Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Up The Garden Path: The Sublime Delights of Garden Plans & Pictures

Dear Laura,

I have loved your work ever since I bought Up The Garden Path when it was first released. In fact, on a recent business trip to New York, I found several 'vintage' copies of it at The Strand, and bought all six for gifts. They still look as beautiful, even with a little wear and tear. Perhaps even more so.

I''m writing to ask whether you still consider commissions? Even very small ones?

A group of us are going on a tour of English gardens next May, loosely dubbed 'The Flowers, Frocks and Horticultural Fantasies Tour', which is being designed as a sort of a Monty Don-esque adventure of haute horticulture. Only with better shoes.

I would love it if you would consider illustrating our logo? These garden tours are only just beginning, but we're trying to create a really lovely, rather magical company that inspires and delights people, and I'd really love the branding to reflect that. Your work is so enchanting that we'd love whatever you did, whether it was a small garden plan or simply a bosquet of your beautiful trees.

Of course, if you're too busy, I will certainly understand.
Many thanks for considering this email, and all the very best of luck for the new book.

Kind regards,
Janelle McCulloch

A month ago, I wrote to the bestselling writer and illustrator Laura Stoddart. (Samples above.) A part of me never thought she would reply. This was, after all, Laura Stoddart; one of the best garden illustrators in the UK, if not the world! She'd designed stationery for Kate Spade, stamps for The Royal Mail, pages for Vogue Entertaining, and books for Orion. Her whimsical, enchanting designs of formal topiary, Edwardian frivolities, dainty figures reclining on chaise longues and Versailles-style bosquets with green-tweeded gentlemen strolling through were as identifiable as, well, Versailles itself.

Then I received an email. Yes, she'd be happy to do the commission, she said generously. (Although she also admitted she was incredibly busy, so I won't hold her to it.) She loved Australia, she added –  her husband was half-Australian – and could even recommend gardens for us to visit.

It just goes to show. Gardeners are incredibly kind people, aren't they?

So I would like to introduce you to the work of Miss Laura Stoddart, Illustrator Extraordinaire. I also wanted to post some other whimsical gardenalia (below) that is a little Stoddart in style.

Just something lovely to enjoy for the glorious weekend ahead.

{Up The Garden Path: A Little Anthology and Off The Beaten Track are just two of Laura Stoddart's books, both published by Orion. Laura is also working on a compilation of her illustrations for a new book, due out soon.}

Garden Mania: The Ardent Gardener's Compendium of Design
By Philip De Bay and James Bolton, with Monty Don (Thames & Hudson)
Bought this book last month for a few pounds at a second-hand bookshop near Gloucester Road. Love it. Can't get enough of its beautiful garden drawings and vintage illustrations.

Vintage Printables
A wonderful site where you can find all sorts of copyright-free vintage illustrations (most are so old they're out of copyright: we're talking centuries old). They're lovely for browsing through and great if you're looking for garden inspiration of any kind, particularly for parterres. Link here

Brecy, France
Has anyone else seen Carolyn Roehm's blog? She has the BEST blog! {} Her photographs are superb. And her gardening skills are even better. (Try and find the post of how she transformed her conservatory into a dining room. Very fashionable now: Bunny Williams did it too.) It was here she recommended Brecy gardens in France (above), and what a find that place was. It's like something out of Laura Stoddart card...

This may look like a quirky illustration but it's actually an aerial view of Versailles. 
Fascinating, isn't it? {I have the credit somewhere, but there are a few aerials so want to be sure I have the right source.}

More gardens next week. Don't want to bore non-garden lovers with too much scenery...


  1. Love these. I have seen Carolyne Roehm's blog, she's brilliant...and your suggestion to 'try to find' is an apt challenge, but it is stunning. Her books are also gorgeous.

    1. Your comment made me laugh. Yes, there's a LOT on her blog! But all of it is interesting, so it's not a chore to browse. x

  2. Well you shall never bore this garden lover with too much scenery, at least, not when your sharp wit is used to fertilise it! The perfect marriage, between Laura Stoddart and your garden tours - it will capture the whimsy beautifully no doubt. xx

    1. Oh, how kind you are... I fear we are boring others senseless with our garden talk. Hard to believe but some people aren't into gardens. And that's okay. x

  3. How exciting Janelle! I adore Laura's work and always keep a stash of her cards at the ready....I had no idea that she has books.....will have to try and track them down! Have a wonderful day....finally the sun shines down here which I'm delirious about as, on your recommendation, I'm off to see the peony farm tomorrow! Rx

    1. How exciting! Please do a post on it. I know others would love to see it too. x

  4. Divine images. How lovely that Laura is doing the logo for the Garden tours. I love her things, many of my friends and family have been the recipients of her beautiful cards. I didn't realise she had books to check them out. xx

    1. Yes, quite a few books Heide. I can't wait for her next one. I think it's a compendium of everything? x

  5. I own that Laura Stoddart book and I luff Carolyn and own all her books. On amazon there is a review by her partner defending her whn someone left a snarky review. When Weatherstone burned down she moved into Weatherpebble! The barn. So cute. The food's not really me but the photos are amazing! x

    1. Oh, bad reviews are SUCH fun. Poor CR. I've just tried to find that supportive review, but couldn't as she seems to have written SO many books! Interesting that HK still owns Weatherstone. They're clearly still friends.

      I shudder at some of the book reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. I've had heartbreaking ones. One Edinburgh broadsheet journo slammed 'One For The Road' as being "a book about shopping". (There's not a single shop in there!? I don't know whether she'd been on the Drambuie or not?) It was admittedly a bad book, but she could have READ it first! I'll always remember Alain de Boton's reply to a bad New York Times review, which was so ungracious it went viral. A good lesson in keeping quiet.

      I think people who write bad reviews need to go and spend 3 - 12 months writing a book and see how difficult it is. Then they might be nicer with their critiques...

      I think Carolyn's flower books are beautiful too.


  6. Dear Janelle

    Lovely! Whimsical and so appealling. Must look for the books. Wonderful that she's agreed to illustrate the logo.

    Otherwise feeling very sad today. You've probably heard that Bryce Courtney has died. Such a remarkable man, such enthusiasm and love for his craft,for his readers and for those who hope to be writers. He was inspirational.

    Only two months ago, 23 people all hopeful of being writers attended his last master class here in Canberra. Despite his illness he poured out his last energy and wisdom and humour. We came to love him. We were 23 strangers, bonded by Bryce. Today all are so sad. Pamela

    1. I know Pamela. I was very sad all afternoon. He was a great, great storyteller. x

      PS Thanks for your email too, and let me know if you'd like me to help in any way.

  7. Have just bought a Carolyn book must look at her blog.How exciting that Laura is going to do the logo for your tour.I would love to be going on the tour another time.Have a wonderful weekend,Have a rest!!!!!! XX Trish

    1. Everybody's ordering her flowers book for Christmas Trish. Is that the one you bought? Do come with us another time. We'd love to see your cheery face! x

  8. Love Laura's work dont think Ive seen it before, it's so whimsical!

    Im reading Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser , La Reine had fourteen models made of her gardens for Petit Trianon before she was satisfied. The models were made of wood, moss,wax (for columns) and shaved horn that was dyed green. She wanted to get away from the formal gardens of Versailles for Petit Trianon.

    BTW love , love the old prints

    1. That's meant to be a very good book. Do let me know if it's worth buying.

      Fourteen models? I can believe it. The PT gardens are extraordinary. They're very small but quite ingenious. The mood is delicate, whimsical, enchanting... much like the miniature Petit Trianon palace.

      Wishing you a lovely weekend. xx

  9. Love garden plans of all kinds - it's the promise of wonderful things to come. My favourite plans are ones by Rosemary Verey though. Hope all well with you x

  10. Absolutely worth buying..great pictures and well written I think. Although I did start comparing it to Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots which is very detailed, the books are written 40 years apart! BTW, Marie Antoinette is a descendent of Mary Q Of Scots.

    Of course Nancy Mitford's The Sun King and Madame de Pompadour are a must..Madame de P was a really interesting woman and Nancy's asides and comments are really entertaining. I seem to remember her disparaging the Eiffel Tower.

    Hope you are having a good weekend.

  11. I keep looking and looking at the photo of the Versailles' gardens. That's where my mind is lately

  12. And thank you so much Janelle for your comment on my blog - most definitely up for a meeting when you come over for your Gardens tour - and maybe I could squeeze 20 into the cottage for a cup of tea and a scone or two as well? S x


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