, I added the three colors to the soaps: a dark charcoal, a rich purple and a deep green. These were created using varios micas, clays, charcoal and spirulina powder. These little beauties were then topped with all the good things to make it lovely and add some texture. These turned out so beautifully, and came together nicely with my hand painted labels, on flower seed embeded paper.
Do you garden? Do you know someone who does? You will find Olive Street Mercantile's Gardener's Hand Soap on my website or at Floranthropist Market in Redding, CA.