On the cusp

5 May 2014
Ben Pentreath

There’s a moment, around now, when I suddenly realised that spring is on the brink of summer. I’m never quite ready in my mind.  Are we nearly half way through the year already? All of a sudden, the evenings are much longer and it’s light at 5 in the morning. The countryside is saturated with colour: we were driving back from a site the other day, and saw a great field of yellow oilseed rape, edged with copper beech trees – as Rupert from my office said at the time, it felt like driving through a drawing by David Hockney. Or then, I was in the garden last night at sunset and the sound of birdsong was intense. Winter seems a very long way away. Whichever way you look at it, I love early May.

I’ve had the quietest weekend imaginable (those sorts of days when the only person you speak to all day is the person in the shop when you’re buying your newspaper). I can’t say I mind feeling a bit reclusive every now and again. It’s good, although it reminds you why you love your friends. Well, anyway, I’ve had what, I think, in the 19th century, was known as a Rest Cure. I’ve spent most of the weekend in the garden, and while it doesn’t make for the most interesting life, or blog, for that matter, there’s nothing – nothing in the world – like the peace and calm that arises from spending a whole day digging and raking and sowing, with the sun on your back, and thinking about nothing else at all other than the task immediately in front of you. Bliss.P1030644

So there’s very little to write about at all. But lots to look at.

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I don’t think I’d planned so many queen of the night and black parrot tulips in my head, but they are kind of working. More creams and lemon yellows next year (note to self).

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I love the patterns made by rows of newly planted vegetables, full of optimism; and I love the moment when the beech hedge breaks into new growth.  Blink, and you’ve missed it.

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The house goes green or purple depending on the trees outside the window:

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I walked across the green to watch a perfect, soft, misty sunset, and have a chat with very inquisitive young cows. (that is how exciting my life got this weekend).

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This week, I’m quite excited, by contrast. I’m off to Stockholm on Thursday morning for a few days – a trip that Maggie and I have planned for years, and the first time I’ve been. All advice is very welcome!

28 comments on this post


Rest cure blogs are the best. I love looking at the photos of your beautiful garden. Enjoy Stockholm – it’s a lovely city. Tell us all about your experience when you return.


Love the Goth Garden! Cows are cool! Haven’t been to Stockholm and look forward to your personalised tour of exteriors, interiors, and random decorative Swedish stuff.


As usual love seeing your gardens, inspirational tulip planting, I will break loose from pots next year and try some in my garden. Curious cows are a highlight of many a walk, though do like a fence between us, up here in north west scotland it’s mostly highlands with big horns!


Dear Ben
Thank you so much, as always, for such a beautiful blog & photographs which bought back so many evocative memories of weekend exeats, holidays etc at our home on the Blackdown Hills in Devon. Along with the bees the cows in the neighbouring field were told all my secrets: joys or worries.



Ben, we were lucky enough to live in Stockholm for a while – I miss it hugely!

You might like the interior (and wonderful food!) of Bakfickan – the little sister restaurant at the opera house (the main art nouveau restaurant is very beautiful, but I like the 60s tiles and marble counter in Bakfickan even better).

Also lovely, if you have time for a longer walk, is Rosendals, a plant nursery and cafe on Djurgarden – you eat in one of the old glass houses, or in the orchard.

Skansen, though a bit more touristy, is always worth a visit for anyone who likes architecture and interiors…

As already mentioned, get thee to Svenskt Tenn! Oh – if after that you want to dine in a booth lined with Josef Frank linen (and who wouldn’t?), Prinsen on Master Samuelsgatan is the place to do it.

Have a wonderful trip – and lots of pics, please!


Yes indeed, as Ellen said, the tulips have almost become wild in your garden normally such a cultivated species. Sorry to be a spoil sport but if you are going to Stockholm, I wouldn’t bother packing much sun cream. Have an ace time!

I second the comment that you must go to the Stockholm Public Library and Skogskyrkangarden Cemetery, both by Asplund — though at the cemetery, do be sure to look at not just the Asplund chapels but also those buildings by Lewerntz. They’re both playing with Modernism and Classicism in such fresh, clean ways — what I wouldn’t give for an afternoon wandering through those stones again! As a devotee of burial grounds the world over, this is by far my favorite.

And the library is a dream. In the round, with these strange sculptural pulls and drinking fountains, and the somehow moving plasterwork over bare stones in the clerestory drum above the reading room

There will come a moment soon when I simply invite myself to your garden. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to see photos of a garden which is loved and lovingly tended; it is better than therapy, although marginally more expensive. I do not have enough weekends in a year with nothing to do but potter and tend to my garden.
I say plant the orange Ballerina tulips or the clear pink China Pink with your Queen of Night. The contrasting shape (they are both lily-flowered tulips) will give a bit of zing. Add something lime green and you are off! I cannot wait to see it next year.
Thank you for posting this.


Dear Ben, An absolute must is Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde. You cannot return home without at least one of his perfect flower pots.
Will look forward to the missives from Stockholm!

Nessa Ryallsays:

Another lovely start to the week,thankyou.Love all those dark tulips and the relationship with the new copper beech unfurlings.Have a great time in Stockholm.

Peter Crispsays:

A few of my favourite places in Stockholm: Gustav III’s Pompeii-inspired Pavilion at Haga; the royal theatre at Drottningholm a jewel of wood, papier mâché and stucco; Stockholm City Hall (the Stadshus); Rosersberg Palace on the shore of Lake Mälaren on the outskirts of the city.

You continue to delight us with visions of your bountiful and beguiling garden and surrounding countryside. Thank you!

Yes, cows are very inquisitive and I think if I were there, I too would have stopped for a chat.


Tulips are definitely my favourite flower, you get such a lot from them, the anticipation when the bud is on show then the joy of the flowering. I even love the dying of the flower as this is always so elegantly done and so beautiful still. Nothing wrong with black tulips, love them all but was given 50 white bulbs last year of different varieties, they are all lovely but like the frilly ones particularly, no idea of the names. Overall favourite tulip is Princess Irene , gotta love a bit of orange.


for amanda Luddington.

I too want a book of Ben’s blog.

I love it all.

Ellen Spencersays:

I never get tired of looking at pictures of your garden, but I think my favorite thing is the contrast of the mown paths through the unmown parts filled with wild flowers. I first saw this effect years ago at Sissinghurst when I was living in Kent. So perfect!

What a joy to visit your garden on a rather beak and very cool Midwestern morning. So true that there is nothing as blissful as a day in the garden. Mostly at mulching stage here. Did not see any cows over the weekend but meeting them is always a possibility in Wisconsin. Looking forward to your travel report.

Absolutely stunning! Beautiful pictures, you are quite the photographer. Safe Travels,


Even if you are not interested in nautical antiques, you should pop into the fabulously named (forgive me, I’ve been spending my time with teenaged boys) FARTYGSMAGASINET on Gamla Stan, close to the Cathedral and Palace. It is a treasure trove: furniture and fittings from old ships, photographs of ship wrecks, etc. Owned by lovely people. Google it to get an idea of the interior.

It is time that I thanked you letting me start my week with your beautiful photographs. Monday morning coffee and an email from Ben Pentreath: bliss.

Leave a lot of time for the Vasa (sp?)museum! Am visiting London for Chelsea and hope to stop at your shop. Love the blog!

I envy your trip to Stockholm. There is so much to see architecturally: personally I’d head off to the Storkyrkan in Gamla Stan to see Bernt Notke’s ‘St George and the Dragon’ – an immense late Gothic wooden sculpture. The Storkyrkan is very close to the baroque Royal Palace by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. I’d also want to look at the twentieth century classical stuff by guys like Gunnar Asplund (Stockholm Public Library and Skogskyrkangarden Cemetery) and Ivar Tengbom (Stockholm Concert Hall). The City Hall looks pretty interesting too. If you’ve time take a trip to the summer palace at Drottningholm. It has an intact Baroque theatre with original scenery by Bibiena.


Wonderful pictures to start a Monday morning with. It’s a short week for me as well as we are headed to Portugal Friday. Have never been: anyone have tips on the Alentejo region?

We had some of our best eating success in Stockholm: grabbing a quick bite in the 19th c. food hall in the Ostermalm (address: Östermalmstorg, 11439 Stockholm), dinner at an old eatery called Pelikan deep in the Sodermalm (address: Blekingegatan 40, 116 62 Stockholm, Sweden), and absolutely not to be missed, of course, is smorgasbord at the classic Veranda in the Old Hotel. However, our favorite meal, one we refer to quite often although it’s 5 years since our trip, was a fried herring plate (or the wrap my husband had) at a kiosk in the plaza outside the Stockholm Sodermalm Museum (the Stockholms Stadsmuseum, at address: Ryssgården, 116 45 Stockholm, Sweden). The kiosk looks a little dodgy, but it’s Slow Food recommended, and was absolutely incredible, with fluffy potatoes, homemade pickles and lingonberry jam… I believe it’s the first T-Bana stop in the Sodermalm.

We then took a walk along the cliff of Soder in the Sodermalm recommended in Eyewitness Travels. That guide book was the best for Stockholm: I didn’t see its Sodermalm walk described in any other guidebook, and it was a great walk.

Can’t wait to see pictures of your trip!


Dear Ben, lovely photos, the wildflower planting is quite covetable..clever you! We are heading into winter in Tasmania, and the garden is showing some colour, especially the dogwoods and our silver birches, about fifteen of them, a few too many in a small town plot, but the bark is super, like flaking whitewash!We have planted multitudes of tulips and espaliered some camelias to a wirework roll on spring. Have a great time in Stockholm,plenty of pics for the next blog, cheers Scott

Dear Ben, I was probably a 100 yards from you down the hill doing exactly the same soaking up the atmosphere, shaking the winter off me, did you hear the cuckoo’s in the late afternoon till dusk? it was a delight as it has been some years since I heard them last in the valley.
Thank you for your beautiful photos and word, I think you need to make a Ben Pentreath calendar, or a book :The confessions of a village!!
p.s Pleased you had some time with Doris over the weekend.


Dear Ben,

Thank you for this post. I can now enjoy my day off while thinking or all those beautiful tulips
x Julien


Hey Ben, I disagree – I think a blog about such a rest cure is most interesting indeed. Thank you for sharing your rest cure with us, and I hope you’re feeling great on it. For me, the garden and being outside is the most wonderful therapy, and it is free. Its a blessed thing. Nature and its’ unfurling beauty is fleeting. Almost impossible to capture, but I think you manage to in your delightful blog. On tulips, in my (sadly) north-east facing garden in Edinburgh’s New Town, I do mainly deep black in the form of Havran, Paul Scherer, QofN, and white in tall and elegant Triumphator. Tried Spring Green last year – too yellow for me. I like the ideas of pools of darkness and light. Love Dorset and miss it. s

Garbo Interior, Garbo Interior and Garbo Interior! 🙂 And obviously Svenskt Tenn. Brahegatan 21 and Strandvägen 5 respectively (my guess is that you already knew the address of the latter! :-))

Thank you once again for a lovely blog post!

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