after a couple of years rest, I made it to the flower show -always incredibly busy when you first go in, and especially hot waiting in the queue, but much more comfortable and less crowded as the early evening draws in. if you have been before, buying the 5.30 ticket is not a bad choice, though it does mean that you don’t have time for that lazy cup of tea or glass of pimms and a sit around – my choice of doing this would be in the artisan section, which is always less busy and shady.
i always get garden envy – wondering why my tiny little plot is not as neat or bursting with flowers as these are; but then I tell myself that these are show gardens intended to entice you. so much inspiration – from sheds, to pots, to meadows and flowers – there was definitely a more wild flowers meadow feel with beautiful rich tones of burnt orange and rust, delicate tones of eau de nil and creamy taupe, lots of herbs and vegetables, and a much more overgrown look than usual. I never like the over designed touches of steel curves, water features, dominating sculptures and heavy stone, but still its always an inspiring day, but the best thing are the lovely pretty dresses that get worn, such a selection and so nice to see that people take the effort to dress up for the day. the flower show is definitely a good place to go people watching, such a diverse group of people all with the interest of flowers and gardens in common.
if you are looking for a great unusual gift for that person who seems to have everything, then go to the japanese knife shop in baker street, W1. it has an amazing display of knives for every occasion – you can even have something special engraved on the knife of your choice! however there is a saying that giving knives or scissors is a sign of severing your friendship, if you do receive a knife for a gift, you are supposed to return the thanks by sending a penny – in effect, you are purchasing your gift! depends how superstitious you are! kataba in brixton pop up has a beautiful collection, plus they do knife sharpening and sell some japanese ceramics – its really interesting at Brixton pop up, lots of fun places to eat, makes going to brixton village even more worth it.
keeping house on columbia road is another destination and it means you can also get your flowers. but my all time favourite kitchen shop is Summerhill and Bishop in Holland Park – charming and stylish, it has the french provence feel with a modern touch.
I recently passed old street and there is a Japanese Kitchen Utensils pop up shop at Sway Gallery. lots of other Japanese gifts too, including vintage Kimonos, stationary. I couldn’t resist buying a hand forged steel wok – such a beautiful object and hopefully will last a lifetime. you can see the difference to the cheaper Chinese ones that you see everywhere. only on until 25th May, but worth going to.
known as the oriental papaver, the vibrant orange bloom makes any garden exotic. the flowers dont last long, but they return year after year – mine have just bloomed and look amazing. flowers are not only beautiful to look at, but help nature generally – Oriental Poppies attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
my garden is blooming with colour, roses, wisteria, poppies, ceanothus, campanula, daisies, thistles, Jasmin and abutilon and the peonies are just about to open – remember my garden is tiny, the size of a bedroom front and back, but with some clever planting, you can have flowers all year round.
i love discovering new things in remote spots that you would never know existed; the alde valley spring festival is now on at White House Farm in Great Glenham, suffolk – celebrating food, farming, landscape and the arts. you are greeted with fields of bleating lambs, a shepherds hut, tea room with homemade flapjacks, and several barns and outhouses filled with art, including works by the renowned local artist Maggie Hambling. outside is a covered seating area, laid out for dinner for many; there are supper evenings cooked with ingredients grown on the farm, lots of activities for children, all in all a lovely place to drop by, have a cup of tea and see some art. i particularly loved the botanical watercolours by Emma Tennant and hand made knives by Tobias Ford. there is even a shop selling ethically sourced baskets, local honey and ceramics. take a look at their website to see whats on. Glenham is about half an hour from my suffolk cottage; i have realised what a great base the cottage is for exploring the suffolk region, plus we are only 5 mins drive from one of the best unspoilt beaches in the area – Covehithe.
I cannot recommend anything as potent as taking the time to meditate. for many years I have dismissed it as hippy nonsense. but as we lead a more stressful and fast pace of life, I’ve realised that being ‘mindful’ and taking the time to meditate are indeed great tools for calming, controlling, and rejuvenating one’s mind. I used to do yoga as a form of exercise – stretching, keeping the body supple and gently toning , but now I choose yoga classes that not only achieve those things, but also help calm the mind and cultivate well being. Susan Nove at triyoga has a lovely sense and spirit; she runs 6 week evening courses on mindfulness, that teach you how to incorporate mindfulness in your every day tasks, meaning that you don’t have to just sit still to practise. her half hour classes also help you maintain what you have learned. Anna Price is also a great teacher and can personalise methods to help you get through more difficult times. my favourite yoga teacher is Erika Tourrell – she has the right balance between yoga for revitalising the body, but her words and spirit really take you to the next level of self care and appreciation of life. last weekend I did a 2 day meditative yoga stay at Sharpham House with Erika, accompanied by the haunting music and soulful singing by Mike Stanton; not only is the location a paradise, but the whole experience is so detoxifying and renews your energy for life; there are always a group of likeminded people and listening to the wise words and thoughts of others is always so engaging. the whole weekend is scheduled for you, but its not all like school – you can take part in whatever you choose to participate in. the surroundings are idyllic and comfortable and the food is delicious, vegetarian and plentiful and mostly grown in the walled garden. I highly recommend, especially in such a beautiful setting that brings you back in touch with nature. the estate has over 500 acres of walking areas – its own vineyard and walled garden makes them self sufficient; they even make their own cheese. if you are brave enough, you can swim in the river, which a couple of my companions did. if you don’t want to do a retreat there, you can always rent the bathing house which is ideally situated by the waters edge of the river dart.
i just love spring at the moment – the blossom and spring flowers add immense prettiness alongside the many other flowers blooming. the beautiful fragrant hanging grey lilac flowers of the climbing wisterias are so beautiful and melancholic – there is an elegance and dreamy quality to the flowers.
this particular wisteria is in Kew Gardens, one of my favourite day trips out in London.
Bred in China and Japan for more than 2000 years, wisteria arrived in the United States in the 1830s as an ornamental vine. This hardy plant can thrive as far north as New England.
Wisteria is a symbol of humility and reflection in Shin Buddhism. The Jodo Shinshu sect uses two intertwined, upside-down wisteria flowers as its crest.
In the 1820s, Kabuki drama Fuji Musume, “The Wisteria Maiden,” a young woman waits under a wisteria vine for her lover. In this context, the durable, long-living wisteria vine lends a meaning of endurance in the face of heartache.
According to the Victorian language of flowers, wisteria represents a warning against over-passionate love or obsession, a reference to the choking nature of the vine.
its always sad to see things close or disappear, but usually something different will arrive; our lovely bread shop ‘ajonjoli’ has now gone with her lovely moroccan flat bread, pastries and spelt loaves, I will definitely miss it. however, a new cafe has sprung up opposite, run by a young Argentinian couple ‘ caminito’ serves fresh juices, croissants and sandwiches. breakfast in spain has always been hard to get, only the usual tomato on bread, coffee and fresh orange juice, but now a few people are serving different healthy options. formerly ‘el correo antiguo’, the gift shop has reopened as ‘alegrias’, with part cafe and shop with gifts. there is homemade spelt and sunflower seed bread, quiches and cakes and fresh juice, another welcome addition to Vejer. we were only there for a couple of days sorting out repairs to the house, and typically we arrived to a holiday weekend – the annual local feria in the new town. all the locals were there in their casitas, all day long through to the late hours for 5 days! its a colourful and joyful event to watch.