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september blog
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.

Tags: september, garden, sunflowers, roses, puglia, olhao, painting,

Summer garden
10 July 2020

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.....

Tags: summer, basil, roses, runnerbeans, garden,

May blog
28 May 2020

 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.

20th May

Constance Spry rose

15th may

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

14th may
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.

14th May

 With the dying back of the tulips,  the alliums now provide more rich  purple  garden colour.

5th May
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.


7th May
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.

4th May
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.

Tags: tulips, springgarden, lockdowngarden, covid, roses, wildflowers, butterflycakes,

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

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

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,

The colours of autumn
06 November 2014

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?

You have 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. 

Tags: autumn, PureColour, frost, roses, lido, swimmming, garden,

A rose, cake and colour
05 February 2014

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.

Tags: roses, , winter, paint, spring, yellow , home cooking

Things I Like this week
18 October 2013

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

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!

Tags: blankets colour texture roses

Summer cool
03 August 2013

  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.


Tags: summer, garden, roses, floral fabrics,


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