Friday, August 6, 2010

"Gardens are a form of autobiography." Sydney Eddison

Flower from the garden decorated each window in Jane Austen's house.

Jane Austen's House

After her father died, Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother faced quite a few years of financial hardship.  The family house and land was entailed away to Mr. Austen's extended family.  The Austen sons were young men and only starting out in the world.  Both Cassandra and Jane had been disappointed in love and had no prospects or desire for marriage.  The women got by with difficulty on the money Jane made from her writing and the small amounts their brothers managed to send.  Fortunately for everyone, one of the Austens' distant relatives died and because of the laws of entailment, James Austen inherited the estate in Chawton.  He was able to give a pleasant, village home to his sisters and mother and provide for them.  In letters that Jane wrote to the family, she expressed her great relief, but also her joy that the house had room for a small garden with good sun exposure.  The garden was informal and lighthearted.  Just right!

This the flower border next to the stone wall.  The street marker
at the top of the picture is typical of the signs in villages.

I wish I could grow hollyhocks like this!

Look at those colors.

These gems were so bright that they were almost florescent.

I'm not sure, but I think those seed pods are poppies.

English roses!!!

William Shakespeare's Birthplace

What we call Tudor style houses, the British call Black and White houses.  Over the years, the timber was usually painted black to preserve it, and the stucco was usually white washed. 
Shakespeare's birthplace was restored to the appearance
it probably had during Bill's lifetime.

Shakespeare probably didn't do much gardening.  After all, he was a
very industrious entrepreneur.  He saw himself as a businessman first and foremost and never set out to be a "great artist." 
I think he would be astounded that today people think of him as snooty and highbrow!  But it's clear from his plays and poetry that 
ol' Bill knew a thing or two about plants and flowers. 


The steeple of Trinity Church from the River Avon.  Growing up in such a beautiful place must have an effect on the person.

Long boats on the River Avon

The recently discovered Cobble painting of William Shakespeare. 
 It was the only portrait made of Shakespeare during his life. 
All of the other paintings, the ones that we grew up with,
were created from people's memory of Bill's appearance.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
William courted his wife, Anne Hathaway, at her family's home in Shottery outside of Stratford.  The house stayed in the family until the early 1900's when the last member of the family sold the house to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on the condition that she could continue to live in the home as the caretaker for the rest of her life.  The flower garden sits down in a tiny valley behind the house.  Whether the valley is natural or man made, it provides wonderful drainage for the flowers.  You can see that they are very happy!

 The gardener told me they were suffering from a draught!

I couldn't believe the height of the flowers! 

Ah!  The sweet peas were heavenly.

After Anne Hathaway's Cottage, the bus took us 7 miles out of Stratford to Mary Arden's Farm in the village of Wilmcote.  The scenery was breathtaking.  The Cotswold is one of the most
beautiful places I've ever been! 

Little bits of beauty dusted the countryside.

Mary Arden's Farm

Bill got his business ability from his mother's side of the family.  The Ardens were a prosperous family and the father was considered a gentleman farmer.  That meant he owned and lived at the farm, but  employed hired hands to do all the work.  The Arden farm continued to be a working enterprise until the 1900's when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought it.  The farm and the tiny village of Shottery were so  very English!

The Wilmcote village pub.  Every village is required to have one!

The farm is now a living history museum.  The employees
dress in period costumes and use farming techniques
from Tudor times.  The pigs were odiforous, but adorable.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Life Began In A Garden...

One of the many planting groups in St. James Park.  Notice the contrast of the hot and cool colors.
Very striking!

I thought I would show you some of the pictures I took of the gardens in England.  I didn't go on a gardening tour and I didn't set out to take snap shots of plants, but England is so lush and verdant that I couldn't help but notice all the natural beauty.  Just imagine what it would be like to go on a gardening tour of Great Britain or to plan to go to the best gardens in the country. there's an idea for a vacation.  I hope you enjoy these!

St. James Park in London. 

St. James is one of the parks that connects to Buckingham Palace.  It use to be a royal hunting ground, but over the centuries became more of a pleasure ground with a scenic lake and beautiful flower beds.

The Bird Master's cottage from across the small lake.

Plane trees like this one cover London.  They are like sycamore trees on steroids, sort of the
Arnold Schwarzenegger of the sycamore family.  They develop a lot of personality
as they mature.  This one in St. James seemed to have a face.

Parts of St. James Park are left natural.  Actually they are probably carefully crafted to look natural. 
Either way, they give us an idea of how London might have looked hundreds of years ago.
And yes, daisies do grow wild in the countryside!

One of the more formal flower beds.  They really like the contrast of  colors. 
I like those incredible dahlias.

I never did find out what this purple tree was.  They were too big to be any of the plum trees we
grow in our neck of the woods.  Also, did you notice the blue sling back chairs under the trees. 
You can rent those sling back chairs by the hour.

Hampton Court

Hampton Court is about an hour by train southwest of London.  It has been a royal residence since Henry the VIII acquired the house from Cardinal Wolsey.  Most of the kings and queens added something to the house or the gardens, so there is a sort of architectural and gardening record on the grounds.  The gardens are fabulous and enormous and exhausting.  I have been there twice and I still haven't seen all of the gardens!

The Tudor knot gardens are my favorites!  This garden is surrounded by hedges.  Every fifteen feet or so, a small peep hole, just big enough for one person, has been cut into the hedges.  It's fun to walk a few feet and look into the next peek-a-boo window to see the garden from a new perspective. 

 Also, if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see the two gardeners close to the entrance of the garden.  I didn't notice them at first, but as I continued around the peep holes, I started to realize that there was some drama going on! 

I took my time strolling around this luscious garden, not really focusing on these two men But slowly it began to register with me that the entire fifteen minutes or so that I was admiring the garden, these two were busy, intently discussing something.  Get a load of the body language! 
By this time, I was curious!  What were they talking about?  They didn't seem to angry at each other.  It was more like they were chewing apart their boss or complaining about some new, stupid gardening directive that had come down from the know-nothing top brass.  I know it's wrong to eavesdrop, but I was intrigued!  Try as I might, and I did try, I could not overhear what they were talking about.  To my extreme disappointment, their country accents were so strong that I just couldn't make heads or tails of it. I'll admit it; I'm still curious!

This is a great example of the famous English herbaceous border!  The planting bed lined the walkway from the William and Mary Gardens all the way to the Rose Gardens.  It had to be at least a football field long.  And, the bed was at least seven to eight feet deep.  Just imagine all the weeding!

This ancient wisteria vine is about four hundred years old!  It smelled divine!

 Modern English gardening seems to be all about contrast, contrast of color and texture.  This bed was labeled an exotic bed.  Exotic!  These are mostly old faithfuls at home.  Dusty Miller.  Variegated monkey grass.  Begonias.  Serpent Tongue.  Palms.  Iron plants.  Hen and chickens. 
It's funny how exotic means different things to different people!

These are the much more formal William and Mary gardens which were modeled on the French style.
They are beautiful and enormous but a little repetitive, not quite as interesting as the Tudor gardens.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Images of London

London is filled with amazing statues.  This one is a memorial to the British soldiers lost in the Crimean War.  Honestly, I don't know much at all about the Crimean War, but it must have been devestating 
to the British because there are Crimean memorials all over central London.
Right in front of this memorial, there was a statue of Florence Nightengale
and the poet, George Herbert.  Wow!  A statue to a poet!
It does my heart good.

Take a look at those thigh boots!  The Horse Guards Parade Grounds are right in central London, around the corner from Number 10, down the street from the Foreign Office,
 and across St. James Park from Buckingham Palace.  It's the best
free show in town!

I like this picture because is shows Westminster Abby of the left, an iconic London tour bus, one of the towers of the Halls of Parliament in the center, and the beautiful Westminster School on the right.  I shudder to think how much the tuition to a "public" school like Westminster would be.

I took several pictures of this gorgeous building decorated with very detailed bas relief sculptures before I realized that this building is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

I was so surprised to see this statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square.  I wasn't the only one.  As I stood there taking pictures, several American teenagers walked up, looked to see
what I was taking a picture of, and started discussing him. 
 "Dude!  It's Lincoln, man.  He's like my favorite president!"
 "I know, right!  He's the coolest--Old Honest Abe."
"Hey dude, what's he doing here?"
"Uhhh, I dun know!"

Parliament Square would not be complete without a statue of
Winston Churchill!  I don't know what the red paper horse in the tree
next to Winny is for.  No one seemed to know.

This character was standing on Westminster Bridge, wearing his kilt, and playing his bagpipes. 
Here he is taking a break right after finishing "Danny Boy."  He seemed to be making good tips!
I'm sorry the picture is so fuzzy!  The wind of Westminster Bridge always seems
to be strong and it blurred every one of my pictures.

As I was walking across the bridge, I noticed a clump of tourists looking over the edge and pointing.  Since I am as curious as a cat, I stopped and took a look, too.  Sitting on a set of ancient steps that
lead down into The Thames was this romantic couple.  The man tried to make their moment
as private as possible with the umbrella, but it couldn't stop us, the tenacious tourists.
Ahhhh!  Young love!

This is one of the lions in Trafalgar Square.  They are enormous!  The kids, and some adults, love to climb up on them and slide down the lion's back haunches.  It's cute to watch.

The evening rush hour in London is usually from 4 to 6:30 P.M.  But one night there must have
been a wreck because at 8 P.M. the traffic was backed up all the way to my bed and breakfast
which was close to the British Museum.  I think what caught my attention was the sound of
 buses idling for minutes at a time and then crawling forward a few inches and the absence
 of motorcycles screaming down the street.  I stayed across the street from the University
College of London and the students LOVE fast, inexpensive, LOUD motorcycles.

My home in London, The Jesmond.  Right down the street from the British Museum,
in walking distance to four good tube stations, and close to three train terminals,
the Jesmond's location can't be beat.   And, it could be a serious
contender for a "London's Smallest Bathrooms" contest!