Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Lessons of Spring

This past week has been something of an epiphany.

You know those periods when life throws everything at you and you're so exhausted you can't even think straight? (Although some of that is due to intense jetlag at the moment.) Well triple that feeling and then toss in a terrible head cold, a beloved relative dying (the second obviously more devastating than the first), and a whole lot of personal life decisions that need to be made and you're getting close to how I feel this week.

But rather than sink into solemnity, I've tried a new tact.


Gratitude is a funny thing. It's when you feel grateful for life that you start to really appreciate what you have. Indeed, you start to notice things you didn't notice in the fog of worry and stress. You remember the lovely people you've met on your travels; the joyous surprises; the laughter; the unexpected delights of the day.

The potential of life returns. 

And if you can't do gratitude, then gardens offer a good remedy too. In fact, immerse yourself in a garden and your spirits will return. I guarantee it. 

I've discovered that this week. So, too, have a few others.

Just look at the happy faces of these people. These charming women are some of the loveliest people I've met recently. (Their wardrobes were almost as impressive as the floral borders.) Seeing their delighted faces made me quietly delighted too. And then everything seemed okay again.

There is a well-known Vogue editor that I've come to know because she's a friend of a new friend. I used to think she was brittle. Perhaps even arrogant. And living an existence entirely separate from the rest of us, which perhaps made her seem even more remote and unapproachable. 

But then my friend said she puts out a shield to defend herself from criticism. This Vogue editor has chosen to deflect the negativity of life in order to concentrate on the bright, the good, the beautiful, and the inspirational. After all, said my friend, there is only so much negativity a person can take. 

The result, added this friend, is that she comes across as being superior and full of froideur but is actually one of the kindest and loveliest people you can imagine meeting. 

(And her garden is simply glorious.)

So many of us become caught up in what another friend calls "the gloominess of life": the pessimism, the criticism, even the gossip of society. We do it because a) it is encouraged and b) it gives us a kind of psychological 'lift'. As this same friend suggests: "People put others down to make themselves feel better." But I prefer to focus on the positive. It is far more gracious. And far more rewarding.

Wandering through these gardens this week has made me realise that life doesn't need to be hard. And that you can achieve what you want – if you're courageous enough, tenacious enough, and – perhaps most importantly – positive enough to go after it. 

I think gardens teach you that. The art of optimism.

I'll aways remember a wonderful anecdote by the landscape architect and gardening blogger Tara Dillard. Tara was designing the garden of a woman who had been through cancer. Treatments had already taken the client's hair, and made the tips of her fingers and toes blue.  Just walking was treacherous. 

When Tara was installing the garden, the client asked, "How long till the azaleas cover the wall?"  

"Well, with the drought and everything..."said Tara nervously.

But the client interrupted with a smile.

"Tara," she said firmly. "We must always be optimistic!"


  1. Sounds like life is throwing some difficult things your way at the moment - but I think you've definitely hit on the right response. Too often it would be far easier to wallow... but that just ultimately makes us miserable, and not a lot of fun to be around for others. If you're a positive person, you attract positive things to you. I'm sure that while you've got some health concerns (nothing too terrible I hope), and the death of a relative is always a sad and reflective time, if you look at the positives of what you've achieved over the past month it's pretty damn impressive. I'm so looking forward to seeing all the hard work pay off with your magazine, any new books and of course more of the glorious photos from your spectacular garden tours. Lots achieved - I think you definitely deserve to put your feet up and feel satisfied that you've achieved an awful lot, and brought a lot of happiness and fun to others as well. xx

  2. Beautiful photos ... I hope the 'health issue return' is something you are able to overcome Janelle. All the best for a speedy recovery, Jennifer x

  3. In Asia, they believe that gardens give you "chi" which is life force so any epiphany and enlightenment is usually in a garden even for Buddha himself! That is probably why everyone feels better after having been. Sorry to hear about your loss - I know it is a part of life but I really can't bear it. But am glad you turned it around and can be grateful for everything!

  4. Beautiful blog. I wonder if you realise how much you inspire others? I found your blog when we first moved into our unfinished house. We are finally planting our garden into the blank canvas of dirt and grass this winter (Thank God for the rain), and much of the overall design has been influenced by your gorgeous pictures and posts. Even though I am amazed your jet-setting lifestyle, I just would love to eventually establish a garden that grows to be as beautiful as the ones in your pictures. I would love to leave beauty as part of my final legacy, and you help me in the difficult process.

  5. Thanks Janelle for a wonderful trip and for re-introducing Jim & I to London after a very long time. It was your inspirational blog that made me want to come and we were not disappointed, absolutely loved everything. The sun is out in London today and its glorious, off to Portabelo Rd market for a bargain? With love Fiona

  6. Janelle it is lovely to have you back but don't push yourself so hard that you only return fleetingly. Look after yourself and remember we are all out there on the roller coaster of life and all it throws up. And you do it better than 99.9% of the population

  7. I loved every garden and I loved the camraderie of the people. I was showing my fam the photos today it was the trip of a life time- thank you for coming up with so many fantastic places for me to visit!!! I loved visiting those gardens and places to eat and I laughed so much x

  8. oh janelle i have tears in my eyes reading this and seeing the lovely pics. they were the loveliest gardens and ladies. i hardly remember you taking my pic with those sweet women. so happy you put this tour together and i feel sorry for those that didn't appreciate it fully.

  9. Oh sweet Janelle. I am so sorry to hear you've been having a troubled time lately. Your choice of attitude is both commendable and inspiring - just what I needed to read right now. Hang in there, Sweetheart. J x


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