Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Books, Gardens and other Quiet Delights

Having just come off the back of a year of intense writing for not one but three huge book projects, I have been spending a few quiet July days in our small garden before the next lot of publishing deadlines and work trips. Like my mother -- who has just returned from seeing some extraordinary gardens and landscapes in Alaska and Vancouver -- I'm always grateful for the chance to be in a garden. I always think that gardening is underestimated as therapy: it's not only beneficial for the weary mind and body but it can also inspire and energise the creative spirit. Out among the new seedlings and parrot tulips, I've been working on lots of new ideas for 2017; some of which -- like my clematis -- may never flower! But hopefully a few of them will bloom. That's the thing with both gardening and life. You never know what's going to emerge in the future...

And so here, in tribute of the northern hemisphere summer and the southern hemisphere spring, is a small ode to the quiet delights of horticulture.

As always, feel free to follow on Instagram here -- LINK


One of the most beautiful gardens in England is the wonderfully named Seend Manor in Wiltshire. I was alerted to this beautiful English estate by a friend, and immediately told a few other garden-loving friends about it, one of which replied straight away to tell me that she knew the owners. (Such is the world of social media!)  Apparently Seend Manor's owners are just as charming and gracious as their glorious flower beds. ( If you don't yet follow Amanda Seend on Instagram, her link is here -- Amanda Seend  ) 

The garden is open to the public once a year, but designer Amanda Bunt has written a moving post to its many horticultural secrets here -- Seend Manor I love the fact that it moved Amanda to tears. 


Some of you may have seen this gorgeous garden room in the May issue of British House and Garden magazine, but if you missed it, here's the link -- Emma Burns Garden Library  Emma Burns is the senior decorator at Colefax & Fowler, but it seems her talents extend to architecture and landscaping, too, if this remarkable garden shed is anything to go by. Formerly a rustic barn used to house garden tools, it was converted to a garden library-cum-guest-cottage that's also filled with Emma's precious collection of books. One part of it is a mezzanine work area; another an indulgent bathroom. But the most beautiful part is undoubtedly the library, which extends along an entire wall. As Emma explains: 'It used to be a glorified garden shed, and though it seemed daft to have so much space and not do anything with it, we couldn't decide what. Then we moved from our old house in London into a much smaller one and ended up with all these books sitting in storage, so we decided to make it into a book room.'  

It's so lovely that it's a wonder Emma's guests ever leave. Link is here -- Emma Burns' Garden Library


We are constantly looking for the next property to buy and restore or renovate. (Well, I am; my partner just rolls his eyes now, especially when I present him with run-down estates with overgrown gardens and neglected architecture that would take a bulldozer to fix.) While our future home remains a question mark (we may have to move into our tiny investment property on St Kilda Road, after all!), someone will be assured of a extraordinary life with this historic 1854 house and garden called 'Wickham', currently for sale here -- LINK  

It's actually located just around the corner from where we live, in a beautiful part of Victoria called Harkaway. (Yes, we looked at it, but the price tag and heritage overlays were too prohibitive.) It's one of the prettiest properties I've ever inspected, with a grand carriage drive, a coach house, a summer house (a very cute octagonal retreat), pool, stables, even a historic smoke house. But while the outbuildings may need restoration, the house is immaculate, and is a rare example of an untouched floorplan from the mid-1800s. The highlights include a beautiful drawing room, an enormous kitchen with servery, and a gorgeous enclosed conservatory with a brick floor and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to an elegant arbour. 

Imagine ripping up the worn old tennis court and putting in an Edwardian picking garden? Let's hope it goes to a garden lover.


Have you seen Dolce and Gabbana's new botanical garden-inspired collection for A/W 2017? There are dresses imprinted with garden parties, skirts emblazoned with bold palm prints and bags made of pretty wicker. My favourite is the pair of shoes designed like trellis, and the whimsical handbag that looks like a miniature version of the Petit Trianon summer house at Versailles. The collection is a magnificent tribute to the grand gardens of the Victorian era, but it's all done with Dolce and Gabbana's endearing whimsy and eye-catching drama.


Herm├Ęs has also been bringing out a number of exquisitely ornate garden scarves each year. The latest is the beautifully ornate Au Pays des Oiseaux Fleurs (above), which comes in various colourways, but Le Jardin de Leila, which was part of last year's collection (and which I bought to celebrate a special occasion), was heavenly, too. LINK HERE


Finally, if you're looking for something to enhance your sun room, Canopy Designs in the US creates these sublime porcelain chandeliers that look like something you'd find in an enchanted forest. There are various designs, but this is perhaps the prettiest; a tumbling, wondrous delight of intertwining vines, leaves and buds. They also do bespoke work, so you can create your own botanical-inspired lighting. The link is here -- CANOPY NATURE-INSPIRED CHANDELIERS


  1. Lots of eye candy in this post Janelle! I love your garden map. Very clever of you and I think you could easily have a new sideline! Love that D&G collection too, but then anything botanical hooks me in easily. Hope the writing is going well...

  2. Thank you Heidi. Rizzoli want garden plans for the new book, but I am certainly not the artist to do them! (As my partner kindly pointed out, all the shadows are in different places.) Think we'd best leave such plans to the watercolour experts.

    Writing is still ongoing. Trying to finish all the final copy editing on the Picnic book before I have to head off on a work trip, but we're still finding out information! But the publishers are doing a wonderful trip with it, and they're so easy to work with too! So it's been a dream project, really.


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

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