Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Glorious Gardenalia


Like many gardeners, I came to gardening late in life, after the passions for fashion, shoes, socialising and foreign cities had waned. Both my mother and my grandma had beautiful gardens but the plantswoman's gene seemed to skip over me. The closest I ever came to gardens in my twenties and thirties, working abroad as a journalist, was admiring Gucci's floral frocks.

Fast-forward a decade and how the earth turns. Not only have most of my friends become mad about everything botanic-y and begun ordering their Le Chameau boots (each one is handcrafted by a ‘maître bottier'; reportedly the Duchess of Cambridge is a fan), but I, too, have started to realise the sheer, Elysian joy of being in a garden. Suddenly, I'm obsessed with old roses, and the Diggers seed catalogues, which I've just discovered, have overtaken Cabana and Porter magazines in the weekend reading heirarchy. (Seed catalogues make you think that your garden will look like Mottisfont, above, but of course that never happens.)

The curious thing about gardens—the thing that nobody ever tells you—is that once you start, it becomes quietly addictive. An obsession, even. 

When I photographed Carolyne Roehm's garden a year or so ago for a future book (still in production), the most interesting thing wasn't her enormous picking garden and its elegant obelisks and wicker planters (see above) but her immaculate planting schemes on her potting shed desk—each flower image carefully cut out and pasted in a garden plan to show how they'd eventually look in the spring beds.

The attention to detail was astounding. It made my trug stuffed with random bulbs look like an amateurish mess.

And when I photographed designer Jeffrey Bilhuber's weekender in Oyster Bay, Long Island, for a design book, it was his stunning kitchen garden that made my day, rather than his beautiful, rather Gatsby-esque mansion. You can't go back to a mere vegie patch after wandering through Jeffrey's potager (Please forgive bad pic above as it's one of the off-cuts.)


After that, I began studying Gertrude Jekyll's garden plans at the Lindley Library in London, trawling Instagram for garden inspiration, and reading Russell Page, Claus Dalby, Anna Pavord, Monty DonDamon Young (above), even the eccentric but expert landscape designer Sir George Sitwell (a great character who tried to paint his cows in blue Chinese willow patterns because they looked better in the green landscapes. A fantastic bio of him is here. You'll adore him.)

Perhaps the biggest thing I learned—the thing I love most—is that gardening is good for the soul.  Winston Churchill (himself a keen gardener) once said that we shape our building and then they shape us but I suspect he was also referring to his beloved gardens. We try to create our green spaces by giving them form, depth, dignity and character, but in the end, I think it's our gardens that give those things to us.


For the past two months, I've been organising garden tours, not just for friends who requested personalised itineraries but also a small private group of people. (Note: The tour this year was a small private affair, but there may be professionally-run ones next year: please email me or see for details.) I have also seen gardens on my own; gardens that have been so beautiful they almost seemed painterly. Like a Pierre Auguste Renoir study. Others felt more 'real'—Dame Elizabeth Murdoch's garden, above, was surprisingly pragmatic. (For all the Murdoch money, she abhorred expensive beds and 'show-off' plants, such as Prunus Elvins, which I quite like and have in our garden but am clearly Doing The Wrong Thing.)

The language of gardens was very important to Dame Elizabeth and her gardeners still use her terms today, including "slips" (cuttings). The underside of a tree was called a "skirt", and while some skirts were "too lovely to hem", others faced a trim. "We need to trim some of the branches to show that tree's good legs" was her oft-said instruction.

"Language brings a garden to life," she used to say. "It creates characters within that garden. It gives a garden dignity and respect." Just as Churchill used to say.

This Friday, I am off to see yet more gardens, this time in England, that grand, green, gardening Mecca. After a week of business appointments in London, I'm off on a lovely, loose, so-casual-it's-not-even-really-planned garden tour of picking gardens, potagers and private idylls. (NB Will try and post pix of all the gardens seen, past and future, here, when time permits.)

As always, feel free to follow on Instagram here — 
or here (LINK).


London is exploding with gardenalia at the moment, as it does this time each year, with the Chelsea Flower Show, the Russell Page exhibition at the Garden Museum, Buckingham Palace's exhibition Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, above (link) and of course the Chelsea Fringe Festival, which gathers strength every year.

I've also secured, with much luck, entry to a few amazing, slightly secret, places, and will post about them so you, too, can try to snavel a visit on future trips.


High on the List of English Country Gardens To Visit This Year is Mapperton Garden in Dorset, which is where the new Carey Mulligan film Far from the Madding Crowd was filmed (released this month), based on Thomas Hardy's famous tale.

There's a helpful website here trailer and a trailer for the film herewith a haunting song sung by Mulligan with the ominous line—"Beware, beware keep your garden fair".

Oh yes, because we know what happens in Hardy tragedies.

Curiously, Thomas Hardy described Dorset and its landscapes as “partly real, partly dream”, although modern journalists have been more brutal—Bridport (now home to residents like Martin Clunes and Ben Pentreath — IG link here) has been called "Notting Hill on Sea" for its glamorous boutiques, restaurants and hotels such as the Pig on the Sea (which a friend tells me has its own kitchen garden, above, as glamorous hotels do).

Also on the Country Garden List is Iford, the garden created by my new gardening deity, Harold Ainsworth Peto. (link) It's an Italianate garden and although it features Italianate touches—colonnades, terraces, cloisters—it's also deeply romantic. Many gardeners say it's their favourite.

There's also Woolbeding, the garden of the late Sir Simon Sainbury (of the supermarket family), reportedly one of England's best-kept secrets, which is rarely open but apparently worth the trouble.

Plus several other hidden horticultural treats. I wish I could take all of you along.


If you can't get to the northern hemisphere this summer, there's another flowery treasure in the form of the new film Tulip Fever, starring Judi Dench, based on the bestseller by Deborah Moggach. (No trailer yet but a link to author's site here.)

Set in early 17th-century Holland, during the period of the Tulip mania that gripped the Dutch in the 1630s, it's about an artist who falls for a married young woman while he's commissioned to paint her portrait by her husband. The two invest in the risky tulip market in hopes to build a future together. As one does.

On her author website, Deborah Moggach explains that the story is a "love-letter to Dutch painting and that lost world of serene and dreamy domestic interiors".

Judi Dench will no doubt be beautiful and brilliant. But it's the tulips I want to see.


There's another glorious book due out soon in the form of Arne Maynard's much-awaited monograph (one of my favourite garden designers), which is published by Merrell in September 2015.

 If you're visiting England, you can stay at his Welsh home and garden, Alt-y-Bela. Details here – link.

He seems like such a lovely man. All gardeners are lovely, I think, but Arne seems particularly personable.


Another man who's won my heart is my partner. While I've been pre-occupied by various work projects these past few months, my darling other half has installed a new cutting garden for me. Cutting gardens (or picking gardens) are all the horticultural fashion at the moment, although some people prefer potagers: mixing flowers and produce together.  I longed for a blue garden—like Gatsby's—and when I heard that they're best planted outside a sunroom so the view is cooling to the eye on hot days, well, there was no saying "no". Out went the grass and in went the beds. I even found some blue anemones for it, above.

This is it in the early stages, on a wet winter's day as the grand Elm tree sheds its leaves. It doesn't look much now, but come spring, all of the bulbs and plants, including the salvias, roses, lavender and nepeta, will hopefully be flopping with gay abandon over the raised beds. I wanted a simple garden because we have a simple two-storey, Georgian-style house (this was shot from a top window), with Georgian-style geometric lines, and this clean-line style of garden seemed to suit it. I was going to plant Chanticleer pears along the border but have been told they're horticultural pests. So we're still considering the outer framework.

We've already sat out there on sunny evenings, drinking in the golden light and relishing life. It's been well worth all the hard work! (You can see the other potager/picking garden behind the grey picket fence, which has been planted using shades of pink and red.)

We also had lots of figs from the fig tree's bumper crop this year, which I tried to give away when I could. Friends and neighbours were a bit figged out this year, I fear.


Lastly, I want to leave you with a gardening story. It's sad but it's enchanting too. I think you'll like it. It involves art, gardens, life, longings, and other enriching things.

A few weeks ago, a close friend emailed to let us know our old neighbour Roger Streeton (whom she also knew) had died. We had lived near Roger for several years in Range Road, Olinda, and had kept a (neighbourly) eye on his property when he was away. Roger was the grandson of the famous Impressionist painter Sir Arthur Streeton, and his house, our neighbouring property, was Arthur Streeton's former home, 'Longacres', where he painted many of his masterpieces, which now sell for millions.

Streeton bought Longacres in the Olinda hills so he could paint en plein air but also so he could find peace and contentment in his life.  He had achieved career success at the Royal Academy in London and the 1892 Paris Salon, but what he really longed for (as many of us do) was a garden and pastoral views.  He had found himself in middle age without a wife and family, a home or even financial security and Longacres was his quiet gift to himself. It soon became his escape; his idyll, and also his inspiration.

Streeton painted much of his best work at Longacres, ensconced in its garden studio or the gallery inside the main house, which was lit by three large skylights and featured a 20-foot ceiling, fabric-covered walls (a luxury at the time) and an unusual picture window that created the illusion of viewing the outside garden as a painting. He also planted an Impressionist's garden, much like Monet's at Giverny, and filled it with drifts of delphiniums, foxgloves, larkspur, lupins, hollyhocks, violets, primroses, bluebells, daffodils and snowdrops, narcissus, lavender, and a grand avenue of Linden trees.

It was there he could be found most days, in his artist's smock, capturing the botanica in light brushstrokes. The garden eventually became so extensive, he built a gardener's cottage, and hired a gardener, Mr Griffin, to manage it.

Streeton died in his bedroom at Longacres in 1943. His clothes, easels, paintbrushes and even tubes of paint, are all still there. My friend (the one who emailed) remembers visiting Longacres 15 years ago, 60 years after Sir Arthur Streeton's death, and said Streeton's painting were still stacked in piles – "just  exactly as he left it..."

Streeton's garden, however, didn't fare so well.  Many of the plants, perhaps out of shock, died with him. When his grandson Roger Streeton (our neighbour), took over Longacres, he faced a derelict and long-forgotten place, with a garden that had been lost to blackberries. Locals often said they saw the old artist's ghost, forlornly wandering the overgrown paths. (The house has the dubious distinction of being classified by the National Trust as an official “haunted house”.) Roger Streeton spent the next 15 restoring it, with the result that buildings and garden are now both classified by National Trust and Heritage Victoria. (link here)

Roger Streeton's death last month makes me wonder what will happen to Longacres, and to Sir Arthur Streeton's garden? My friend walked down our old road on the day that Roger died, to pay her respects, and said the heavy carpet of woodland cyclamen made the grand old trees look like they were growing out of pink snow. When she stopped to admire the estate, a huge stag stood, very still, at the top of the drive, all alone in the empty property. "He was magnificent," she said, clearly moved by the sight.

It made me wonder if he, too, paying his respect to the father of Australian Impressionism? A painter who became a gardener, and a man for whom gardening, rather than art, made him truly happy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Assouline, Iris Apfel, Cabana, the Chelsea Flower Show, Lanvin and More

I don't know about you, but March was a seriously mad month for us. I faced several big publishing deadlines (the new Paris book has finally been written and designed) while juggling a few new work projects and the logistics for a big overseas work trip. There were a LOT of 3AM nights here, I can tell you! Some mornings I even saw the sun rise.

On one of these nights, over Easter, I was trying to do two things: edit the final copy for the Paris book, which had been sent by the copyeditor (who was also working over Easter), while searching for an email for a New York contact in my archive of 4243 emails. (Multi-tasking: it never works!) It was then that I stumbled across all these beautiful, thoughtful notes and emails from people, many of whom read this blog. Re-reading them, I realised, with a jolt of gratitude, just how stunningly, stupendously, wonderfully lovely people are. It was an email epiphany. Right there at 3AM.

This past year, perhaps the past two years, I've seen all kinds of outrageous behaviour, not just in my life but in the media and society in general – outrage seems to be the default reaction for many people, don't you think? – but I think the tide is turning finally. Kindness is coming back into fashion. People are realising they don't want to be nasty or snarky – I certainly would never want to be remembered for being a nasty person – who would? – and courtesy and compassion are easing back into our lives. If I ever had any doubts about this, this wonderful archive of emails proved it. 

So here, in gratitude of all the lovely letters, notes, emails and Instagrams you've sent this past year, are a few lovely things in return. I hope the kindness keeps going around.

As always, you're welcome to receive updates on my Instagram here – LINK 

Or here:


It was about time somebody did a doco about Iris Apfel! Directed by the late Albert Maysles, who passed away this March at the age of 88, this fantastic new film shows this remarkable fashion icon in all her glorious sartorial layers. It's worth seeing as much for her wit as her wardrobe. I loved these little snippets:

Iris: "I don't have any rules because I would only be breaking them, so it's a waste of time."

Iris: "I can't judge other people. It's better to be happy than well dressed."

Iris: "We're not supposed to talk about the White House."
Iris's husband (low voice): "We had a problem with Jackie."
Iris: "STOP!"

Ms Apfel is 93. Can you believe it?

Released this month. The trailer is here – LINK

(Two other great films out this month are Dior and I and A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman, about the life and love of Versailles' legendary garden design Le Notre. 
Both are in cinemas now.)


One of the most anticipated fashion exhibitions this year is Jeanne Lanvin at the Palais Galliera (the newly renovated Fashion Museum) in Paris. 

The oldest French fashion house (it just beats Chanel), Lanvin has gone through a spectacular revival these past few years, mostly under the inspirational direction of Alber Elbaz, and has emerged as a major player in the fashion world. This exhibition looks at the history, style and of course the ornate detail of Lanvin's collections over the years, and is certain to be packed with fashion peeps this summer.



For those heading to New York this year, one of the most talked-about new hotels is the Baccarat Hotel (above), the sister hotel of the famous Paris property. As you would imagine, there's a lot of crystal but there's also a lot of view – look at the vista from the library above. Baccarat describes it as "as fusion of glamour and artistry". All I know is that the prices are a fusion of zeros, so be prepared.

20 W 53rd St, New York, NY.


Ever since we subscribed to Netflix my partner has, like almost everyone we know, been binge-watching House of Cards. Well, the next Netflix series to pique everyone's interest (the Huffington Post called it "the next Netflix Obsession") is Bloodline, a series starring Kyle Chandler, Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek and Australian Ben Mendelsohn in a must-watch role.

It's filmed in one of my favourite places in the world, The Moorings in Islamorada. (We've been lucky enough to have stayed at The Moorings three times.) The story focuses on a respected Florida family who live on a beautiful island in this beautiful 'village' of islands deep in the Keys, and whose fortunes are threatened by a black-sheep son (Mendelsohn) who may or may not expose dark secrets from their past.

The trailer will HOOK you in, trust me. 

And if you go down and stay at The Moorings (, say hello to the general manager Thomas Gibson and all the staff. They're the epitome of kindness.


Details of the Artisan Gardens at this year's Chelsesa Flower Show are slowly being released to the media (the grand Show Gardens are all locked in and have been well covered), and one of the most delightful looks like being The Trugmaker's Garden.

(Note: When I googled this, a line appeared that said: Did you mean drugmaker's garden? 
WHAT THE?!! Who would google a drugmaker's garden?)

The Trugmaker's Garden (with a 't) was inspired by the dying art of handmade garden trugs, and by one particular artisan trugmaker Mr Smith, who became famous in the 1850s while exhibiting at The Great Exhibition. Mr Smith was asked by Queen Victoria if he would create several trugs as gifts for her family. The trugmaker was so proud of his trugs he put them in a wheelbarrow and walked them all the way from East Sussex to Buckingham Palace to deliver them in person.

Now doesn't that sound like the kind of garden you'd like to see? 
There's also the Lavender / Provence garden, but I'm looking forward to seeing this one more, I think.


A lovely friend Andrina keeps me in the loop about great books, places and things, and has highly recommended the new book Vanessa and her Sister, about Virginia Woolf. 

It's a fictionalised story based on real letters and archives – much as The Paris Wife beautifully brought to life Hemingway and his wives – and centres on the affair between Virginia and Vanessa’s husband, the art critic Clive Bell.

There's a great review here – LINK.

There seems to be a spate of Virginia Woolf books, with Adeline being the other big one that's making headlines.

I was lucky enough to visit Virginia and Leonard Woolf's home, Monk's House last year, and fell in love with the garden, the rooms, the whole romantic atmosphere of it. It's a small property but terribly moving. The garden, which was Leonard's great joy, was the highlight. 
If you're going to Sissinghurst, it's only a short drive away.


French publishing house Assouline has gained a reputation for designing bookstores that are as glamorous as its coffee-table tomes, and its new Piccadilly store is the latest spectacular space to wow browsers. 

A bookstore to rival Rizzoli (which is also opening a stunning Art Deco bookstore in the Flatiron in June), Maison Assouline's latest creation is part sophisticated bookstore, part chic cafe, with lots of antiquities thrown in for good measure. It's a must-stop if you're visiting London this summer.

They're also very nice, linking to me on their Twitter feed recently. 

Thank you Assouline.


Sonia Rykiel's new artistic director Julie de Libran (ex-Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton) has been creating media headlines lately for her spectacular changes to the formerly elegant but occasionally staid French fashion house. She only accepted the job of artistic director late last year and has already produced a brilliant show against a backdrop of a pop-up library of 30,000 books in Sonia Rykiel's Saint-Germain boutique.

Anyone who combines books with fashion so beautifully is bound to  have a brilliant career.

There's a lovely little interview with her HERE


If you were saddened by the closure of fashion designer Collette Dinnigan's stores last year, the good news is that she's returning with renewed energy and new fashion projects this year AND she's planning an exhibition for later this year. 

It will open at Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (The Powerhouse) in September. No details yet, but keep checking The Powerhouse website closer to the date.


Anouska Hempel, the beautiful, stylish Australian designer who became famous for her groundbreaking London hotel Blakes (the world's first boutique hotel and still loved by celebrities) is working on a new Blakes Hotel project. 

This one is set in Singapore, in five heritage-listed colonial shopfronts, and will feature Ms Hempel's signature style, which mixes cabinets of whimsical curiosities with antiques, stripes, swathes of billowing silk, books, prints, Louis Vuitton trunks, and lots of old-style brass, polished nickel and silver. It's due to open late 2015 and will certainly be a serious competitor for Raffles Singapore. 
(No website yet.)

There's a great interview with Anouska Hempel HERE. 

And if you haven't yet bought her recently published monograph book, do search for it: it's one of the most beautiful design books out at present.


Last year, I posted about the new Cabana magazine, which I stumbled across at Colette in Paris. 

It's only published a few issues but the production values are incredibly high and the content (interiors, places, textile, design) is fascinating. It's an Italian magazine but the stories mostly consist of images and the captions are in English. The newest issue features Portugal and all its glorious tiles and textiles. 

Cabana's Instagram account is HERE.


Yves Saint Laurent's partner Pierre Bergé's  is auctioning his personal library via Sotheby's later this year.

André Leon Talley is working on a new tome about the life and fashion of the late Oscar de la Renta, due to be published later this year.

Manolo Blahnik is releasing an enormous tome of his work through the decades, also due to be published later this year.

Sara Gruen, author of the bestselling Water for Elephants (Reese Witherspoon was brilliant in the film version) has released her new novel At The Water's Edge, set in Scotland during the war.


Hope to bring you more news through the year. In the meantime, you're welcome to follow on Instagram – HERE

OR here –

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Inspirational Trips and Travel Tips for 2015

At this time of year, when the seasons are changing and minds are racing to the months ahead, conversation often circles around to that much-loved topic: 


Getting away is always high on everyone's agenda. Last year, the 'hot' spot seemed to be Instanbul. And perhaps London (going through a resurgence, thanks to new hotels such as Ham Yard and old favourites like The Pelham, above). The year before, it was Capri. This year, Cuba is big (a consequence of the recent changes), as is Mexico (Tulum / Mérida), while India and Cambodia are perennial favourites. 

A lot of people are doing textile tours this year, visiting fabric stores and textile museums and other places where they can drink wine and laugh and do needlework in the sun. (See tips below.) Painting trips are also popular — watercolours in the South of France, and oils in Italy. Walking holidays are big, too.

We are having The Travel Conversation in our house at the moment, and it's not looking promising, I have to tell you. The travel budget has disappeared! 

I only have one small work trip planned for this year — to New York and the US East Coast in May for business meetings and to see some gardens with a few people. Apart from that, we're trying to curtail travel activities to save money. I'm being pushed to go to NY in March as well for a few things, and there are some FANTASTIC exhibitions on in Paris and London this year, including the big Lanvin Exhibition (above), but our budget is looking grim. 

If you're having The Travel Conversation in your house at the moment, here are some ideas, insights, and tips to help you through it.

I hope you manage to go somewhere wonderful this year!
Life's too short not to get out and see the world.


There's nothing better than finding a great little hotel and falling in love with it. Even better when few people (other than its devoted guests) seem to know about it. These are the travel gems we dream of: the tucked-away treasures that don't charge a fortune, and are staffed with kind people who make us feel at home, a thousand miles from home. 

Some of my favourites over the years have included The Pelham in South Kensington (red suite above), Bastide Rose in Provence, the Royal Riviera in Cap Ferrat, The Moorings in Islamorada, The Plataran in Borobodur, and many others.

Of course, it's difficult to find these under-the-radar places, but sites such as Tablet Hotels (, Mr and Mrs Smith ( collate some of the prettiest places into one easy-to-navigate list. Tablet Hotels also organises regular specials — great for picking up plush New York hotels for $99 / night. 

I'm always bookmarking gorgeous little hotels in great getaways to visit on future trips. 76 Main (blue suite above) is my latest favourite. It's sublime hideaway on Nantucket island owned by Lark Hotels who are known for their beautiful and quirky interiors. ( 

But there are always new places to discover. Don't feel that you have to stay in the latest André Balazs hotel every time.


Many people are opting for Air bnb or apartments over hotels, but some still prefer the security, 24-hr service, concierge assistant and wi-fi guarantee of the latter. (And no bond to worry about!) If you want a hybrid that combines the privacy of an apartment with the professionalism of a hotel, try a club. 

Places like The Fox Club in Mayfair, London, are private members' clubs that often allow non-members to stay. The Fox is a great little find. The interior design is on the 'traditional' side (no Kit Kemp here), but if you're worried about style, this place probably isn't for you. (Or ask for a suite; they will often upgrade.) Prices are usually amazingly good for this central Mayfair posi opposite Green Park! There are several of these clubs in Mayfair, so search around. Some are membership only, but they will happily accept members of affiliated clubs – even RACV/NRMA or AAA will do.

In New York, a similar place is the City Club Hotel—although it's more of a hotel with the feel of a club than an actual club. Opt for one of the Mezzanine Suites, which are carved out of a former ballroom, and feature beautiful libraries and ornate ceilings.

The Fox Club, 46 Clarges St, London W1.


Lots of people I know are going on walking holidays this year. Martin Randall and Abercrombie and Kent are two companies that offer great walking tours, but there would be others in the US and UK. 

Textile tours are another big trend. 

One company, French General in California, organises amazing tours to the South of France every year. The creative retreats include workshops, flea markets, exploring local villages, and of course classes in sewing, stitching, natural dying, paper crafts and mixed media. Sounds fun, doesn't it?


Two years ago, a couple of young guns brought out a program that compared airfares to find the cheapest days and dates. It was so popular that it prompted a slew of competitors, and now Google has jumped on the bandwagon. Google's Matrix allows you to see the cheapest airfares for a journey on any given day simply by typing in your route and the extreme ends of your travel dates. (It's slow but it does work.) 

Its strength is that it breaks down the airfare into a professional way (including all the taxes), so you can take that airfare to your travel agent or travel company and ask them to either book it, or match the price (which most will do). I found some incredibly cheap airfares were well below what some travel companies, such as, were offering. 

Skycanner [LINK] also does a similar thing.

[LINK] or

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Garden Highlights and Delights for 2015

Having fallen in love with the beautiful imagery —and ease of use – of Instagram, I have now become addicted, as well as friends with many of those I follow and those who kindly follow me. [ LINK ] 

If you're into gardens, textiles, interiors, travel or design, Instagram is now one of the best source for inspiration on the Internet. It's difficult to find or search for things — its only downside – but wonderful for stumbling across amazing people and places that have somehow slipped under the radar of magazine editors and other story scouts.


For example, Instagram has introduced me to the extraordinary Danish garden designer and author Claus Dalby, whose small home and garden (above two images) is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. 

Celebrated in Denmark and increasingly in Europe, Claus' cutting garden and floral arrangements are just enchanting, especially when you consider how short-lived the Danish summer and growing season is. (Also, if you go to his website and are a little confused by the language, 'haven' means garden. But you'll find your way around!)


Do you subscribe to the website Gardenista? If you love gardens, this wonderful blog is as tailor-made for you as a pair of customised Hunters. Its gorgeous gardenalia and inspiring ideas will immediately make you want to walk outside and pot up some Cosmos. Or something grander, such as these arrangements, featured on Gardenista last week.



These two images above were part of a story Gardenista posted on the artist Clare Basler, who lives in a converted schoolhouse on the outskirts of Paris (known as "the flower house" by local villagers). There, Clare paints large-scale paintings of enormous flower arrangements inspired by French 18th century paintings. 


Her paintings are beautiful but her home is even more so. Imagine living in a greenhouse surrounded by lush, oversize plants and you're halfway there. It's a gardener's home like no other. 


Gardenista has also covered another spectacular 'garden home' in a story worth mentioning. It's an article about that enviable, inimitable estate called Sissinghurst, and its endlessly fascinating fusion of leaf, love and life.  [ LINK HERE ]  [Gardenista photo by Jonathan Buckley]

For its creators Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, Sissinghurst's garden was designed to be an extension of their living quarters — and indeed, the fully matured green 'rooms' and walled gardens are like walking through the rooms of a beautiful house: the formal 'reception' of the central garden with its grandeur and symmetry; the wonderfully colourful rose garden (which is a little like a chintzy sitting room); the Lime Walk, which links the various gardens like a formal hall, and the potager (the kitchen garden). Eighty years after the duo first conceived their grand garden plan, you can fully appreciate their incredible vision. 

However, not everything has been rosy at Sissinghurst these past few years.  When their grandson, journalist Adam Nicolson and his wife, garden writer Sarah Raven, moved into the National Trust estate in 2024 (part of the contract was that descendants could live there free of charge), they were met with firm resistance from staff. "Our dogs [were] not allowed in the garden [and were] shouted at by gardeners; our children not allowed near the greenhouses; and any photograph we took inside or outside the house was to be the copyright of the National Trust," wrote Nigel in a fascinating article for the New York Times. [ LINK HERE ] "When I was taking some of our old wine bottles out of the house, I had to pass the National Trust volunteer lady (tweed skirt, Barbour jacket) standing at the gate. “Ah,” she said, “have we been having a party, Adam? Or are you just an alcoholic like the rest of your family?”

Some people are really nice, aren't they?

Last year, many gardeners were talking about Sarah Raven's biography of Vita, entitled Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst. This year, gardening talk is likely to focus on the newly published and highly controversial book Behind The Mask by Matthew Dennison, which looks at the complex personality of the 'Rose Queen'. (Dennison is giving a talk at the Garden History Museum in London in late April, if you're in the UK at that time.)

And so Sissinghurst continues to fascinate us, year after year...


A new horticultural discovery for me this week has been The Land Gardeners, which I stumbled upon via Ben Pentreath's beautiful blog. (Ben's partner Charlie is somehow involved with, or friends with, the Land Gardeners.) The girls' flower and farm images are just sublime. And their home, a grand estate called 'Wardington Manor' in the English countryside, is as spectacular as their borders and bouquets. Furthermore– and perhaps best of all — they often hold workshops in their fancy potting shed. For more details, just see their website – HERE, which links to their blog and Instagram.

[ LINK ]

(Oh, and Ben and Charlie's garden at the Old Vicarage is also worth Googling.)


Years ago, many us bought the sweetly illustrated watercolour books by Sara Midda and Laura Stoddart, including In and Out of the Garden and Sketchbook of Southern France. (Laura is a lovely person: I liaised with her about some branding at one stage before realising I couldn't afford her.)

Well, Sara Midda is back with a new book, A Bowl of Olives, about cooking, but it's another watercolour artist I want to introduce you to: Linda Kocur, aka 'Miss Boxwood'.  [ LINK ] She and I have become 'IG' friends on Instagram and I adore her work and suspect you will too. It's whimsical, witty, unusual and surprisingly elegant. She sells it on Etsy or you can follow her on her Instagram site



One of the great gardeners of the 20th century is Russell Page, and this year his life is being celebrated by the Garden History Museum in London.

Russell Page trained as an artist and brought a painter's eye for form and style to the many gardens that he made. His career began at Longleat House in the 1930s and encompassed the garden at La Mortella on the island of Ischia designed for Sir William and Lady Walton and the garden of the Frick Collection in New York City (above) — which is now under threat (and a huge talking point amongst gardeners of Manhattan!).

The Garden History Museum's exhibition of over 50 paintings, photographs and drawings are drawn from Russell Pages’ own archive and the collection of the RHS, Public and Private Collections in the USA and Europe. Certain to be a riveting display of plans, paintings and insights into a master gardener.


If you love books and like to keep ahead of literary trends, you may have noticed there's been a notable number of garden-themed novels published over the past year or so. I'm not sure whether it's simply some kind of synchronicity or if authors and publishers really are becoming increasingly fascinated with flowers and horticulture? (Even the New York Times' T magazine's editor Deborah Needleman has changed her Twitter pic to a scene of her country garden.) Either way, it's a welcome genre. If only they published 'scratch 'n' sniff' novels to go with the new trend.

Some of the popular titles being bandied about by friends are: 

The Language of Flowers (now a New York Times bestseller) by Vanessa Difenbaugh
The Orchid House (also called Hothouse Flowers) by Lucinda Riley
The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley (such a great author) 
A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor — lots of friends talking about this


And finally, Rachel Lambert (Bunny) Mellon's famous Oak Spring Garden Library at her former country estate in the US is now open to the public (for those who study or are involved with horticulture only). The  Library comprises her enormous collection of rare books, manuscripts, works of art and artifacts relating to gardening, landscape design, horticulture, botany, natural history and travels. It's one of the largest gardening archives in the world — possibly the largest next to the RHS' Lindley Library in London — and Mrs Mellon made sure there was sufficient funds in her Will to maintain it.

A group of us are planning a small garden tour to the US East Coast this year and I'm trying to get us in here. You can imagine the wonders contained in this space and the garden beyond!

PS If you love anything on this site and want to reference it or use it, please do link back to The Library of Design and/or provide proper links or websites, as I've done here, rather than simply stealing it. It's the right thing to do.

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