Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Rose Lady of Cannelton, Indiana

My Gramma was known as "The Rose Lady". When she passed away 10 years ago, she had over 160 rose bushes in her yard. She lived in a little, tiny town in Indiana called Cannelton. It is just outside of another little town, Tell City. I spent several years living in Tell City as a child when my Dad was overseas. He moved us to Tell City so Gramma and Grandaddy could help Mom out during Dad's tour of duty overseas.

I loved Gramma's rose garden - she had a huge garden at the back of her house with row after row of roses - they also lined all of her walkways. She had every color imaginable and such a variety of scents - vanilla, citrus, musky, rosey, .......delightful. I can remember following Grandaddy through the narrow rows while he pruned and only real gardening experience that I can remember as a child. I also remember the ugly welts they would leave if I weren't careful to obey Grandaddy and "stay on the path".

They called Gramma "The Rose Lady" because she gave them all away. She gave them to hospitals, churches, neighbors, friends and strangers....for funerals, weddings, illnesses, birthdays....any reason at all. Why, if you stopped to admire Gramma's roses, she'd have Grandaddy out there cutting you an armful before you could finish introducing yourself!

I remember one time when vandals went through her yard one night uprooting many of her beloved bushes....her community was outraged...newspaper articles were written...someone called Jackson & Perkins (one of Gramma's rose suppliers) and told them of the terrible deed - and they shipped out replacements at no charge....the bushes were planted and life in their little town settled down once again.

There was one strange thing about Gramma....Gramma NEVER cut a rose and brought it into her house...and I never understood that! When I became an adult and would go back to visit, I always cut a bouquet and brought it into my room...and Gramma thought that was really odd! They smelled so good - I just couldn't help myself.

I have loved the scent of roses ever since....seems like the roses of today don't least not those that you get from a florist. They are beautiful ya'll....but no scent at all.....somehow they don't seem like a rose without a without substance!

So, in honor of my Gramma, I wanted to make Rose Soap. Boy, oh boy, was I in for a rude awakening! Most of ya'll haven't had the need to price rose essential oil......but I did....almost $600 an ounce....yep! you read that right....$600!!! And the real kicker is that I would need 6 ounces of oil!! Since Oprah Winfrey is the only person who would be able to afford that soap...and since she and I are not exactly intimate friends....I needed to find an alternative.

Now, you can get a lovely bottle of rose "fragrance" oil for just a few dollars...but a fragrance oil is a chemica ya'll ....and this farm girl tries to avoid chemicals. So....what to do? Then I found out from a more experienced soapmaker that Egyptian rose geranium essential oil smelled just like, it was a little pricey but definitely workable!

So, in honor of Gramma....I am happy to introduce my Rose Geranium soap! I also swirled crushed organic rose petals into the soap....and I must say it is a heavenly smell! It takes me right back to the summers that I spent at Gramma's house...following Grandaddy around the narrow rows or enjoying their evening scent as it drifted into my room at night (no air conditioning back then!). It has a luxurious lather and has very quickly become one of my favorite soaps!

All in all, I think Gramma would be pleased.....

Of couse when you have roses they always seem to be linked to the little white flowers known as Baby's Breath....the perfect name for another new soap!

I have been making this soap for a long time but have never put it up on my website (and I can't answer why...just never enough time!). It is the purest, mildest soap...a true Spanish Castille. The only thing in this soap is olive oil. It is SO wonderful for the skin and so mild that it is the best soap for babies and their sensitive skin. It also works wonders for people suffering from eczema or psoriasis....and of course for those people who have allergies! This soap does not lather as much as my other soaps but you won't believe how it leaves your skin feeling!

I found that many people who make "castille" use oils in addition to olive (which immediately prevents it from being a true castille!) I have also seen people add essential oils or herbs or...gasp!....fragrance oils, which again means that it is not a true castille. I must admit, as an avid soapmaker, it is hard to refrain from "prettyin' it up" but I did so want to re-create that true Spanish Castille soap that I was able to control myself (just barely!).

I have quite a few new soaps that I am working on - several scents just for men (fishermen, hunters and more!) One for those avid outdoorsey people who hate bugs, one for pets, a new softer scent for gardeners and another herb infused healing soap for babies...Some of these have been requested by customers or friends and some just sound like fun! So stay tuned...I'll write about them here!

Oh, Oprah..... if you happen to be reading my blog...for a hefty downpayment I'll be glad to make you a batch of the real thing!


  1. I just started soapmaking a couple of months ago (that's how I found your blog), and came up with a rose soap using not just rose geranium, but also rose wax (which is a heavenly-smelling by-product of creating rose EO). You just melt it along with the oils. It's WONDERFUL, and is sure to remind you of your grandmother's garden ...

  2. Cheri, I need to get an order out to you SOON! I love the scent of rose geranium. It's warm and refreshing all at the same time. I had a rose geranium plant once upon a time that perfumed my entire kitchen. Have you considered doing a Bay Rum type fragrance for a man's soap? I just love that smell on my husband and the place I used to buy from no longer makes it. I love the name of Baby's Breath for the castile soap. Perfect!

  3. Cheri,
    The soaps look so beautiful in your pictures. I am sure they are just as lovely as all of your others. Great pictures!!


  4. Zia,
    I've never heard of it but you can bet I will be looking into it...thanks so much!

    Guess I need to find a plant for my kitchen window! I'll look into the Bay Rum thing...Thanks for the kind words!

    Thanks Patti!

    Hi Julie,
    Remind me to give you a bar when you come over :)

  5. We purchased some goat's milk soap for our youngest son, who has very dry skin. The castille soap sounds even better for him, though! I agree, it is a perfect name for that soap, and I love the photos! Very eye-catching.

  6. Michelle,
    Castille is very moisturizing...I also make a soap, filled with wonderful oils just for people with dry skin - it is Tangerine Moisurizer. It was initially made for my mom, who is 80, and suffers from dry skin year round. You can read about it on my website.


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