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September garden notebook
16 September 2019

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.


Tags: september, garden, londonretreat, simplegarden, pink, roses, verbena, apples

April garden
29 April 2019

Tap tapping at the key board has a feel of the siesta hour, window blind not pulled completely shut allowing a sliver of sunlight to burst through the darkened inte rior. The mind wanders up here but then flying is mind bending, the turbine hum reality of being 12,500 metres somewhere over Iran, looking down on countries of puffy meringue clouds. 500 km per hour for almost a day, en route to Melbourne via a two hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur. A second visit to check out the down under life of my almost Melburnian son.

My travels are all happening at once it seems. Arriving late home last night from Easter in Olhao (feasts of grilled fish and chocolate eggs) I was up at dawn to re-pack and see what had been going on in the garden: an explosion of blossom and pink tulips and everything infused with spring fever. Have the slugs decimated the young sweet peas in my absence? Yes, they’ve had a damn good try but most seedlings are pushing on upwards, in little spurts of green curling around the hazel peasticks. There are instructions (daughters are minding the fort) for the tops to be pinched out from time to time to encourage stronger growth and more flowering.

Too much in a rush to get to Heathrow on time to identity all the tulips, apart from the obvious raspberry ripple markings of Rems Favourite. I know that I planted 80 Violet Beauty, 50 Bleu Amiable , 50 Jackpot and 50 Blue Heron. As I’ve explained before. I don’t lift the oldtimer tulips- partly laziness but also because those that do come up again are a bonus, like fluttery eldery aunts to the generation of bright young things planted the previous autumn,

Expectation versus reality is the downfall of over optimistic gardeners (most of us) and it is what can make one want to give up when an event such as cherished box hedging is annihilated by box blight almost overnight. Yes, it happened to mine last summer. So I have been guarded in my anticipation for the apple tree buds. But there was no frost or fierce storm. The apple tree has burst forth in a vsion of Van Gogh’s French orchards in spring , a delicate fluff of petals in white and pink. Looks like we’re going to get a big crop of apples this year – cautiously ’maybe’ of course.

Most lawns have been silenced by the regime of a lawnmover says Alys Fowler in the Guardian and reflects on Margaret Renkl who recently made the case for neglecting lawns in the New York Times. The scientific thinking is that scorched by weed and moss killers lawns are drained of their bio diversity.

I mow some of the grass , but don’t use chemicals, and keep it rough around the apple tree, a little bit of wildflower meadow, already with spring dandelions, bluebells, and forget me knots and food for bees and other insects

So goodbye fresh buds and petals, it’s been all too fleeting, and hello to the falling leaves of an Australian autumn….

Tags: springgarden, tulips, blossom, pink, ecogarden, londonreatreat, countryinthecity, simplegarden, outdoors,

The tulip portraits
22 April 2016

The tulips are giving a good show. Somehow they  have escaped the gnashing snails that slithered in with  the winter wet. Have got a little confused with the varieties as surprisingly I`m getting some re-shows from last year, and even the year before, I think. I know, because there are a few violent red imposters  which I swear I never ordered in the first place, but  which have somehow bedded down confidently  with at least two seasons of  unwelcome visits. Anyway I`m not complaining about the other pink ones that have come back, and am especially pleased with the one or two frilly `black`  parrots` that have popped up.
 My overall  tulip  favourite is  the raspberry ripple/beetroot coloured `triumph` variety (see above)  - like something from an old Dutch master still life.

Tags: tulips, pink, spring, garden,

New year, new plans
15 January 2016

I fly south to Olhao and the glorious vegetable colours and textures of the Saturday market. Beans pods flecked with pink like a painter`s abstract  are a joy to look at let alone eat .

 More building is in progress at the house to open up the living/ eating space. I am moving a bathroom to what I call the monk`s cell, a poky inner room with a glass brick in the ceiling as the only light source; a not altogether unreasonable Olhao detail, as it is the coolest room in summer and warmest in winter. The new L shaped space has an open hatch to the kitchen. We couldn`t knock all the way through because the giant chimney on the roof above  would have no support, and I didn`t want to lose this traditional and  distinctive Algarve feature. I am looking forward to the delivery of blue and white  floor  tiles, in a simple checked pattern that are being made in the traditional way by Artevida  near Lisbon.

Tags: winter, olhao, simple, interiors. decoration, pink, tiles

A christmas rose
15 December 2015

 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!

Tags: christmas, roses, pink, winter, bulbs, garden

More of my pink passions
03 May 2015

Last week while I was feeling the breeze in  Barbados  and reconnecting with  long lost Bajan Cumberbatches  (an extraordinary story of which I will write later ) the garden was busily bursting forth in an explosion of tulip colours.  On the plane home, I was yearning for the Bajan sea colours which are of unspeakable beauty: gazing from the verandah each day at a glassy expanse of  dark blues  on the horizon,  then ultramarine, and in the shallows, luminous turquoise flecked with white froth.  But  after  battling  against the  early morning commuter flow at Clapham Junction and dragging  my  wheelie bag up  and down the hill,  my mood  lifted as soon as I saw the floral  beauty by my very own back door .

NB  I planted the bulbs randomly and so not quite sure what is what, but know that that the varieties include: Lilac Perfection, Violet beauty, Fringed fancy frills,  Lily flowering China Pink, Triumph ( the white and beetroot coloured ones) and blue parrot tulips, from Dejager
Crocus and Rose Cottage .

Tags: spring, tulips, garden, simple, pink,

Fuschia pink birthday
19 February 2015

I still use the Elna  sewing machine my parents gave me for my 21st birthday many moons ago. And now my own daughter is 21,  it feels good to   run up a birthday cushion.  I use remnants of vibrant fuschia pink cotton velvet by Manuel Canovas   left over from a shoot. This should  make a glamorous shot of colour in Gracie`s attic student house bedroom, I think. My skills at embroidery are wanting, but I can do simple running stitch  to make a  personalised label.  And it`s good to know that I`m passing on the sewing bug because her friends have  clubbed together to give her a sewing machine, too.

And as with every birthday in our household there`s chocolate cake . NB  21  Candles were lit  and blown out later.

Tags: home cooking, pink, spring, homesewing,

Pure colour 2015
06 January 2015

Pure Style colours 2015 via a  day glow yellow t shirt  and pink string from my present pile. You`ll see more inspiration  when my new Colour book comes out in April!

Frosted rose bud  is almost the very very last one before I take the secateurs and prune the rose bushes in time  for spring.

All the way from the balmy fields of the Scilly Isles : scented narcissi arrive packed in folds of tissue paper .

Lime green  paperwhite bulb shoots and moss bedding make me feel that there`s life and vibrancy even in early January grey gloom

There`s the promise of more pink scented  blousy rose blooms with 2  St Swithins  climbers  that I will train up the metal arches in the garden..

Tags: winter, colour, pink, yellow, garden, roses,

In the pink
17 March 2014

This is a  brief  Pure Style update as  much sorting and clearing for  new bathroom in the attic. And I`ve been weed bashing  outside for many a happy hour in the soft bird twittering spring air. 

Colour combination of the  week is a bedside  gorgeous pink rose left over from shoot in a turquoise coffee cup.
 And look, more fabulous  pink in a floaty wrap around dream skirt made for me from birthday present fabric by Tessa Brown.

Daughter, Georgie is taking over the kitchen in a very pleasing way with  delicacies like this Paul Young sea salt chocolate and pecan tart. A comforting slice or two much needed after car break down on the M3 and subsequent lightening of purse .

Tags: Pink, spring, home cooking, chocolate

Hearts and colour
14 February 2014

I am still  married to my rubber boots  even though the sun is spilling through the windows on a rare dry  break in the deluge.
Cat and dog laid out in the warming rays as they spread across the newly made bed and decorate it with the finest of cat  and dog  fur.
After my rant last week, I must say that the upsides of shoots outweigh the occasional down moments.  This week we feasted on  leftovers: coffee and walnut cake.etc.,  made by a young, and starting out cook Charlotte Gardelis, who  expertly fed and watered the team in the main shoot space.

Munching the last slice of  cake and  reading Vogue, I see that my investment in  a lightweight mint coloured  puffa from Uniclo has been given the fashion bible`s stamp of approval, too.  I`m not a puffa person but this is a great colour to go with my pink bits   and is really  warm which  is what really counts.

Dodged  the showers  and tube strike to see  Beckett`s  Happy Days at the Young Vic. It  wasn`t the most uplifting play to go to with a young person at the start of life and full of fluttery hopes, but Juliet Stephenson `s  Winnie showed the female capacity for  looking on the bright side when it isn`t ,and she has great hand movements.

  Happier days, are spent fielding packets of lovely fabric samples, that drop through the letter box for  the new book I`m working on. My heart sings when I come across colours in  embroidery like this from Pierre Frey , above.  Must tell you too that I`m pleased my borders are part of the collection curated by Silvanna de Soissons in her new foodie bugle online shop.

 Days getting a little longer... the garden is beginning to beckon for spring. I am looking forward to replacing worn out and wind damaged willow fences at the  bottom of the garden with  3 freshly woven hazel ones that arrived by courier yesterday.

Tags: pink, valentine, cake, home cooking ,

Early morning garden
14 June 2013

There`s so little show of summer,  I`m feeding you  some  visual energy  with these  garden-in-the-early-morning -sunshine snaps.

 7am , camera in hand: My feet  bare on cool brick and the  sweet grass smell give me that  country in the city feeling.   I am accompanied by the cat, who  pads the  frothy chive edged paths  swishing her tail contentedly, caught in the  shafts of light  it looks  like  liquid chocolate flecked with gold.

Heavenly  allium "Gladiator` , a heavenly pit stop for bees.

 I like to think about  morning tulip petals  and shimmering green  lavender  rather than breakfast radio gripes  and  bumper to queues on the South Circular. See below:

Tags: garden, summer, pink, alliums,

Garden moods
31 May 2013

My garden has moods and textures that change with the time of day, the quality of light, and whatever the  elements are supplying.
On a late afternoon in May the garden is a visual intoxication of light and shade: low long beams  track the brilliance of the tulips, the green gloss finish of the grass, and the bees that dangle and dodge on the highways of rays.

Like a sleek well fed cat sprawling  in the sun, the garden seems to exude a kind of contentment which washes over me as I weed, plant or sit by the shed thinking  about nothing in particular.

Late afternoon  tulips in the sunshine curl and unfurl  in a siesta of translucent languorous petals.

The alliums shimmer and fizz in purple brilliance,  edible  pompoms for feasting bees

I want to eat it up, the deliciousness of the garden;  it primes the appetite for taste and smell for the visual and the sensual.  This is the time of day to sit under the blossom of the apple tree in the dappled shade and  eat meringues, cream and raspberries.

NB the wallflowers - especially the lipstick pink ones, see below - are spectacular this spring!

  Garden Mood 11
 On the other hand, or perhaps I should say something more garden-like like spade, or trowel,  the dullest no-show-of -sun-day, gives the garden  a rather wonderful saturated matt quality, like a fabric or a Hockney landscape.  And all  the  colours  and textures of leaves and petals seem to advance and intensify  against the grey canvas of sky,  see pictures  below


  Beetroot ripples and stripes of  a `Triumph` tulip,  below

Silvery green grey Globe artichoke foliage is on my  list to become a Pure Style paint colour

  Over the last day or so  my moveable feast of a garden is more a green and purple scene  of alliums, nodding and swaying in the breeze as the remaining tulips wither and shrivel .

A grey day, but  the rich colour  of Mr Campbell`s bluebells almost sings in contrast.

NB Mr Cambell`s bluebells are the descendants of those that were  flowering  here in the garden when  the previous owners Bernard, and his parents did all the things that people did  before technology, like taking  afternoon tea in the shed,  or sitting  in deckchairs in  Flannels waiting for Cook to ring the bell for luncheon.

Tags: Pink, garden, spring, colour

Tiip toe through the tulips
13 May 2013

Took these pictures a week ago, and didn`t want to leave it too long before I uploaded to show you all how exuberant  the tulip show has been this year. The combination of cold and rain this winter seems to have encouraged particularly lush grown in all areas of the spring garden: the bluebells are bluer and the forget -me- nots  more  luminous and  pale blue porcelain-like than ever.

I had  moments of heart in mouth when a shoot came and the child models used the tulip patch as a football pitch. Only lost three specimens  (see salvaged Match Point tulip example above) but it`s an  aspects of house hiring  that brings out the rant in me. 

  There`s the excitement of the apple tree coming into blossom at least a month late, but oh so worth it for the froth of white and pink petals which may be  a harbinger of plump golden apples if frost stays away. 

Writing now from Olhao where the final whitewashing, brushing up and dusting down of the house is in progress. Really pleased with a junk bench  stained in glum brown varnish  that after  sanding and painting white  reveals its  good looks. That`s the fun of  tracking down old junk  of trying to visualise its potential. Heading home tomorrow  and hoping that  weeds and snails have not taken over.

Tags: spring, tulips, flowerpower, pink, colour


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