ON MY MIND: ORANGES

This image of the Cole and Son wallpaper Orange Blossom Seville hit me the other day as I opened a copy of House and Garden magazine. I instantly wished I had a little breakfast room in the house that I could use this in. So fresh and cheery! Love the vertical repeat of the design and that little lattice across the stems.

Then John Tanner posted this image of freshly picked oranges displayed against his collection of green glazed crockery. There is something about the bright orange together with that glossy deep green, so delicious!

Mini orangery from Belgian Pearls Blog via Poshpedlar. And I’m thinking that whilst I wait for the house with the breakfast room, perhaps I can stretch to an orange tree? I remember my grandmother always used to have citrus trees in her flat, they were so exotic and beautiful and of course, the fruits irresistible to a child no matter how many times I was told not to pick them. I currently have zero house plants but maybe now that we are at home more than ever, it is the right time to start?

THIS TIME LAST YEAR IN CORNWALL

This time last year we had an amazing weekend away in Cornwall. I thought that since trips are now out of the question for most of us, I would revisit these photographs and share them. There will be a time not too far away when we are allowed to go places again, and perhaps this could be a bit of inspiration for then.

The drive from London to Cornwall is very, very long. The closer you get the smaller the roads are. It is a challenge, but the reward once you get there is true tranquility and a landscape of amazing beauty and variety. Arriving at this picture perfect little cottage after too many hours in the car felt like a dream. It was at the bottom of a valley, on the edge of beautiful woodland and there was a little stream running right in front of the garden. We had foraged nettle and wild garlic soup with duck eggs for supper that night, a meal that my six year old son still talks about with a glimmer in his eyes.

Thick walls and old flagstone floors, cosy blankets in every room and of course a fire going at all times.

Speaking of small roads – this is the lane you had to go down to get to the cottage. Interesting. The directions read like this: look out for a sign that says ‘Road not suitable for vehicles’. Go down that road.

Spring flowers in every window.

And lots of primroses on the slope behind the cottage. One day I heard a hissing noise whilst walking right here – it was an adder sunning itself against the wall of the house! I have never seen a snake in the wild in the UK before, it really made me jump.

The view from the top of the valley. I love this time of year when you can almost hear all the buds bursting into life.

We had some gorgeous sunny, misty days. Perfect for walks and pubs.

The stream at the bottom of the valley, very Wind in the Willows! Was half expecting Ratty and Mole to appear.

And five minutes drive away from the cottage, the coast with these awe-inspiring and at the same time terrifying cliffs. A sheer drop of 50 metres – must make sure to stay on the path when walking here.

One day we went to Tintagel, a small coastal village with a medieval castle ruin set on a clifftop. This is the Old Post Office in the village, a building dating back to 1380 which is now run as a museum by the National Trust.

Beautiful rooms inside. Crochet blanket of dreams on top of that bed.

Windowsill flowers everywhere here too, how lovely is this with the copper jug at the back.

And out the back, a sweet little cottage garden. Lovely memories to reflect on these days when the world has temporarily shrunk to bedroom, kitchen, sitting room and garden. What a feeling it will be when we can once again get in a car, leave London, drive to the countryside and walk into a pub. That thought will keep me going for another while yet.

UPDATE FROM THE KITCHEN GARDEN

This is the view from right at the back of my garden. Until last year, this bit was fenced off and we didn’t have access to the space. The previous owners of the house used it as a sort of dumping ground – I won’t say any more about that except it wasn’t pretty. We decided to use this back section as a kitchen garden. In February we started clearing the space, built some raised beds and by the summer we were harvesting salad crops, herbs and lots of potatoes. It is shady back here due to some very large trees so not an ideal spot for growing vegetables but actually, surprisingly many varieties are absolutely fine. I really think it is worth having a go at doing what you really want in the garden even if the circumstances aren’t ideal. A long as you have realistic expectations, I have found that things usually turn out really well even though I have ignored what the experts say.

There is a lot to do still in this area and now is the time, before the growing season starts properly. I have carried an image in my head for a long time about how this space will look, and it is really exciting to think it will (fingers crossed) become reality in the next few months.

The parsley from last year is going strong. I am picking massive bunches every couple of days. I sowed two batches last year and both are still producing happily. So it turns out that parsley is totally fine with the semi shady situation here.

Another bit of harvesting done, this one totally unexpected. Last year’s kale Curly Scarlet kept going through the winter and now there are tons of nice tender leaves. These plants got attacked by caterpillars but I let them stay in the ground anyway. Once the caterpillars were gone, the kale recovered and carried on producing new leaves. This has to be my number one favourite crop that we grew last year, I love kale and eat it most days. This variety did great here in my little patch, it looks pretty too and is super tasty so I will definitely be growing it again this year.

Not bad for early March!

Did some weeding and tidied up and suddenly it doesn’t look so shabby. We have some beetroot left in the ground, some of them have started growing new leaves. I love cooking these with butter and lots of garlic so will be picking some in the next few days. The neat rows to the left are tulips. I went a bit wild with my bulb order at sale time and decided to grow some varieties that I love but that don’t fit into my main colour scheme. These will be for cutting mainly but I also look forward to seeing them flowering here among the salad leaves. I will start sowing other crops in between the tulip rows soon, so that by the time the tulips are done, they will already be on the way. Some rocket maybe?

Here you can see the view straight down the garden. And – this is Hackney – the blocks of flats in the distance. They are completely obscured by the trees in summertime but just visible now. The most important things in this photo is the concrete slabs. They are going to be the base for my greenhouse. I can’t tell you how exciting this is! A lot of hard work to do but hopefully, soon, it will be up. Nothing fancy, just a normal little greenhouse, that’s all I need. I just – can’t – wait.

Sowed the first salad crops for the year the other day. It still seems too cold at night to me but it says you can sow these outside between February and April. Let’s see what happens.

Some allium pots and all my dahlias being warmed by the sun. Such a joy to spend the day back here, working and pottering and dreaming of what’s to come.

JUST PICKED

On my mantelpiece right now, the first proper bunch of flowers from the garden for the year. A strange mix really – who would expect to be picking tulips and plum blossom at the same time? But quite gorgeous nonetheless. I have never been more thankful for having my garden than right now when life is suddenly restricted to the home. What a privilege to have the space to be outside and remain at a safe distance from others, and also to be able to bring the outside in to put in a vase.

The tulips are leftovers from last year, not part of this year’s display. I found the bulbs in various pots and just chucked them into a patch of soil at the back of the garden to see what happened. And here they are! On that note, I think very late bulb planting is going to be my strategy going forward. Otherwise, with this mild weather we seem to be having every year now, I think they will just come into flower too early. I don’t want my tulips to flower in March, really they should not be happening until the end of April. So I’m thinking that if I leave the build planting to the very last moment, they will not peak too soon. Now, in reality, this doesn’t change anything since I am always super last minute with this job anyway, but I guess I won’t have to feel stressed about it anymore if I decide that this was my plan all along.

The narcissi smell divine. The blossom will be shedding all those little petals within a few days but I will put up with the extra hoovering. The first of many garden flower bunches to come I hope!

THREE THINGS ON MY MIND

London based brand Meadows have some lovely new things in their range. They do the romantic prairie look really well – always with an East London cool girl twist.

At the moment they have a pop up shop in Redchurch Street which looks totally gorgeous. I really hope I will get the chance to visit the store when everything settles down.

Perhaps it seems superficial to be thinking about clothes right now with everything that is going on in the world, but there is no harm in looking at the pictures. And if you fall in love with any of the pieces, investing in something from a small brand with strong ethics could be a good deed which makes a difference to someone at a time when the retail sector is in real trouble.

Pressed flowers and herbariums are clearly a thing at the moment but how about pressing seaweed? Coastal Journal posted these images the other day and I thought it was such a nice, simple idea.

Next time I am by the sea I will definitely forage for some seaweed and have a try. A perfect project to do with kids as well I think.

Love the graphic quality of the seaweed, it has more of a visual presence than flowers which tend to loose colour and volume when pressed.

I am increasingly liking the idea of a plant theatre to showcase not just auriculas but any small spring flowering bulbs. By raising them to eye level you can get up close and have a proper look at them. This one is at Sissinghurst and I like the size and simplicity of it. I have a large unattractive brick wall with nothing on it my garden, and mother’s day is coming up very soon…just saying!

Photos by Meadows, Coastal Journal and Saffron Prentis.

IN THE POST

Look what the postman brought! I don’t grow that much from seed, mainly because I don’t have any good windowsills in the house to keep seedlings on. And when I did a stock check the other day to see what seeds were left over from last year, I realised that actually I didn’t really need to get anything new. But of course I couldn’t resist getting a few lovely things to add to the bunch. Here is what I got from Sarah Raven.

Poppy ‘Candy Floss”. Soft pink frothy pompom type flowers which are supposed to have a bit of a vase life, unusual for a poppy. I don’t seem to have to much luck with poppies in this garden so if I get some of these beauties, I will be over the moon!

Harlequin Sweet Pea Mix. Love these colours and my favourite sweet pea Matucana is included. I don’t have room for tons of sweet peas so getting just one packet like this makes sense.

Sweet Pea ‘Earl Grey’. Really drawn to these amazing looking purple marl flowers, do they really look like that in real life? Will have to wait and find out in a few months.

Tithonia ‘Torch”. Have never grown Tithonia before but I think they look brilliant so decided to have a try. It might not be sunny enough for them here but let’s see how it goes. This is for the new beds at the back of the garden where I have hot colours.

Poppy ‘Ladybird’. These are not for my garden but for scattering here and there around town. Some will go in the park opposite our house and I will keep the rest in my bag and sow them as I go along. Love a bit of guerrilla gardening and it is always fun to see if any poppies appear.

So now I know what I will be doing at the weekend. Instagram tells me everyone else has started sowing months ago but really, there is no rush. I always end up with leggy seedlings if I start early so now seems like just the right time.

A COUNTRY WALK

On a windy day in Yorkshire, we headed off for a country walk. We downloaded the walk map and directions from the North Yorkshire Moors website. The route we chose is called ‘Mallyan Spout and Beck Hole’, such an evocative name. After a short drive down from the top of the moors, we started off by going further down into the valley.

To find a crashing river, several metres wide and more noisy than you can imagine.

And around the corner, after negotiating a precarious rocky path – a waterfall! This is Mallyan Spout, 21.3 metres high and really very beautiful.

Across the stepping stones without getting wet feet. This was a real adventure for a five year old, and quite an adventure for me too.

After all that excitement, some peaceful strolling whilst watching the sheep grazing in the field. This kind of view always leads to my husband talking about Sunday lunch…he is no vegetarian.

Past this farmhouse in it’s idyllic location.

Snowdrops nodding in the wind by the stream.

And the dreamiest little cottage on the edge of the field. After that, a pint in the tiniest village pub I have ever seen, then back to the hotel to warm up by the fire. And to clean three pairs of muddy boots. England is amazing in summertime, but really beautiful in winter too.

GARDEN NOTES 1ST OF MARCH

After weeks of rain and gloom, finally a sunny day. Next door’s white Clematis is in flower and the scent is so strong! I cut a few stems and can smell it now, subtle but sweet and so beautiful. A taste of things to come.

All the roses have finally been tied in, Super Fairy has really made it’s way across the fence and fingers crossed there will be tons of flowers on it this year.

The bamboos must go, you just can’t control them and that section of the garden will never become anything unless they are removed. But who is going to dig them out?

Camellia is in full flower, Prunus about to happen. Monty cut the grass for the first time this year, so early but it needed doing. Narcissi pots well on their way, can’t wait for them to start flowering. Another week or two and we’ll be there.

HOW TO FEEL AT HOME IN A HOTEL ROOM

We are back from a lovely half term break in Yorkshire in the north of England. The weather forecast for the week was bleak to say the least so I was fully prepared to stay inside by the fire all the time but actually, it turned out ok and we even had the odd glimpse of sunshine. Lots to show from the trip but right now I just wanted to share a top tip on how to feel at home when staying in a hotel – get some flowers for the room. If, like me, you always have fresh flowers at home it is really lovely to do the same when you are away. In front of this beautiful window in our bedroom at the Talbot in Malton where we stayed was a giant TV. It took me about five minutes to replace it with some gorgeous Mimosa and daffodils – much better!

My impossibly cosy bedside, made even sweeter by the bunch of daffodils I bought from a market stall in beautiful York. I always love looking around markets when I’m away but it is so frustrating not to be able to buy things you like because of tiny baggage allowances. Perfect then to visit the flower stall and take a bunch of blooms back to the hotel room – you feel like local when carrying them around too. Love it.

McQUEEN ‘ROSES’ – GARDENS AS INSPIRATION

In Bond Street in London there is a beautiful Alexander McQueen store, recently refurbished and with a top floor dedicated to exhibitions featuring garments from past collections and the creative process behind them. The current exhibition is named ‘Roses’ and garden lovers will quickly spot the unmistakable towers of Sissinghurst and the characteristic oast house rooftops of Great Dixter when looking at the inspiration photos.

It is a joy to get to see the sketches, notes and swatches that document the process of creating each dress. The finished garments are also on display and each one has enough detail to keep you looking for ages – a bit like an exquisite flower with layers of petals.

The abundance and layers of flowers of a quintessential English garden. Hard not to be inspired!

That thing about gorgeous handwriting again. Lovely.

Bee keeper chic – totally exquisite beadwork and honeycomb smocking.

Just look at those bees! 💛

The vivid green and transparent blue of a flax field.


Layers of pleated, ombré dyed and laser cut silk manipulated around the body. There are toiles (prototype garments) on a rail which you can touch and examine inside out, and a video where the head of the Atelier explains the intricate process of creating one of the dresses on show.

It feels so generous of McQueen to share in this way, to invite visitors to have a closer look and give us a glimpse into the thought process behind the work on show. I can imagine how inspiring this exhibition would be to any young fashion student – if I was at fashion college now I think I would be camping out at the store! Well worth a visit for anyone interested in beautiful clothes and garment making craft.