Q&A: Dominique Del Col, botanical alchemist and creator of Wildwood herbal products
After nearly four years of running Rowan, a lovely apothecary and antiquities shop in the Beaches, Dominique Del Col decided to go back to her rural roots in the country. Femke talked to Del Col about her new focus on Wildwood — her collection of hand-crafted herbal potions.
Q: Why did you decide to close Rowan and leave the city?
A: The catalyst for change was our shop-crafted brand, Wildwood. As it continued to thrive and stretch its humble branches, expanding into new cities, shops and markets, we accepted that we must transition out of Toronto in order to support the needs of our growing brand. As we continued to gain speed in the past couple of years, our workspace within our shop began to run out of room for every jar, bottle, pot, pan, and packing supply, not to mention the abundance of herbs and flowers that have made their home in our studio pantry. With this expansion evolving over time, we concluded that our sweet little shop could no longer house our budding operations for Wildwood.
You’ve been working your plant magic for about a decade now. What new things have you discovered from your move?
Herbs and flowers grow abundantly here, untamed and organic. It has been such a divine pleasure to walk along the river with my grandmothers harvesting basket, which I inherited as a child, and gather small offerings of roots, petals and leaves. Taking each precious haul back to my studio, where I wrap the fresh bundles with twine and hang in the rafters to dry. The greatest discovery since we moved has simply been melting into the art of slow living, and foraging through the unknown wilds around us in search of botanical treasures native to our new community.
One thing we love about your collection is that it is so sensory. What’s your favourite scent?
We are deeply passionate about botanical function first, then creating an enchanting aroma, and using minimal essential oils in our products, preferring to slowly infuse our herbs and flowers using an eight-week solar method to extract the healing benefits and intoxicating natural scents. My favourite is a combination of warm and spicy toasted cardamom pods, blended with herbaceous and pungent wild mug wort leaf. I’m also a sucker for classic eucalyptus — adding a drop of Eucalyptus essential oil onto the floor of your shower is the easiest way to feel like you just stepped out of a Hamman steam bath!
The seasons affect which botanicals are available. How does this sync up with what we need to do to take care of ourselves?
Our bodies adapt fantastically to cosmic and seasonal fluctuation, but they also require different types of care in order to ensure a smooth transition. There are so many wonderful herbal options to nurture the body during these seasonal shifts, many of which can be utilized to help with the various concerns that the body may experience as Autumn turns to Winter, and Winter to Spring. We might need to focus on deeper hydration for the skin, or plant allies to boost mood and energy in the darkness of Wintertime, or cooling herbs and lighter plant-based oils for the skin in the Summertime.
Attuning yourself to the herbs and flowers of the season is a wonderful practice. The earth provides us with the botanical elements we need, just at the right time to embrace a change of season.