Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wild About Gardens

We've been madly getting our garden into order before the Australian winter sets in. I'm also going away on an important OS business trip, having postponed it because I had to finish rewriting a book, and — like many women trying to juggle too much — have been worried about leaving while the garden still has work to be done before winter comes. 

Today, we put a new path through the purple flower beds, cleaned up all the white geraniums in the white garden and moved three crabapples and a bare-rooted Tilia Cordata (my favourite tree) to a new little copse in a corner. I couldn't bring myself to prune the roses though. It's probably way overdue, but how do you? Especially when the Charles de Gaulles are blooming their biggest blooms yet. 

Gardening... I don't think I'll ever get the hang of it.

If you're multi-tasking too much, like me, here's some lush, new-season inspiration to keep you going through the horticultural ups and downs.

(Above: Oscar de la Renta dress from this year's S/S 2014 collection.)


One of Australia's foremost gardeners, Paul Bangay is now giving private tours of his country home, Stonefields. So you don't have to wait every two years to see the garden.

Details are here: link
Or here:


Highgrove, meanwhile, has just re-opened for the 2014 season. If you haven't yet seen HRH Prince Charles' garden, then do try to join a tour. It's particularly pretty in spring.

Details here: link
Or here:


Have you read this incredible book yet? It's one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen, with intricately embroidered garden plans of Monk House's garden, where Leonard and Virginia Woolf lived and wrote. 

Caroline Zoob is the author (and embroiderer). Such a talent. I hope she wins a publishing award for it.


Another beautiful book that all my friends are reading. It's sad and uplifting at the same time. And yes, there's a death. But I dare not say any more.


If you're heading to England this summer and touring the south coast, be sure to visit Su Blackwell's lovely exhibition 'Beyond The Book'. What Su does with old second-hand books she finds in old second-hand bookshops is astounding. (Yes, I know some people hate any form of paper desecration, but look at this garden. Isn't it sublime?)  Top image is also from Su Blackwell.

Showing at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey, until June 8.


There are lots of website touting the French Riviera as being THE place to be this summer. (Hasn't it always been high on The List?) Ralph Lauren certainly seems to think so. His team has also headed down to the palm trees and lush gardens of the South of France for its latest campaign. I've just received the new RL magazine in the mail and it's the most evocative one yet. 

Better yet, they've posted a handy guide to the region online, here: link

Or here:


Someone else who thinks the French Riviera is going to be hot (fashionably speaking) is Woody Allen. His upcoming film, Magic in the Moonlight, is a 1920's romantic comedy set on the French Riviera. 

It co-stars our own Jacki Weaver, but here's Colin Firth with some horticultural eye candy behind. Woody Allen may be hoping that Magic does as well as his recent French film Midnight in Paris. The latter was his top grossing film.


A recent purchase, this book is as thick as a brick in one of Vita's walls, and packed with interesting titbits. Written by Sarah Raven, who married into the family and now lives at Sissinghurst with her own family, it looks at how Vita created her now-famous garden, the heirloom roses she saved and how the garden continues to evolve over the years. 

When our little Garden Tour group was at Marylyn Abbott's garden, West Green House in England, last May, I overheard Marylyn chatting to Troy Scott Smith, the man who had, just the week prior, taken over Sissinghurst's job of head gardener. He had popped into West Green for a visit, and seemed very calm about taking on what The Telegraph newspaper referred to as "the greatest job in gardening". I lingered nearby, and had a brief conversation with Marylyn just so I didn't look like I was, well, lingering nearby.  Troy is only the sixth head gardener at Sissinghurst, after Vita, Pam Schwerdt and Sibylle Kreutzberger, Sarah Cook and Alexis Datta. There's a wonderful article about Troy Scott Smith's new role here.
Or here:

 Hermès has also gone outside, to the garden, for its latest fashion campaign, called Metamorphosis.


I had an email last week from Tory Burch's team, who are working on a new book and wanted to use my image of the intricate treillage work at Versailles. 

It reminded me that treillage is coming back into gardening fashion with a vengeance. If you want to see some superb examples, wander the bosquets in the gardens of Versailles, or head straight for the newly restored Pavillion Frais (above). Just incredible.


I've been wanting to visit Beatrix Potter's garden, Hill Top Farm in the Lakes District, which so many people have recommended over the years, but haven't quite made it there yet. It's on The List for this year. 

In the meantime, I've just bought this new book from Timber Press, about the plants and places that inspired the author, who was as much a gardener as she was a writer. If you haven't read her biography yet either, it's also lovely: she was a woman very much ahead of her time.


And finally, the search for the perfect gardening smock continues. Here's one I discovered on Pinterest, but have found a lot more, and will be doing a post on them soon.


  1. Fantastic Janelle! My summer reading is planned! I recently read Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening and loved it...this post is a keeper. Thank you! 😊

    1. Isn't a lovely book Jeanne? You'll love both Vita's and Virginia's books too; both are quite moving, and delve extensively into the gardens and their challenges over the years.

  2. Several of your tidbits are new info....thanks for sharing.

    Mosquitoes are terrible here, I garden in sleeveless long linen dresses + long sleeved linen shirt. Most all of the pieces are oatmeal or brownish, no patterns. And from thrift stores! Also wear the same when with clients or drawing a garden. Boring but I don't get bit and don't need chemical repellents !

    XO T

    1. Linen is the best for gardening, isn't it? And it lasts for years, unlike cotton. I like CP Shades from California for sturdy linen pieces, but have started sewing some to save $$. You would look beautiful in any colour Tara.

  3. wonderful post! I have ordered three of the books and yes, Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening is most beautifully written. Jeanne wrote about it a while ago and her recommendations are always spot on for my reading taste and this one certainly did not disappoint. Thank you for adding great new areas to explore....the book art exhibit artist, Kelly Miller is amazing - I visited her website...this post is one now going to my forever folder. Kristin

    1. Glad these books sound good Kirstin. I always love good gardening recommendations too. There seem to be fewer and fewer lovely gardening books around. Thanks for writing such a lovely comment.

  4. Aah Janelle I so enjoy your writing and recommendations are truly recommendations x Thanks for insight always

  5. Janelle, don't prune your roses yet, it is too early. Best to give them a heavy prune in July and a light prune in February for a good autumn flush. I so love reading your posts, it is like entering another, rather beautiful, world, and thank you for the info on cheap travel, such great tips. Looking forward to reading Mr Owita...

  6. Thanks for your tip Jen; so kind of you to write. I shall be back by late June/July, so it will be perfect timing! Thank you again for writing. I was very touched to hear from another rose lover.


Thank you for stopping by. It's always lovely hearing from The Library's readers.

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