"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
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.
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.
Daughter can`t get to job and assistant stuck on bus for two hours. Poor show, striking Tube people and your big brother boss B.Crow last seen sunning hairy belly on Rio Beach. But this, and ongoing flood/mud/rain/wind/gloom story brightened by lone survivor of my roses, a brilliant John Clare bloom. Also, cheering thoughts of the toasted pistachio gorgonzola tagliatelle taste sensation at Zucca a few weeks ago and, look here, chocolate brownies baked by middle daughter for her younger sister`s` birthday tomorrow. (From Felicity Cloak`s Perfect, and they do taste, just that).
Inspired by a yellow Habitat chair on a shoot a couple of months ago , I thought you`d like to see my paint update on a chipped and worn chair in my office. Off I go to the paint shop to see if I can recreate the same lime green/acid yellow colour that reminds me of all things springlike e.g see the angelica flower head I shot in an Algarve meadow last year. I pick `Tarragon Glory` from Dulux and it works well. I cheated and bought quick drying emulsion which, of course won`t wear as well as an oil based eggshell, but I do rather prefer matt painted finishes all round.
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.