Two favourite places

22 September 2019
Ben Pentreath

P A R T   1  :

N E W   Y O R K

Somehow, there aren’t many more views in the world as thrilling as this…. the towers of Manhattan on the skyline. It takes my breath away every time….

Although maybe this view, from our hotel room (at the Bowery, before you ask) was even more thrilling when we pulled open our curtains early the next morning. We’d had a lovely evening the night before with Valentina. 

We were in New York for a short visit – to see friends, to give ourselves an autumn kickstart in one of the most beautiful cities in the world… and on Monday, I was giving a talk at Sotheby’s, for the ICAA.

Within a few minutes the sun was gleaming off the faceted glass wall of One World Trade Centre. 

Within another few minutes we were being completely blinded by a Death Star. 

… I wasn’t quite sure that was Daniel Libeskind’s plan, but there you go.  Blinking, we left our room…. and made our way to Buvette for breakfast with Charlie’s friend Rose. 

Heaven.  And then up to the Union Square Green Market, surely one of the most beautiful sights in the whole of New York.

Dahlias for Charlie! 

And amazing flowers and fruit and veg. 

We went back for a snooze. We’d decided not to rush around too much.  Then an amble through Chinatown and Little Italy – late lunch at Odeon. 

The Festival of San Gennaro was in full fling….

Some of my favourite streets in New York…

I know we’re not meant to use single-use plastic anymore, but these balloon corgis being taken for a walk did make me chuckle.

A brilliant supper with Val that night, in the village… And then on Sunday morning, up early, breakfast, lacy cast iron balconies casting shadows in the hot sunshine…

And breakfast before a quick tour of the Tenement Museum.  Maybe this is what our kitchen in Scotland will be looking like in a few years time…?

We had a delicious lunch with Frances Palmer, and her husband Wally, and a brilliant catch up. Back to the hotel – we popped into John Derian’s shop and lovely to see John there.

The next 24 hours flew by, Sunday evening supper with Austin, on Monday, meetings and me getting my talk under control, no small thing, and then off to Sotheby’s…. it was a brilliant crowd, so good to see old friends and to meet new ones… out for dinner afterwards… and one final view of beautiful New York that night. 

And then we were off on the early flight home the next morning.


P A R T   2 :

T H E   Y E O V I L   C H R Y S A N T H E M U M   &   D A H L I A   S O C I E T Y

It was a bit like waking up from a dream, as if we’d hardly been away at all. Back to a hectic week in London, and then, on Thursday night, late, back to Dorset. I was out all day on site, which was exciting and fantastic, the very first day thinking about the designs of a new house in a beautiful setting… and then back to Charlie’s wonderful display of dahlias in the setting sun.

Trouble in the cutting garden:

The following morning we were all up very early. Charlie was taking his Dahlias to the final show of the season, the Yeovil and District Chrysanthemum & Dahlia Society Autumn show.  I took the dogs for a walk as the sun came up. 

The hills are covered in bales of winter feed, looking like Antony Gormley has called by.  Enid barks at every black bag. 

Sibyl in the woods:

It was at this moment that I got a text from Charlie saying ‘standards incredibly high – not expecting anything at all’.  I reminded him, as I often do, that it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts….

We had breakfast in Bridport with our neighbour Anne, then a basking moment with papers and pints before lunch and heading to the show.

We needn’t have worried.

First in the novice category (this is the last year Charlie could enter, as he’s now won two medals from the Dahlia society earlier in the summer) was one thing, but getting a second in an open category (Collarette Dahlias) was something altogether more amazing. 

Regular readers will know how much I love this show and the society. Almost as good as New York – or maybe in its own way, even closer to my heart right now?

Then it was time for the cups to be awarded. 

The following photographs tell the story:

Flush with victory, we had a celebratory drink at the seaside that evening, as the sun went down and gale began to blow in.

And then today, we had a lovely ceremony, out at sea on the Solent, on the Isle of Wight, scattering my father’s ashes to the winds and the tide. A moment passing, but a happy day, and so good to think about Mum & Dad and the brilliant years they had on the Island.

I’m back in London now. Charlie’s in Dorset for another day or two, with the garden, and the dogs, so it’s very, very quiet here in the flat this evening and I think I’ll be early to bed tonight.  When I walked up from Waterloo earlier, the grey clouds were thick over the city.  When I started writing the blog, they were thick overhead.   And then, I looked up, and the sky was clear, and a beautiful soft light was over Queen Square, the tall buildings glowing in the dying rays of the sunshine above the trees.  And life, just for that moment, felt completely serene.

21 comments on this post


Another New Yorker here, who finds your blog comforting in chaotic times. Your photos and reflections are a gentle reminder to pay attention to the light, in every sense.

Darlene Chandlersays:

Thank you for the wonderful pictures of New York, loved the market and all of the beautiful flowers, and the photos from your hotel and of friends. Liked the pictures of the corgi’s. Devon and your garden is so enchanting as fall sets in; and I am so happy for Charlie that he won first prize for his Dahlia’s at the show. That is just fantastic. I look forward to more pictures of your wonderful trips and local pictures of your home and garden. Can’t wait to hear about how house in Scotland is coming along also.


Another great post full of contrasts. When Charlie appeared on Gardeners’ World it was apparent how much taking part in order to win meant to him. His dahlias are perfection and that marrow was something extra-terrrestrial! Best wishes, Nicola


I too enjoyed your talk in New York. The way you viewed Chatsworth as a beautiful place to be appreciated in the here and now was key. We can always look up the dates and antics of its historic occupants if we are interested. Your huge audience was an indication of how hungry we in New York are for the kind of meaning you find in historic country culture and pursuits. On Saturday I worked at the Yard Sale we had at our ca. 1846, Gothic Revival Church at Fifth Avenue and West 12th Street were that same naive spirit appears to be present. Yet just beneath the surface there is the social and political conflict of our time, making me at age 81, enemy #1.


Charlie looks so chuffed and despite not knowing him a bit outside of the blog, I feel very proud for him, his Collarettes are utterly charming! But those Chrysanthemums are INSANE and and a little scary!

Hilary Sanderssays:

Dear Ben,
What a wonderful few days, I did chuckle at the Death Star and your maybe kitchen in Scotland. Such lovely pictures from the Chrysanth and Dahlia show. Well done Charlie.


Dear Ben,
thank you so much for your wonderful photos. Love the market in NY, the photos of flowers and vegetables and the balloon corgis 🙂
But my favourite are as always the Dorset photos ! Amazing colours, your house and garden and this wonderful landscape ! Congratulations again to Charlie for his prizes! His dahlias are gorgeous and the whole garden too ……
Have a lovely week, with all best wishes,
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

Patricia Cartersays:

Such a beautiful story, thank you!

Clay McCleerysays:

Sitting here with tears running down my face.
Happy tears.

Debra Mooresays:

Hello Ben thank you for sharing some amazing photos of NYC and your beautiful home and garden in Dorset. Charlie’s dahlias are wonderful so pleased he did so well. We visited New York a couple of years ago at Christmas it was a real culture shock. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria before its renovations. That was the highlight of our trip we did all the sights but l think once going there is enough for me Dorset is my favourite place where we have had many happy holidays. I would love to attend one of your talks one day. Thank you as always for your appreciation and joy of life.

Susan Shepardsays:

Come and visit us in Brooklyn Heights the next time you’re in NYC, if you haven’t. Just a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge – my #1 recommendation for visitors – it is another world. A bit like Hampstead, I think – streets lined with 19th-century brick homes, peaceful, a real community.

Love John Derian’s store, but, I don’t know if you noticed, we have a real problem in nyc with the growing number of empty storefronts. Unlike London, where, based on my annual spring trips, retail still seems to thrive, ‘browsing’ is getting more difficult here.


Michaelmas/Fall Equinox, city and country, Dahlias and dogs, and memories of lives lived in different places. I am not sure how you manage to put it all together in such one beautiful photo essay. Sipping my coffee on a Monday morning (in another beautiful city ~ Chicago) and gearing up for shorter days and cooler weather. Thanks as always for finding time to share with us. Special Congrats to Charlie! It looked so intense!!!!

Deborah Wagnersays:

Kudos to Charlie for his dahlias. The competition was indeed jaw dropping based on your photos (would that I could have attended). There was a dahlia grower at the Union Square (Somerville, MA) farmer’s market last week, and I bought a single dahlia that was so beautiful, it was all that was needed. I enjoyed it for a day, and then presented it to my father, to his delight. It was an old variety of the type he grew in our Welwyn Garden City garden prior to emigrating.

New York is only a few hundred miles away, and I wish I liked it as much as you do. It is a beast, to me,
Iike London without the magic. However, you manage to capture its best bits through the lens of your enthusiasm.

Patricia Childssays:

New York a city that never sleeps and your beautiful
garden awash with colour. Congratulations Charlie
on a first for your dahlia.
Melbourne 23 September 9.45 pm

Jane Preziosisays:

Your perspective on London and the countryside helped me seek out and appreciate the very special beauty of the city and country when my husband and I lived in London. I’ve also loved your appreciation of New York, our home city, to which we returned this spring. I saw the Sotheby’s Chatsworth exhibit a few months ago and was so pleased to be able to attend your talk last week.
Congrats to Charlie as well! So enjoy seeing these wonderful country fairs through your eyes.

Sally Marlowsays:

I enjoyed Charlie’s article “Seize the Dahlias” in the Sunday Times this week -end!
Lots of info. and lots of some great tips.

Lisa dunnsays:

Congratulations on the flower show. I so enjoy your posts. Your photos are amazing.

Sheila Robinsonsays:

Love this!
New York and Dahlias two of my favourites.
From a rainy blustery Dublin.
Look for when you’re here next.

Diane Keanesays:

So nice that you were in NYC, I did not make it up this summer (how did it go by so fast??) So it was nice to see a bit of it through your eyes. Charlie will soon need another room to hold all his ribbons and trophies. Dahlias are so much less expense and work than horses, and you still get ribbons and trophies. Good choice, Charlie!


You’ve managed to do it again- a nice,calming moment in this chaotic world. For that I can not thank you enough,

Joan Rosascosays:

It was a delight to hear your talk and to meet you and Charlie at Sotheby’s! Congratulations to Charlie on the well-deserved dahlia prizes.

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