21 September 2014
On Friday night, Charlie and I drove back to Wardington… that magical garden in Oxfordshire that you first caught sight of on the blog a few months ago now, Glimpses of Things. It was wonderful to be back. But the most wonderful thing of all, visually at least, is the vegetable garden. Saturday was rainy and misty all day long. But in the soft afternoon light the dahlias glowed.
Across the lane from the house is the extraordinary flower field that Bridget Elworthy has planted here. With a friend, Henrietta Courtauld, she has created The Land Gardeners. Once a week they drive buckets of fresh-cut, organically grown, seasonal English flowers down the M40 to London. Flowers are picked at dawn and are at the florist early that morning. I’m reminded of my old boss, Charles – whose grandmother’s vegetables used to be sent on the train from Suffolk each morning and would arrive in London with the dew still on them. But this is now – and it’s for real.
Quite aside from this satisfying productive pleasure, the flower field is stunningly beautiful.
There is something innately pleasing about rows of flowers in a cutting garden.
(I couldn’t resist sneaking in a photograph of the lake and boathouse in the grey afternoon mist):
But early this morning, in a beautiful autumnal morning, everything came brilliantly to life, both in the vegetable garden:
… and even more triumphantly in the flower meadow:
(giant pink dahlias the size of plates from Dixter):
I love these orange-white creatures:
And these rows of purple dahlias in the early morning sunshine:
Looking across the lane to the manor is a sight of quiet serene beauty.
Start ordering your flowers now. If that is too complicated, Bridget has recently written and produced the most beautiful book of English Gardens, photographed by Clive Nichols, which you can buy here, in support of the Katherine House Hospice Trust. I cannot recommend it enough. Although if I’m honest it just sets off the itch to write a book on gardens one of these days too….
Reluctantly, we left bright and early – to make our way to Decorex (in conversation with Sue Crewe). Sue, it was great fun, but do you mind my admitting it was a wrench, on such a beautiful morning, to tear ourselves away?
Not, I should add, without a bucket of flowers picked by Somers:
Can you imagine anything nicer to take home to London? No, you cannot.
Decorex was what it was – may I confess to finding the world of the trade show a little bit weird? But it was lovely to see some good friends, with such beautiful stands, and especially to say goodbye to Sue after her brilliant decades on the helm at House and Garden. I enjoyed the talk and I loved meeting people afterwards.
But we abandoned as soon as we could… in favour of what might, who knows, turn out to be the last of the warm soft autumn afternoons (do you feel a chill in the air?). We headed first to Petersham but the traffic was chaotic and we turned our sights instead on Chiswick… on the way home and just the ice-lemon sorbet we needed after the crowds. It was years since I’ve been. Nothing could be further from the gentle Arts & Crafts of Wardington.
If you missed William Kent at the V&A… don’t worry. Just pop down to Chiswick – the most perfect classical house you will ever see, a triumphant example of his style, and even on a busy Sunday afternoon in the park, near deserted. (Oh, and please note, taking photographs inside is forbidden):
It is a dream. The real delight of Chiswick is how small-scaled the house is… the grandest cottage-villa in London.
Palladio watches over us:
But I really liked the fact that he’s watching over gardens filled with happy families playing among the trees.
The walled garden is amazing. They had just closed, but let us in. I have severe pumpkin envy.
Leaving, there is a glimpse across the ha-ha to the great avenues and terraces of Lord Burlington and William Kent’s sublime creation.
And in the distance, the roar of the traffic of the A4 thunders by, and in the quiet flat autumn light another day passes in the great continuum of 285 years since this place was first made. I love the randomness of days like this. Who knows how they will begin, and how they will end? I love this time of year.