"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
15 September 2020
Despite the overall greenness of the garden exuberant splashes of colour continue to blaze in a mini summer heat wave: sunflowers grown from seed given to me by my eldest daughter`s partner; pink and white rose blooms : John Clare, St Swithins, Gertrude Jekyll, Winchester Cathedral, Ice Berg.There are even a few new flowers on north facing white tissue paper coloured Madame Alfred Carriere.
I gather armfuls of apples, that have ripened and swelled in the two weeks since I departed for ,and have just returned from, Olhao (Missing new quarantine by 36 hours).
There is an apple crumble coming on in my cooking thoughts and more apple and ginger puddings. For Emma`s Birthday I tie up the last zinnias some rose buds, and creamy white dahlias from the pot Jane gave me. I must say this nursery grown plant, has delivered an endless show of blooms since the middle of July... and of course, there has not been a whiff of a slug or snail.
Sad to hear of Terence Conran`s death, a design hero who has hugely influenced my love for simple practical design and the importance of everyday things. Enticingly modern and full of gorgeous ideas the Conran Shop was a magnet for us stylists. After Conran had lost the business in 1990 I styled and art directed two Habitat catalogues but the ethos and pieces I was given to work with were diminished compared with the simple and appealing elements of early Habitat . Conran`s influence also seems a very long way from many current ideas as in the surfeit of Central London glass tower developments which feature showoff and over sized lumps of furniture, awkard angles, and, my personal bugbear, mega kitchen islands some it seems with the dimensions of aircraft carrier landing strips. Timely perhaps to revisit Conran`s House Book series.
Even thought the Zinnias are fading some stems continue to push up a few new vibrant blooms . Just think all of these from a sprinkling of seeds back in early summer. These and more garden thoughts are percolating whilst I sit at my desk and I also write about autumn for my forthcomng book....Can`t wait to tell you more about it!!!.
This is what I mean about the overall greenness of the garden on my return from Olhao: such sweet grass scents and the rhubarb is rampant, both signs of recent rain..The beans are all over on the plant in the foreground but there are runner beans feasts (steamed with garlic and butter ) ahead with the scarlet flowers and emerging pods on the specimen in the background: one of the only two of 25 seedlings that made it to this stage. Survival of the fittest?
Olhao in early September is hot, still and pleasingly less crowded. The beach on Armona calls and I sit under the umbrella playing with brushes and acrylics, trying to make sense of the coastal textures and colours.
The Saturday market is suffused with oranges and reds: thick pumpkin wedges, glossy pomegranates and Rosa tomatoes the size of small footballs.
31 August Before my Olhao departure I pick a colanderof runners, with instructions for younger daughter to enjoy. The verdict was mainly good, although there was some string and toughness..
Auguse 2nd Our Puglian visit combines impossibly beautiful scenes of olive groves, sparkling sea, gelato and gelato coloured architecture. I inhale heady cologne scents wafting from beyond the thick rope curtain at the barber`s in Carpagano and get hooked on espressino freddo con panna - basically an intense cold coffee kick with cream in a glass.
Summer dried grasses in the countryside and extraordinary cactus garden in town
Pool at Pasulo by me
Evening light -
It smells heavenly beyond .....
lst August I say goodbye to the garden en route to Puglia at the heel of ( Southern )Italy. Friends have moved in to dog sit the elderly one who will turn 16 in September.
Zinnias in full bloom: the zinc bucket will later make way for the `thalia` narcissi bulbs, which have been drying in the shed. Recycle recycle.. is all part of the garden mood and adds to why gardening feels so productive and nourishing
21st July Birthday dahlias from Jane in a pot... a great way to have cut flowers on tap.
Dank , grey and very English summery it is. The garden is running wild but in the way that I like it to and the air is sweet with grass , jasmine and honeysuckle scents. Of course the roses are largely over such an intensive performance each season but not long enough for me. However Grace rose, above, continues with sunset orange blooms, which take on a pink hue as they mature.
The only thing really missing in my life at the moment are lido swims oh for the cool clear water and chance to clear the mind and energise the body. Have just heard Brockwell lido might be back in operation next week....and so my swimming togs are at the ready.
This is just a quick note this month because I`m writing my book and even though the garden is its focus... the blog requires different brain operations (fiddly picture uploading for example)and my sexagenerian one is pretty much stretched to the limit.
Very pleased with the `mediterranean medley` basil by Unwin seeds....such a good idea to have a variety of aromatic leaves.
I painted a box of eggs produced by next door`s bantams.....
Most of my beans have been eaten by the snails and slugs, but here`s a valiant survivor with scarlet buds, and promise of some Runners after all.
Earlier in June I planted a tin bath with Zinnias, and you can see they`re doing well. In my next post I hope to show them flowering in flamboyant oranges and pinks.
The roses were in their prime at the beginning of June, and none more so than blousy and cabbagy Constance Spry.....
After over nine weeks of Lockdown (the last three with more relaxed rules) time merges from one day to the next in a kind of calender limbo. It must be Thursday because I have Zoom pilates. The weather has been sublime for May and the garden is blooming in a way that it hasn`t before, as if nature is putting up an extra show of defiance against Covid . I notice the garden and its comings and goings so much more being home most of the time apart from excursions to the DIY shop, and a bike ride on my newly acquired sit up and beg Orbea bike - a Spanish company and pleasingly made in Portugal. The roses are magnificently cabbagy pink and scented including the newish Ancient Mariner standard ,see above, which is in its second year here, and has burst forth with many flopping blooms, that pale to vintage pink tones like faded roses on a fifties frock. Dear Constance Spry and Gertrude Jekyll are surpassing themselves on both fences and St.Swithins` heady scented pink whorls are simply fabulous climbing up above the metal arch. With little rain to speak of, the slug and snail threat is low and for the first summer in years I think my beans are going to do good... are springing up in their biodegradble peat pots like gangly youths straining to leave lockdown.
Seen here are Dwarf beans, at the other end of tray there are Runners.
Constance Spry rose
Peony : Luscious and deep fuschia pink. A wonderful memory of my mum who grew the original plant in her Wandsworth garden. After she died in 1999 I divided it and brought it home to the garden.
St.Swithins... not unlike Constance above you might think, but its all in the detail, and once close up the scent is much more subtle, the petals paler and the general structure, looser
Exciting to think of what lies in the future for these little pots of compost with bean seeds tucked up inside waiting to germinate. A few sturdy shoots are poking up and breaking free.
With the dying back of the tulips, the alliums now provide more rich purple garden colour.
The tulips are on the wane but the first swifts are skywheeling towards summer. `They`ve made it again, which means the worlds`s still working ` Ted Hughes. Recycled glass jars are my tulipieres for these single stemmed beauties, and make a few go a long way.
Spring brings so many pretty herbs and wild flowers. ... Here I`m with the wild bunch: comfrey, commonbugloss, lemon balm and a rhubarb leaf, which all add to the wild shaggy look of the garden and are a simple look inside where I put them in a vase on the table.
Over the weekend I made butterfly cakes and a birthday card for close gardening nut friend. I am most industrious when no parties on the horizon. The wire rack is another of my mum`s tools - another old friend for me in the kitchen. I even crystallised the lilac flowers.. quite easy and sweet lilac flavour. Dip flowers in egg white , dip in caster sugar using tweezers, dry on baking paper for up to 36
hours . You can find the cake recipe on Instagram @janecumberbatch ... From my book Pure Style Recipes for Everyday/Pavilion.
Gertrude Jekyll`s brilliant pink petals are having a second blooming - welcome colour in the the end of summer garden . There might be less of the brilliant pink and purple swathes of roses and alliums that bathed the garden in loveliness throughout May and June, but in the spirit of less is more I especially appreciate what is on offer as a visual feast
My Verbena is extraordinary , always , going from tiddly 5cm green shoots somewhere back in the spring to 2 metre tall living artworks almost of purple florets atop delicate gangly stems which look exceptionally pretty and other worldy in early morning sunshine.
The tomatoes are a bit of a cheat really, because they arrived in a pot with a view to planting out and to thus increasing
their flowering and fruiting. Challenged however by indoor domestic
piles and summer lethargy of course the tomato pot didn`t make
it to the enriching ground. Never mind it has been cheering to chart
the green to yellow to red ripening of the lucky few specimens over
the last week or so.
There are also the classic fruits of the English season to enjoy and
this year the apple tree is more laden than I`ve ever seen it. In fact
the fruit tree scene is bounteous , spectacular and spilling all over
the gardens of London: golden pears, juicy Victoria plums, red dessert
apples, mulberries (I even made some jam from a local tree in the park)
and crab apples , too. I think it has something to do with the fact that
were no significant frosts and spring was a warm one... as they are all becoming it seems. This is in
contrast to 2018 when the the icy `Beast from the East, knocked nascent
buds for six and drastically cut back fruit production. That`s not to
say that I wasn`t able to enjoy some apple cakes and puddings from our
tree`s limited yield.
I`ve been having a heady experience cutting back the lavender and will make some scented bags for my drawers.
Against the drab died-back look of winter the last few roses (see here, a John Clare specimen) decorate the garden in defiant shots of frivolous summer pink. I cut some blooms for the table to join candles and a bowl of aromatic clementines in a simple festive still life.
In the season for boxes of delights, I find particular pleasure in unpacking after a year`s rest in the attic irisdescent baubles and a peg doll fairy for the tree. And, there is all the hope and spring potential in the tulip and allium bulbs. Arriving in boxes by mail order, they are tucked amongst newspaper bedding, in net sacks and brown paper bags with special holes to keep the bulbs cool and dry. It is worth noting that most bulbs should be planted at a depth that allows twice their own height of soil above them. Shallower planting is ok but the bulbs are unlikely to perform well after their first year, and there is the added danger of being easier to be scavenged by squirrels. I have just finished planting about 300 pink tulips (including Blue Heron and Recreado) purple giant fluffy alliums (Gladiator and Globemaster). Do hope the rain and sogginess will dry up for spring or I fear the consequent snail plague will be not only a threat to the young foliage but an unwelcome preoccupation.
Hooray, the last bulb is in. Time for a warm up by the fire!
I understand how it is easy to fall into a depression after the completion of an intensive project(school exams the exception). It`s all over, what to do next? I delivered my Pure Colour book a few weeks ago and felt stunned for a few days. But as someone who is always keen to curl up with a glass of wine and a good read, or catch up on films and generally reward myself with art, food and natural beauty, I have avoided a pit of despondency. Rather there is a feeling of relief, almost disbelief that I got to the finishing line and everything is in the bag.
The Indian summer autumn this year is as vivid as the hyper-coloured dreams I experienced during the putting together of the book A kind of affirmation that there is brilliance and beauty in the everyday, and how we need look no further than a view from the window to see a spectacular blue sky or trees with fluttering leaves in reds and pinks and golds.
On Halloween I ditched the pumpkins and eerie candlight for a swim at the Lido. Sparkling blue water (tres bracing I must admit) and sunbathing in 21C made it seem more Miami than Brixton beach. Mixed muddly climate change conditions or typical unpredictable English island weather?
got to see Mr Turner, funny, enlightening and as (almost) visually beautiful as the paintings at The late Turner exhibition at the Tate. I also recommend the dancing and rhythms in Northern Soul,
Nature is so much more interesting than reading that the John Lewis Christmas ad is out. This morning it was the first frost and tonight it will be full moon. First thing I pull on a sweater over my nightie and go out into the garden all autumn damp and with an earthy country smell to snap the frosted leaves and jam jar night lights on the table by the shed.
More local finds at Herne Hill market on Sunday: hand dyed green vintage Witney blanket from a stall laden with blankets and throws (every other week )in great colours; a flagon of cider delicious. aromatic and alcoholic from Core Fruits 01227 730589 to go with a brace of pheasants I roasted from the next door but one stall; just round the corner is Lowie, with great handknits and vintage rails amused to see Lady Di -style frilled high - neck Laura Ashley frocks
Cheered by vibrant pink, whether its lipstick or roses (see the last of the John Clares in the garden ) I like the idea that warm coats in pink sorbet colours are fashion themes this winter. Which reminds me, you should go to Vanessa de Lisle`s blog for some of the best fashion wisdom in the business.
It`s good to see the Pure Style borders featured in this month`s copy of the World of Interiors
Simple idea: nature lamps from Dan, who`s looking for stockists. Contact Danartland@yahoo.co.uk.
Simple pleasures: the dentist`s quinces look so beautiful I don`t want to cook them. And I`m reading Rakesh Sarin and Manel Baucells where the `fundamental question ` of wellbeing is happiness equals reality minus expectations. Cool!
We are in summer, real summer (last one was 2006) with the almost forgotten sensations of
sticky heat on skin, cooling swims at the Lido and the garden smelling
more sweet and meadow-like as the mercury rises. The heat seals the season`s scents: ziplocked sweat ,rose petals ,hot pavements, bbq sausages and factor 30. I keep cool and fragrant with a squirt of cologne and and eat ice cream. My sister piles a carton high with blackcurrants from her garden which I simmer in sugar and water, cool whisk into whipped double cream and freeze.
A friend emailed: "George and I made your lemon ice cream a few days ago -which was simply sublime especially eaten before it had set` See said ice cream from the summer section of my book Pure Style Recipes for Everyday
What a treat to duck under the shade of the apple tree and read the 2nd issue of The Foodie Bugle mag. It is like a well stocked larder of delicious information and visual inspiration. Immediately drawn of course to the piece entitled `The Taste of Portugal`"
The house is a busy shoot destination this summer, and props and crew can spill over into the garden without the threat of a drop of rain.
Just as well, when Coca Cola turn up with
plus 30 individuals, fridges , ovens, turkeys and enough Coke to keep the area`s dentists in work for years. The theme is Coke and food, and involves a Coca cola `family` most of whom look like you and me, except for a brooding model hunk who spreads across the doorstep in between takes like a shaggy dog .
Just as it`s so good to waft about in summer frocks and bare legs, the
hot weather gives me so much pleasure on the housewifely front. When
the washing dries warm and toasty in the space of an hour I feel a
flush of domestic euphoria. Similarly I`ve been itching to give the rush mats a good scrub and here I am, hosing them down with gusto.
Pink poppies are welcome garden invaders maybe encouraged by the sun because they didn`t appear last year.
The sprinkler and he hissing of summer lawns couldn`t be more suburban and cool.
Want to feel cool and floaty? invest in a hippy cotton nightie from Denny Andrews
Cool sea blue ceramics by Sue Binns are summer essentials. (Green string, an Olaho hardware shop stalple)
Pink white, purple and green , the cool colours of summer in a jug of flowers on my table.