"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
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….
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.
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 .
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 .
The week in December that I spent almost double pushing several hundred tulips and alliums far into the ground to prevent squirrel digging was all so worth it. Each morning, coffee in hand, I`m outside inspecting the day`s new blooms. The tulips are first , and I can almost see them growing as vivid pink and raspberry rippled flower cups unfold in the sun on smooth lime green elegant stems .
Spring is springing and the first tulips are blasting colour in the garden. The snail and slugs are in retreat and all is well.
Party of the year in Battersea Park for Bertie`s sweet 16 walk and birthday tea.
Everyone was there. Regrets were sent from Khan who was sad because the vet said he must rest his leg. He sent love. The weather was perfect. There was much frolicking and ball playing. For the most part the guests behaved impeccably, apart from Rosie who slurped melting ice from the champagne bucket and Lola the black pug who ate too much birthday cake and delivered it back on the rug. The party boy managed to stay the course and tottered home happily across the grass as the sun dipped beneath the great chimneys of Battersea Power Station .
Much to be inspired by in the coming season of blossom and light evenings. I have my eyes on Gallery Libby sellers for eye provoking design in a curated environment; Ben and Winifred Nicholson`s very domestic take on early 20C art and life at Kettles Yard ; creamy Welsh goats` cheese logs from Mootown sold at Sunday market in Herne Hill; and my first bath in the new attic bathroom which will be opened for shoots as soon as the last lick of paint has dried.
Here are pictures of the latest blasts of colour in my garden, shot this morning soon after the fairy mist had lifted and the sun had broken through.
Leaves are strewn like golden paper plates over the garden. Summer`s die back is a challenge and I need to chop, weed and clear to make space for bulb planting. Past four pm and the day is closed and so it is easy to ignore the untidy goings on in the garden.
I have a gardener friend, Simon ,who says Jane your task is to get all those beds weeded, and then the job`s done. So I take his advice and do it . He does the heavy stuff and is ace at pruning and keeping many other local flowering spots neat and under control.
You know my Label hate, but I need a new pair of wellies and the pigeon grey Hunters at TKMaxx are cheapish at £40.00 (they`re seconds ) compared to £79 up the road at Morleys. I don`t even feel comfortable at spending this on a boring pair of rubber boots, but I have to say they fit like a glove and as with my favourite rake and spade, it`s good to have practical functional items with which to garden. I suppose I`ll be hiding them from the festival goer next summer.
Away from the screen, solicitor`s letters , leaking sink pipe, and the general impermanence of things, I feel contentment digging snug earth beds for the alliums, and tulips. The afternoon is quiet , blue wash sky going into pink and a blackbird on the fence.
Cradling each bulb ,laying it down in its nest bed I think optimistic pleasing thoughts. I think about the garden in spring decorated with fluffy allium balls, a sea of purple and pink.. I think of the summer grass warm and herby and the sun setting behind the apple tree
The whole thing of putting Christmas together is great, I love to do it for my family but what I do rage over is the commercial relentlessness which began somewhere back in September with cut price chocolate snowmen on sale at the Co-op. Out in the garden there`s none of that and I am grateful to all the growing things for that
Good things are also cooking in the kitchen to keep the household stoked up because I`m being frugal with heating. My daughter and I went went on a morning`s quest for pigs trotters, ingredients for pork pies. Herne Hill market saved the day when there wasn`t a pigs trotter to be had between Pecham and Streatham. She worked from the recipe in Pie a brilliant book, and no doubt why said pies won lst prize at the classroom staff bake off. I`ve been having fun with mackerel fillets coated in oats and fried in a little olive oil great brain food tasty and economical . I also bought silvery and fresh wild sea bass to be baked with herbs`s from wonderful fishmonger,Pauline . Sadly she is moving on because greedy greedy shortsighted landlord wants to get fatter and fatter and lease to another betting shop or pawnbroker.
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.
The Japanese arrive as the cherry blossom froths in next door`s garden. It`s a shoot for Mrs Magazine Japan`s oldest womens` publication. I am Mrs Pure Style cooking with herbs from the garden and sharing my recipe tips with the enviably porcelain smooth face of Mrs Magazine, actress and singer, Miki Imai.
Some things are lost in translation, but east and west over tea and lavender shortbread have a mutual feeling for the simple and beautiful. Photographer Okemi Kurosaka neat and efficient as her glossy black fringe snaps until the shadows are long and we have picked the bones clean from very English spring lamb cutlets with rosemary and garlic.
Chive pesto also goes down well on my Japanese date: chop a handful of chives and process in the hand whizzer with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, grated Parmesan , salt and pepper.
Getting orders for the borders!!! and Press, too... Here`s the latest thumbs up from Living Etc who also feature them on the Editor`s front page of ` Inspiration`
Loading up Richard`s van for delivery to Olhao. I have my first holiday tenants soon, and want them to enjoy crisp sheets and soft pillows, floaty cotton awnings, and lanterns. Seems mad to to be sending mats, chairs, folding beer tables two thousand miles south when you think items as prosaic as these might be found locally. They can... and they can`t if you`re picky, like me and get get stuck on wanting what feels/looks right not what is simply available. Fussy yes, but would you want stacking plastic loungers at Pure Style Portugal? .
Not so much flat calm, but rippling : wavy black and white linen/cotton for another take on the stripe theme
Together with the unfurling of the garden`s first tulip, I receive green fingered excitement from the forthcoming Chelsea Fringe alternative
garden festival. Masses of events: sign me up for a walk on
London`soldest nature trail at the Horniman museum and the drawing and
sketching classes on Hampstead Heath.
Lunch break. A gorgeous painterly arrangement of salads and salmon by location caterer, Laurence Mash has just landed on my desk. The crew downstairs is enjoying the tastiest and most visually appealing shoot grub that has appeared in my kitchen for a very long time.