Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Garden Highlights and Delights for 2015

Having fallen in love with the beautiful imagery —and ease of use – of Instagram, I have now become addicted, as well as friends with many of those I follow and those who kindly follow me. [ LINK ] 

If you're into gardens, textiles, interiors, travel or design, Instagram is now one of the best source for inspiration on the Internet. It's difficult to find or search for things — its only downside – but wonderful for stumbling across amazing people and places that have somehow slipped under the radar of magazine editors and other story scouts.


For example, Instagram has introduced me to the extraordinary Danish garden designer and author Claus Dalby, whose small home and garden (above two images) is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. 

Celebrated in Denmark and increasingly in Europe, Claus' cutting garden and floral arrangements are just enchanting, especially when you consider how short-lived the Danish summer and growing season is. (Also, if you go to his website and are a little confused by the language, 'haven' means garden. But you'll find your way around!)


Do you subscribe to the website Gardenista? If you love gardens, this wonderful blog is as tailor-made for you as a pair of customised Hunters. Its gorgeous gardenalia and inspiring ideas will immediately make you want to walk outside and pot up some Cosmos. Or something grander, such as these arrangements, featured on Gardenista last week.



These two images above were part of a story Gardenista posted on the artist Clare Basler, who lives in a converted schoolhouse on the outskirts of Paris (known as "the flower house" by local villagers). There, Clare paints large-scale paintings of enormous flower arrangements inspired by French 18th century paintings. 


Her paintings are beautiful but her home is even more so. Imagine living in a greenhouse surrounded by lush, oversize plants and you're halfway there. It's a gardener's home like no other. 


Gardenista has also covered another spectacular 'garden home' in a story worth mentioning. It's an article about that enviable, inimitable estate called Sissinghurst, and its endlessly fascinating fusion of leaf, love and life.  [ LINK HERE ]  [Gardenista photo by Jonathan Buckley]

For its creators Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, Sissinghurst's garden was designed to be an extension of their living quarters — and indeed, the fully matured green 'rooms' and walled gardens are like walking through the rooms of a beautiful house: the formal 'reception' of the central garden with its grandeur and symmetry; the wonderfully colourful rose garden (which is a little like a chintzy sitting room); the Lime Walk, which links the various gardens like a formal hall, and the potager (the kitchen garden). Eighty years after the duo first conceived their grand garden plan, you can fully appreciate their incredible vision. 

However, not everything has been rosy at Sissinghurst these past few years.  When their grandson, journalist Adam Nicolson and his wife, garden writer Sarah Raven, moved into the National Trust estate in 2024 (part of the contract was that descendants could live there free of charge), they were met with firm resistance from staff. "Our dogs [were] not allowed in the garden [and were] shouted at by gardeners; our children not allowed near the greenhouses; and any photograph we took inside or outside the house was to be the copyright of the National Trust," wrote Nigel in a fascinating article for the New York Times. [ LINK HERE ] "When I was taking some of our old wine bottles out of the house, I had to pass the National Trust volunteer lady (tweed skirt, Barbour jacket) standing at the gate. “Ah,” she said, “have we been having a party, Adam? Or are you just an alcoholic like the rest of your family?”

Some people are really nice, aren't they?

Last year, many gardeners were talking about Sarah Raven's biography of Vita, entitled Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst. This year, gardening talk is likely to focus on the newly published and highly controversial book Behind The Mask by Matthew Dennison, which looks at the complex personality of the 'Rose Queen'. (Dennison is giving a talk at the Garden History Museum in London in late April, if you're in the UK at that time.)

And so Sissinghurst continues to fascinate us, year after year...


A new horticultural discovery for me this week has been The Land Gardeners, which I stumbled upon via Ben Pentreath's beautiful blog. (Ben's partner Charlie is somehow involved with, or friends with, the Land Gardeners.) The girls' flower and farm images are just sublime. And their home, a grand estate called 'Wardington Manor' in the English countryside, is as spectacular as their borders and bouquets. Furthermore– and perhaps best of all — they often hold workshops in their fancy potting shed. For more details, just see their website – HERE, which links to their blog and Instagram.

[ LINK ]

(Oh, and Ben and Charlie's garden at the Old Vicarage is also worth Googling.)


Years ago, many us bought the sweetly illustrated watercolour books by Sara Midda and Laura Stoddart, including In and Out of the Garden and Sketchbook of Southern France. (Laura is a lovely person: I liaised with her about some branding at one stage before realising I couldn't afford her.)

Well, Sara Midda is back with a new book, A Bowl of Olives, about cooking, but it's another watercolour artist I want to introduce you to: Linda Kocur, aka 'Miss Boxwood'.  [ LINK ] She and I have become 'IG' friends on Instagram and I adore her work and suspect you will too. It's whimsical, witty, unusual and surprisingly elegant. She sells it on Etsy or you can follow her on her Instagram site



One of the great gardeners of the 20th century is Russell Page, and this year his life is being celebrated by the Garden History Museum in London.

Russell Page trained as an artist and brought a painter's eye for form and style to the many gardens that he made. His career began at Longleat House in the 1930s and encompassed the garden at La Mortella on the island of Ischia designed for Sir William and Lady Walton and the garden of the Frick Collection in New York City (above) — which is now under threat (and a huge talking point amongst gardeners of Manhattan!).

The Garden History Museum's exhibition of over 50 paintings, photographs and drawings are drawn from Russell Pages’ own archive and the collection of the RHS, Public and Private Collections in the USA and Europe. Certain to be a riveting display of plans, paintings and insights into a master gardener.


If you love books and like to keep ahead of literary trends, you may have noticed there's been a notable number of garden-themed novels published over the past year or so. I'm not sure whether it's simply some kind of synchronicity or if authors and publishers really are becoming increasingly fascinated with flowers and horticulture? (Even the New York Times' T magazine's editor Deborah Needleman has changed her Twitter pic to a scene of her country garden.) Either way, it's a welcome genre. If only they published 'scratch 'n' sniff' novels to go with the new trend.

Some of the popular titles being bandied about by friends are: 

The Language of Flowers (now a New York Times bestseller) by Vanessa Difenbaugh
The Orchid House (also called Hothouse Flowers) by Lucinda Riley
The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley (such a great author) 
A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor — lots of friends talking about this


And finally, Rachel Lambert (Bunny) Mellon's famous Oak Spring Garden Library at her former country estate in the US is now open to the public (for those who study or are involved with horticulture only). The  Library comprises her enormous collection of rare books, manuscripts, works of art and artifacts relating to gardening, landscape design, horticulture, botany, natural history and travels. It's one of the largest gardening archives in the world — possibly the largest next to the RHS' Lindley Library in London — and Mrs Mellon made sure there was sufficient funds in her Will to maintain it.

A group of us are planning a small garden tour to the US East Coast this year and I'm trying to get us in here. You can imagine the wonders contained in this space and the garden beyond!

PS If you love anything on this site and want to reference it or use it, please do link back to The Library of Design and/or provide proper links or websites, as I've done here, rather than simply stealing it. It's the right thing to do.


  1. Lots of interesting stuff in this post, Janelle. I'll enjoy exploring your links when I take breaks throughout the day. A little garden inspiration on a Monday!

    1. Sorry for the slight delay in replying Karen – always lovely to hear from you! Hope the riding and garden (and family) are all going well, and Florida's spring is just around the corner!

  2. Fabulous post Janelle......lots to follow up here!



  3. Left a comment on instagram ..gorgeous pics there..Late last read read Victoria Glendinning biog of Vita.. Should try to find some of Vita's fiction , have you read any

    1. Only bits and pieces Stephanie, but have been looking for some first editions – would love to have some for our first edition collection. (Which isn't that big, I have to say.) Very difficult to come by though!

  4. Thanks Janelle for such an interesting post. The book recommendations are great, it's so helpful to get other like-minded people recommending good reads. Many really interesting links too. Thank you. Lucy

    1. Yes, it's always difficult to know what to read Lucy. (That's why I usually stick with gardening books and non-fiction!) But I love Lucinda Riley. The Orchid House is un-put-down-able! Also features greenhouses, travel, England and the East, and a tragic love story... all the good elements, really...!

  5. So happy to find you and your site Janelle. I look forward to your features.
    The Arts by Karena

  6. I am not very internet savvy and was nervous about using Instagram because I was told that once your photos are put on there, they no longer belong to you but to Instagram who can do what they like with them. But it seems from your post that many people are on it. Perhaps I should open an account after all. . . Bye for now, Kirk

  7. That's true Kirk, that's why I don't post really high-quality images because they tend to be the ones that are 'lifted' and scattered without credit to the far corners of the Internet and Pinterest. (It's fine for small blogs because most of them do try and credit a photographer or writer – as I do – and do the right thing in either asking for permission or removing content when necessary, but when you see large, commercial sites that steal stuff, it's very annoying.) Instagram is really for 'everyday' shots rather than fancy photography; that's its beauty and charm. It's for the outtakes of our days, rather than the big hero images; the pix that make us smile, rather than the pix that require an entire team of stylists to set up. When I worked all that out, it made sense to use it. I hope that explains its purpose better? I do hope you join. Even though it's reaching critical mass now, it's still a wonderful way to find creative people and interesting things.


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

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