Monday, August 30, 2010

Visit to Victoria's garden

Victoria, who writes Victoria's Backyard - - opened her garden as part of the yellow book scheme on Sunday. I imagine lots of people reading this will be regular readers of her blog anyway, so you'll know - and she also writes in the Independent I think. Anyway, it's one of my favourite blogs to read so of course I went to see it.

Victoria's house is in south-west London, on a street of houses of similar size, large early 20th century, all very civilized and leafy.

There was a table in front of the house where 2 young adults (can't call them children, too old) were very politely selling tickets. Then I went up a narrow side passage, along the left side of the house. I was met as I went into the garden by a little secluded seating area with cannaes and other lush exotics surrounding it. Just to the right was a further paved area, along the back of the house, and the garden stretched out from that. It is rectangular but a good bit wider than most English town back gardens. There is an area of grass in the middle and planting around it. The plants look exotic but I think many are hardier than they seem. Near the house are two huge phormiums which frame the view into the rest of the garden. There's a raised pond to the right, a shed hidden discreetly in the far left corner, and several small seating areas nestled into the sides.

Many, many pots are fitted in amongst it all, and several quirky touches - rusted metal mushrooms in one place, metal lilies, and a very sweet ceramic cow (but when I admired this I found it was left from a previous owner - trust my unerring taste!).

It all works so, so well to make a satisfying whole, but it's fascinating to examine in detail too. The plants have body, substance to them, each seems to be something in its own right - not just part of a big wavy border. Each fits in with its neighbours by contrasting texture of leaf and form, like a subtle jigsaw. It isn't an all-green garden, - there are some flowers, mostly very bright jewel colours - but these are highlights rather than a glaring mass. It isn't weird or way-out - I can't imagine anyone hating it - but it is very much a style that appeals to me. I haven't quite grown into the desire for such an exotic feel yet though.

Victoria was talking to everyone, being very friendly. She looked much younger and less formidable than I expected! I really liked meeting someone whose blog I have read for a while now, and it was good to connect up the garden and the person, to be with her in it, like being able to talk to an artist right there in front of their pictures, and in their own house too. In fact it did feel slightly intrusive. I felt like a welcome interloper.

I took some pictures but very few - of course there are lots of good ones on her blog itself anyway. It was both inspiring and encouraging. I'm so glad I went.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Very, very excited

I'm just back from visiting the Chilli Fiesta, an event B and I have intended to go to for ages. But but but... although it was great fun, the big thing for me was the location. PLEASE click on the pictures to enlarge them - I can't find a way to make this page set-up show them any bigger and they look far better at a larger scale.

West Dean College ( which teaches arts and crafts, has amazing gardens. It's a big estate now run as a charitable trust, over 6,000 acres in total, 90 of them near the house. There's a park with lots of fine old trees, and a walled garden with a huge range of glasshouses, loads of trained fruit trees, vegetables of course, flowers grown for cutting, and two main colour-themed borders. I was blown away - by the extent of it all, the care, the passionate thoroughness everywhere. The borders were exceptional - I liked them far more than anything at Wisley. There was also a huge pergola, which when I looked the place up later on the web I read was designed by Harold Peto in about 1900 and is 300 feet long - it feels it! I took loads of pictures as you can imagine but it was terribly crowded. So here are a few as a taster, and I will sort them out and post the best I can manage ASAP, but B and I agreed we would go again some time when there's no event on to have a better look round.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blue at Wisley

This afternoon I went to Wisley and for the first time ever, didn't enjoy myself. I admit I wasn't in a great mood and hadn't eaten any lunch, but I did assume it would just lift me as it always does.

It seemed full of children, because of the school holidays, and by the time I got there they were all getting bored and crotchetty. I do understand why parents want to take children to a place they actually like themselves, and maybe hope they will grow up to enjoy too, but I felt overwhelmed by all the noise. Only places with running or falling water seemed to appeal to me this time.

I was comforted to see that their unwatered bits of grass looks far worse than ours (oooh, catty woman!), and was very taken indeed by a hydrangea paniculata, but - huge, but I wonder if I could keep one smaller with pruning?

The thing is though, I just hate gardens in August - always have. No idea why really. All the plants seem to be flopping and a bit past it - but I'm aware they aren't actually all like that, it's partly my perception. Earlier today I took our dog for a walk along a river bank and it was absolute heaven. I loved the rather orchid-like pink flowering weeds, some deep pink some much paler, over 4 feet high, and the dog enjoyed paddling repeatedly as we went along the bank. So I'm not all glum :)