Monday, 17 December 2012

Rocking Robin and the Wonders of RHS Wisley


Last Thursday I emerged from my winter hibernation long enough to meet up with the lovely Lazy Trollop and the Highly Organised Helen Reeley at wonderful RHS Wisley in what is becoming an extremely enjoyable December tradition.  The gardens couldn't have looked more festive with a sharp layer of festooning frost making Wizzers more wonderful than Oz.  And accompanying us on our meander not a munchkin but a fat little robin who took a great liking to Helen and her hat.

There is so much at Wisley to see that even when the car parks seem full it is always possible to escape the crowds and find a quiet corner but on frosty Thursday we didn't need to as few had braved the cold.  What a treat they missed!!

Even when cut down and decaying, gunnera still retains its architectural attraction (clic on any picture to enlarge)

We are always drawn to the Piet Oudolf borders, fabulous in summer with their rich tapestry textures in winter they excelled themselves, the beautiful brocade background of lace-leaved eryngiums appliqu├ęd with sparkling beads of ice like the most fabulous couture ball gown.

 Arching grasses piped with slivers of snow,

We were mesmerized by the borders as I still am by my photos, difficult to know which one I love the most.  Zooming in and cropping them turns even the smallest detail into a fabulous picture.

 A bewitching winter bouquet

 A captivating contrast between the dark and dying stems and white frosted foliage

Did Piet design these borders with the knowledge they would be resplendent in summer, agreeable in autumn but totally spellbinding in winter?  The man's a genius! but you all  knew that already.

 Eventually the call of cake is too strong and we drag ourselves away from the borders to the cafe with the robin sat directly outside the window by our table eyeing up my banana cake jealously.

A quick wander around the glass-house

after the festive delights of the borders the Christmas tree looked a little dull until Lazy Trollop and Helen brightened it up!

Inside the unusual 'poncey etta' trees looked more festive!!

Out into the rock garden - another of my favourite haunts and our rocking robin rejoins us, not too happy that we didn't save him any crumbs!

When I was a child I thought that Jenny Wrens were robins' wives.. a notion I didn't question until a few years ago when I suddenly thought "that can't be right." It is too charming not to be right and so I still believe it.

A wintery cobweb that looked unreal like a westward leading 'star of wonder' guiding us into the alpine houses.

We laughed all day as we always do on our meet-ups.  The warmth of friends and the wonders of Wisley - better than any Christmas party!

And of course no party is complete without the inevitable Matthew Wilson tease!


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A Very Shameless Plug for Into Gardens App


What Chrimbo pressie do you give the person who has everything, or the person you have forgotten to buy anything for and need a last minute stocking filler? It can only be a subscription to the absolutely marvellous IntoGardens App   masterminded by the gorgeous James Alexander-Sinclair and presented to you here by the fabulous flying Beardielves! 

Singin' (to the tune of Telephone Man)

"Hey baby, I'm your Into Gardens app
You just load it on your iPad
Then you put it on your lap
You can use it in the bedroom
You can use it in the hall
You can use it in the bathroom
You can hang it on the wall
You can look at pretty pictures
You can order lovely plants
And if you really want to
You can (add lyric of choice here)
Because, hey baby, I'm your Into Gardens app"

Yes, yes, I know this is a totally shameless plug but it will mean JAS has to be doubly nice to me 
in future.  Also  if you check out the IntoGarden's website now and subscribe to their newsletter 
you stand a chance of winning an exquisite Christmas Wreath from the famed Clifton Nurseries
and in all probability crafted by the strong, masculine, capable hands of Managing Director 
Matthew Wilson himself! 

Matthew Wilson rushing to bring you your edible wreath!


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pre-Raphaelite posing...


Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais

There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call them.
There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of lauds
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
                          from Shakespeare’s Hamlet

When I told my friend Fat Rascal (who lives at the top of a mountain in France) about our visit to the enchanting Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain she asked "And which painting were you?".  I understood what she meant immediately for in days of yore, when we were young and nubile, the most prized female image was that of a flowing haired Pre-Raphaelite..  I was Ophelia, drifting, downstream to her watery doom, a dreamy, desirable, but ultimately tragic figure touched by melancholy and madness. She embodied the angst of my teenage years,  filled with thoughts of a beautiful suicide I had no real intention of committing (mostly because I feared that no-one would actually care!)  Now when I view the  painting it is more breathtaking than even my teenage dreams could imagine, the colours vibrant and ethereal, her 'weedy trophies' a gardener's inspiration.  It remains the most famous and my favourite.

Fat Rascal I see as the Lady of Shalott who also has a tragic, watery, doom her crinkled locks flowing down to her waist as she drifts towards Camelot.

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right —
The leaves upon her falling light —
Through the noises of the night
            She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
            The Lady of Shalott.

 We grew our teenage hair long and lustrous - I once walked down a leafy avenue by the side of a park when an elderly man called across the road to me "You look very beautiful with the sun shining on your hair... "  I accepted it as my due and smiled wondering if perhaps I reminded him romantically of his long dead wife.

Whilst I loved the femininity of the fashions of that time, all long dresses and purple Biba eyes,  my china-doll face belied the dichotomy that I had remained a complete tom boy and was a ladette years before the term was even invented.  I remember a beautiful and fragile Victorian dress I had bought from an antique shop, all linen, lace and velvet, perfect for a Pre-Raphaelite but it got worn to one too many raucous parties and ended up cruelly doused in beer and red wine never to recover.

Teenage Sock's locks

Many of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings are based on  mediaeval culture, myths, Arthurian legends, or Shakespeare's plays,  stories that I had loved and crammed my overflowing imagination with as a child.  I had a treasured a beautifully illustrated copy of Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales of Shakespeare - sometimes scorned amongst scholars this book, presenting the plays in short story form, stood me in good stead for years of pub quizzes familiarising me with the various characters of Shakespeare's plays without having to read all the overblown texts.  And now the characters are pictured in front of me at this fascinating exhibition bringing their own life to the poetry and plays I read so avidly as a child.  The picture below of the Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt was my second favourite. I hadn't seen it before and the colour and movement in it was breathtaking her hair and her world whirling around her as

The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

                             Alfred Lord Tennyson 

There were many, many more paintings and not all girlie fantasy ones either although to his surprise the Bedsock found these incredibly interesting as well.  A fantastic exhibition, well worth the visit. Make sure you get an audio commentary and allow up to two hours.