A year ago we asked Carolyn Grohmann* of Secret Gardens to design a new garden for us. This was a big step, and a not inexpensive one, but a year on we can say it has been a good decision. Interpreting the brief with sensitivity and an instinctive understanding of what would suit the house and its owners, Carolyn came up with plans for both front and rear gardens which thanks to Robin Torrie and his team from Water Gems have now been made flesh.
Work has been going on over the last few months, and while the building of the garden is now complete, the planting is at the very early stages and will continue well into next year (and beyond, of course), but in terms of the 'bones', we are utterly delighted with what Carolyn and Robin have created for us, and as to their attention to detail, the standard of their work, and the considerate way in which the job has been done, we couldn't be more impressed and appreciative.
The picture above shows the rear garden in the drizzle this morning, the markers indicating some of the 1400 bulbs we planted over the weekend. The four parterre beds will contain mixed planting with the less formal, more shady areas towards the far end being given over to woodland plants (the picture gives a slighty skewed perspective - the whole thing is much bigger than it looks), and on the south-facing wall to the right we have espaliered apple trees, a raised bed for vegetables, and a greenhouse. We couldn't be happier with it.
Along the way, we have given much entertainment to passers-by who have stopped to watch the work going on at the front of the house, where amongst other things we moved the entrance (a digger and other heavy machinery were involved), and to neighbours who have commented most favourably on the transformation. I, too, have found the process extremely interesting as the Water Gems men, ably led on site by Luke, coped with logistical challenges and the very hard work involved in the build with unfailing good humour and dedication. It was a pleasure to have them here, and after so many weeks in their company, I miss them now that they've gone!
If you've noticed a lack of Friday flowers posts this year, it's because once the preparatory work started there were virtually no flowers left to feature, but now that that fallow period is over we are looking forward to plenty in future, and I hope to record the garden's progress on these pages.
*Just by the way, Carolyn numbers novelist Kate Atkinson among her clients, and you can see her lovely Edinburgh garden here.
A wander round St. Andrews this morning yielded much in the way of floral interest - despite the lateness of the season. I love the huge verdigris pots of cyclamen outside a house in North Street, the tiny mossy St. Andrews Preservation Trust Museum garden, and the wit of the Ladies' Golf Union down on The Scores.
"Vita hated Hybrid Teas, and was not keen on most of the Hybrid Perpetuals [...]. She felt the new varieties lacked 'the subtlety to be found in some of these traditional roses which might well be picked off a medieval tapestry or a piece of Stuart needlework. Indeed, I think you should approach them as though they were textiles rather than flowers. The velvet vermilions of petals, the stamens of quivering gold, the slaty purple of Cardinal Richelieu, the loose dark red and gold of Alain Blanchard; I could go on for ever, but always I should come back to the idea of embroidery and of velvet and of the damask with which some of them share their name.' "
The picture is not mine but, I hope, anticipates one of my own. It's from rose breeder David Austin and is of Munstead Wood, one of a number of roses I have just ordered from them, so I'm already looking forward to next summer's blooms and shall bear in mind Vita's words.
"The air was densely perfumed with a mixture of Victoria's scent (white heliotrope, from a shop off the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris), potted jasmine and gardenias that stood about on every surface, apple logs in the grate and, on window ledges and tables, 'bowls of lavender and dried rose leaves, ... a sort of dusty fragrance sweeter in the under layers': the famous Knole potpourri, made since the reign of George I to a recipe devised by Lady Betty Germain, a Sackville cousin and former lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne."
You can read a little about "the prim-looking" Lady Betty and her rooms at Knole - Vita's ancestral home - here, and this post apparently gives the recipe for the potpourri. Over here is another rather nice extract from the biography.
I've written about Helen's shoes before as I've been a customer of hers for many years, though my taste runs to the more understated end of the range, but above you'll see some of her striking designs worn by violinist Alice Rickards and cellist Sonia Cromarty as they play a piece from Transplanted, "a celebration of the rich diversity of Scotland's plant life and its music". The sonata is Primrose by Scottish baroque composer James Oswald.
In Melrose the other day we visited Priorwood Garden, known especially for its orchard. Look at those pears on that fine old south-facing wall; note also the 'door' on the right (below) which is at first floor level and opens onto nothing but a drop to the ground - might it once have had a forestair?)
The orchard is home to many old varieties of apple,
I spent a couple of hours at Chelsea Physic Garden on Tuesday - it was the perfect place for a hot day in the city, relatively quiet and with many places to sit and enjoy the greenness; the café, however, leaves something to be desired in terms of organisation and service.
" Behind one like a cliff rises a palace of romance, vast, august, austere; a palace over which in a far-off age some mighty magician has thrown an enchanting spell sleep. Sleep and forgetfulness brood over the garden, and everywhere from sombre alley and moss-grown stair there rises a faint sweet fragrance of decay ...
On the left, the garden looks down upon grey-green olives shot with silver in the sunlight, and upon a vine-clad pergola which clings like a spider's web to undulating slope and dell. Deep drifts of withered leaves have gathered on the stairways, the fountain basins are overgrown with maidenhair or choked with water-weeds, the empty niches draped with velvety moss or tapestried with creepers. Descending by weed-grown stair and crumbling balustrade, one reaches a gloomy alley where a hundred fountains gush into a trough beneath a line of mouldering reliefs. At the further end of the terrace, falling in great cascades like the folds of a Naiad's robe or the flash of a silver sword, the river leaps into the garden, to four great pools of troubled water, a jeweled belt which quivers in the sunlight with a mysterious, an amazing blue. Such is the garden in the sober daylight, but what it may be in the summer nights, when the breath of the ivy comes and goes in waves of drowsy perfume, and great white moths are fluttering about the fountains, and in the ilex arbours and gloomy alcoves there are strange mutterings, and deep-drawn sighs, and whispering voices, and flashes of ghostly white, I do not dare to say."
Rose paid a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show last week and most kindly sent me some photographs for us all to enjoy. While the show is now over for another year, there are many images still available online, but this personal selection should brighten up what is - in this neck of the woods at least - a dull day.