Far from a random coupling of two words or a pink hedge, the name Hedge Pink refers to the plant Saponaria officinalis. It’s not surprising that two lovers of flowers, running a botanically inspired business would choose a plant for their trading name. But we needed something more than an emblem, it had to reflect us and embody our aims.
Hedge Pink’s appeal, at face value, was a widespread, useful, accessible plant that was pretty, pink and scented. But it is also wild and needs only the poorest of soils, it sits tall (2ft) in pretty gesture but in the shadows and marginals of the man-made destruction. Beauty to be found in the liminal, by the quarries, on the roadsides, the railways and the refuse tips. Extremely robust, it forms a contradiction; a counterpoint to its prettiness and a cry out for attention.
The plant’s origins can be traced back to medieval Arabia, where it was used to treat ulcers and wounds, and to Rome where it was used to detox. William Baxter, the curator of the Oxford Botanical Gardens wrote about it in 1835 in “Phaenogamous Botany” or “Figures and Descriptions of British Flowering Plants”. In this book, alongside a hand engraved etching of Saponaria Officinalis there is a long list of sightings recorded by doctors and Vicars alike from Kent to Kinross. My ancestors,, a more humble lot, might have known it by one of the delightful and quirky common names; “Bouncing Bet” “Bruisewort” “Farewell Summer” “Fuller’s Herb” “Joe Run By The Street” “Dog’s Clove” “Old Maid’s Pink.” “Wild Sweet William”. None of which would make a good name for a shop! It was also known by the more explanatory “Soaproot”, “Crow soap” and “Soapweed . For us Hedge Pink was something that evoked a simpler way of life and connected us with the past. After all that is the lifeblood of all collectors, traders and enthusiasts of antiquities and vintage.
It is a herb by definition and the saponins in the plant’s leaves that makes a soap and coincidently the plant prefers the damp and best naturalises along riversides. Nature at its cleverest providing us with the clues and the solutions in one location. Today the gentle properties of the detergent make it a useful natural choice in textile preservation and is used in neuroscience clinical trials.
In horticulture it is rarely available, It makes a decent cutting garden plant flowering in July, August and September. It has five petals that are white, blush to pale pink arranged in panicles, similar to that of Sweet William hence the name “Wild Sweet William”. Within this genus are Pinks and Carnations and its preference for hedge explains the origin of the nickname. It dries well as a flower and will feature in our seasonal dried everlasting bouquets.
The story of our brand takes in botany, social history, herbs, medicine and textile preservation. A ‘rock chic’, health-giving, ‘pollinated by butterflies’ kinda plant suited to a brand that values beauty and usefulness.