In February, I spent a couple of weeks in the English countryside, marveling at the valiant little clumps of snowdrops, giving bright points of white along the roadside, bridle paths and grass verges.
While Winter is still in full force, these delicate little flowers bravely emerge with only the slightest encouragement from the warmth of a weak sun, trembling in the cold February air.
Back in the Victorian era, when I was a child, we were taught a song at school - my memory of the tune is shaky (probably a good job as my holding a tune is also shaky!), but the actual poem, well known to English school children it seems, is still vivid in my mind.
"Where are the snowdrops?" said the sun,
"Dead" said the frost, "buried and lost, every one.".
"A foolish answer," said the sun, "They did not die, asleep they lie, every one..
And I will awake them, I the sun,
Into the light, all clad in white, every one.".
"It's rather day in the earth today," said one little bulb to his brother,.
"But I thought that I felt a sunbeam's ray..
We must strive and grow 'til we find our way".
and they nestled close to each other..
They struggled and strived by day and night,.
'til two little snowdrops in green and white .
rose out of the darkness and into the light;.
and softly kissed one another.
By Annie Mattheson, born March 1853, died 1924.
So the upside about British weather and its copious amount of rain, is that plant life is always beautifully green . As much as I love a wild English garden - seemingly chaotic, haphazard and abandoned, I am mildly obsessed with an organized landscape with box hedges, creamy colored gravel, planters, symmetry and of course, topiary.
Below, a photograph of Daylesford in Gloucestershire, England. It calls itself a 'working farm' as it grows, produces and sells all its organic produce - veggies and meat alike. HOWEVER, IT IS SO MUCH MORE! Its barns and outhouses have been converted into a series of shops selling food items, home goods, garden nursery items, restaurant, cooking school, organic clothes and a health spa. It has been brilliantly designed, down to the last detail. It has all the influence of design through nature and the countryside but it has been executed in such a sophisticated way. It is sheer perfection and judging from the amount of people who frequent it, everyone else thinks so too. I never tire of going to Daylesford although it's much more fun with a big fat wallet or a high credit card limit. Click here to see more about them.
I also made a whirlwind visit to Paris during my trip to England which only increased my love of these organized, symmetrical gardens and pathways. See below.
Daylesford, Gloucestershire, England
Jardin du Palais Royal, Paris, France
Topiary cards of 'letters' by Zegga &Damm, Architectural Watercolors ; cat topiary photos are by British artist Richard Saunders who produces photographs of digitally generated topiary cats. Although he tells people that they are not real, apparently some people refuse to believe him. He came up with the idea after seeing a topiary of a cat that looked very much like his beloved cat, Tolly, who died last February 2016. To see more of his work click here
Why not encase a mud room, entryway or powder room in some fun topiary wallpaper to add a little flair while you're pulling off your wellies. The stunning orange grove fabric at top, handprinted and printed on sumptuous linen, can be used as wall covering or curtains and would give the illusion of being in an orangerie year round. Just add an orange scented candle and you're all set!
I also love prints of garden plans and designs. They look especially wonderful as a collection of six or nine, framed alike. I have included examples of two below, but, as well as the typical green and white/cream, they also can be purchased in black & white, sepia tones, navy blue and more. These are not original, but are incredibly affordable and I'm sure if you're handy, you can rough them up a bit with a quick tea bath and a few seconds in the oven! (we learned this at school when we recreated the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Magna Carta or some other ancient document. I'm sure you can find a 'how-to' on You tube if this wasn't part of your worldly/childlike education).
TOPIARY WALL COVERING & ARTWORK.
John Rosselli: Radish Moon linen orange grove in vermillion/natural - close up and pattern; Clarke and Clark Topiary in Raspberry and Sage.
Prints of French Garden plans, on watercolour paper. Click on images to website and to see more.
MOODBOARD - ORANGERIE INSPIRED BEDROOM.
Forgive me while I briefly digress from my Spring and countryside theme a little here to show you this..........Back in the Cotswolds at Daylesford.....the heart shape is cleverly used as a repeating theme; in many different forms... in pictures, by using small pebbles or river rocks embedded into flooring, ceramic dishes and bowls, sawn end of tree branches made into a heart shape collage. It strengthens the overall design element without being too obvious or twee (kitchy). It ties all the areas together by using a specific theme in different, unique and interesting mediums and it is a design trick that is equally successful commercially (branding) and domestically.
REPEATING A THEME.
A typical Cotswold palette. The stone varies from a greyish, silvery blue to warm caramel with yellow and peachy undertones. The choice of paint colour brings out the richness of the stone.
While we are still deeply entrenched in cashmere and tweed to protect us from the harsher elements, we are forming thoughts of lighterwight fabrics, both on ourselves and in our homes. Visions of broderie anglaise, organza, wispy sheer voiles, loose weave linens and crisp bright cottons dance before our eyes. Perhaps some curtains in a pretty, soft cotton or an old chair smartened up in a zesty, cheerful pattern.
From top to bottom, left to right:
Schumacher: Parseme in Antique Ecru, Schumacher: Vincenzo Embroidery in Blanc; Schumacher: Isabella sheer Embroidery in Ivory; Schumacher: Tori Stripe in Leaf; Schumacher: Anastasia Eyelet in White; Schumacher: Melinda sheer check in Aqua; Christopher Farr Cloth: Brista in green; Christopher Farr Cloth: Breakwater in Lemon; Christopher Farr Cloth: Carnival in grey/green; Christopher Farr Cloth: Curica in Lime; Schumacher: Queen of Spain in green; Paradise feather.
Although still hand-in-hand, in a tight grasp with a jack frost, crisp spring days are unfolding, bringing with them a feeling of buoyancy, hope and new beginnings.
A few spring like rooms that feel fresh and vibrant .
Designed by Jamie Drake
Designed by Ashley Whittaker
Designed by Ashley Whittaker
And finally, I want to share a lovely store in my neighbourhood .....
CASTEL - a fabric shop in Cobble Hill sells beautiful cloth and always style their window magnificently. Their current display does not disappoint. Castel is a 'trade only' showroom but you can purchase through a designer. They also sell exquisite accessories such as cushions made from the Castel line and throws, all of which are available to the general public. https://www.castelmaison.com/wp/tag/brooklyn/