Churches in Sussex (2nd day trip)

If you read my previous blog post, Visiting Churches in Sussex (day 1), you will know that I am doing day trips to Sussex in search of the little churches often found in woodland, at the end of lanes, in hamlets or villages – steeped in history.  I’ve focused on Sussex as it’s not too far to travel by car and it’s a beautiful county.

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"How many kinds of sweet flowers grow, in an English country garden?" Visit to Seend Manor

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting one of the most beautiful private gardens that I have ever seen - Seend Manor, a grade II listed Georgian house in Wiltshire. The village of Seend lies on and around a hog's back ridge in the triangle formed by Melksham, Devizes and Trowbridge.   The garden was opened to the public as part of Open Garden events in aid of Dorothy House Hospice Care.

This 18th Century walled garden is divided into quarters that transport you to the four corners of the globe. It was absolutely enthralling and worth the six hour round trip in the car from London.  I went alone and armed with my Nikon DSLR camera. The weather wasn't great and it rained briefly but by mid afternoon the sun came out. 

Stephen and Amanda Clark are the owners of Seend Manor and its walled garden inside the 28-acre grounds.  I was fortunate enough to meet them both and they invited me in for coffee. The Clarks divide their lives between England and Hong Kong. Stephen is a founder and managing director of the Anglo Chinese Group, an investment and corporate advisory company; Amanda, who grew up in Hong Kong, is a director of Altfield, a business manufacturing, importing and retailing Chinese decorative objects.

The gardens were designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who have worked on many country house gardens from John Paul Getty to the Prince of Wales.

To the front and rear of the manor house, the grounds are elegant, green and restrained, with old trees, yew topiaries and hedges set off by large expanses of grass.

Stephen and Amanda have spent a lot of time travelling the world so it seemed natural to design the garden based on geographical themes in a series of four geographical areas which are separated by wide gravel paths up to 20 feet wide to accommodate the hornbeams running along them.


Firstly, there is China. The Clarks came up with their own design for this garden and for the central pagoda or ting. It took six weeks to build the ting but 18 months to erect. Twelve antique hitching posts surround the pagoda, each topped with a foo dog, the mythical lion-dog that guards against evil spirits.

The second "room" is Africa, because Stephen was born and grew up in Kenya and lived in South Africa.  A stone obelisk is the centrepiece of Africa.

The third "room" is Italy because they have had many a happy holiday there.

And last but certainly not least is England and this is the garden with the most flowers - it is a romantic, box-edged garden full of roses. The Banner­mans adore roses – their own rose garden at Hanham Court, near Bristol, is regularly open to the public. There are the old-fashioned roses that bloom only once a year and also those roses that repeat flower each year like 'Alister Stella Gray'.  She has also included the modern, repeat-flowering bush rose 'Little White Pet' as standards among old roses such as crimson 'Tuscany Superb' and pink-striped 'Versicolor' ('Rosa Mundi').

In the rose garden are also peonies, lupins, delphiniums, pelargoniums, catmint, irises and many other English country garden flowers.

There is also a corridor of ferns and tree ferns set among stones and a grotto at the end of this. In this corridor there are 6ft lilies - the scented, white Himalayan Cardiocrinum giganteum, which find just enough moisture and nutrient to thrive.

The 180 degree view from the front lawn over a wild flower meadow and the Wiltshire countryside is absolutely incredible.

There are a number of lovely outbuildings including a large adjacent cottage with a large cottage style garden

and a huge stage block part of which they use to run their business and one wing is a cottage that they rent.

The vegetable garden has a series of raised beds as well as a berries and cherries protected from the birds and a series of fruit trees.

You are never far from the sound of water as there are fountains everywhere

And the stunning little village church, Holy Cross, is right next door.

I spent four hours wandering the gardens and enjoyed chatting with Amanda at length.  I could have spent even longer there as there just sitting on all the seats and soaking up the views.  After I left there I stopped at a pub on a canal near Devizes and sat in the sun for a half hour.

A wonderful day out of London and one that I shall never forget.  Thank you Amanda and Stephen for your hospitality and the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labours.  This is the only house & garden that has moved me to tears!!

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Chelsea in Bloom - inspiration from spectacular floral displays

It was the Chelsea Flower Show last week and the shops in the Sloane Square and Kings Road area embrace the Show by decorating their shop fronts.  These are spectacular displays and quite inspirational in both design and colour.

I thought you would like to see a selection of the best ones.  My favourite display was Links of London. They had flowers out front as well as in store and they were spectacular.

Another stunning display was Hackett in Sloane Street which had the real wow factor in reds and oranges.

And here are some of the other displays that deserve a mention. Obviously this is only a small part of the whole Chelsea Fringe during the Flower Show and it's a bit of a whistle stop tour but I thought you would be equally inspired by the colour and style of these displays.

I'd love to hear if you have seen any of the Chelsea Fringe this year. Do share some images with me.

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Another inspiring day at Petersham Nurseries

Well, I'm not sure what season this really is as it's nearly as warm as late summer and we are already at the end of October. Talk about Indian Summer - it's last way beyond the end of September. This weather is unprecedented - warm (up to 20C) and no wind or rain. The trees are the most incredible colours, the best autumn colours in many years due to this late warmth. 

It was a stunning, sunny day up to 19C last week so I decided it was time for another pilgrimage to Petersham Nurseries which is one of the most inspiring places in London for me.  I get trigger happy with both my iPhone camera andmy compact Panasonic camera as there are so many beautiful things to photograph.  The shop displays are styled so well and the use of plants and flowers in the styling is superb.

And of course the food in the cafe is wonderful so my friend and I arrived in time for morning coffee and a huge slab of cake, browsed the gardens, glasshouses and shop for two hours and then returned to the cafe for a tray of lunch dishes to share. 

I've decided to devote most of this blog post to images, a veritable optical feast.  Most of the images speak for themselves.  I hope you derive as much pleasure and enjoyment from the images as I did seeing everything in person.  There's lots to learn about styling in the home from these images so take note!!

I'll start with a selection of photos of how they styled some of the public spaces - the cafe where you queue to get your food, the loos (!) and the glasshouses where you can take your food on trays to eat. 

Another group of images follows:

And the most mouth-watering photos I'll leave until last - the shop which is my favourite part of the whole Petersham experience. Check out the vintage chandeliers, they absolutely gorgeous.  It is so beautifully styled and full of items/objects that I covet. I never leave empty handed!

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Styling with flowers and plants - in and out

Gosh, I've just realised that it's two weeks since I did a blog post.  Really sorry. It's been a mad sort of two weeks and I don't know where the time has gone.

I did however get some time on Thursday to replace flowers in my house and buy a few flowering plants to replace some of those that have finished flowering.  It's been a pretty awful August with low temperatures, grey days and rain - what's new, that's a typical English summer after all !!  My plants haven't flourished as well as I would have liked from a flowers perspective, due to the lack of sunshine.

Anyway, as you all know, I'm an ex florist and I can't live without being surrounded by flowers and plants so every room in my two-bedroom home has either a vase of flowers or a flowering plant in it.  My budget has decreased dramatically since I took voluntary redundancy from my job in the financial services last July so I have to make the most of the flowers that I buy.  I even will them to live longer!!!!

Here are my top tips for buying and arranging flowers in the home:

- I buy most of my flowers in the supermarkets (mainly Waitrose as they have the best selection) as they are cheaper than florist prices. However if you want more interesting flowers and greenery find a good local florist as well as buying from the supermarket

- Don't just buy flowers randomly. You need to plan where you are going to put them in your home and what vase you will use

- Monotones create the biggest impact i.e. flowers of one colour.  Red & white flowers in the same vase is a big No-No (blood & bandages!!). Stick to tones and hues of the same colour.  Or you can have a couple of colours like pink and orange to create a real impact as I've done with the roses in my hall (see photo below)

- Cut all stems on a diagonal and any thick woody stems should also be cut vertically up the stem for a couple of centimetres e.g. sunflowers, stocks, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas. 

- I always add the flower food sachet that comes with the flowers to the water as well as a blob of bleach (it stops water marks on the vase).  Food and bleach don't seem to harm the flowers, on the contrary my flowers seem to last for days/weeks!

- Best vases are those that have a wider base than the neck.  Flowers display better and you don't need so many of them (budget, budget, budget!!)

- Clean the stems of the flowers to remove any leaves or thorns and off-shoots, just save a few at the top.  These need nutrition so the more you remove the more the flower has the best chance of survival.  I always remove anything that will sit below water level and even some above water level.  Off-shoots can be put in small bud vases or vintage bottles as you can see in the photos below.

- If you are lucky enough to have a garden (I don't!) pick some foliage to add to the vase of flowers. This adds, texture and bulks up the flowers so you don't need so many flowers

- Top up the water in the vases regularly (some flowers drink copious amounts of water so keep a sharp eye on the level of water - sunflowers for example drink loads!). Change the water regularly especially for flowers like stocks as the water can get really smelly. Just remember, you like to shower/bath regularly and flowers do also !!

So here's what's in my house currently and a few pics of my three square feet of outside space.


And here are the latest photos of my limited outside space - three square feet and the steps down to the garden belonging to the owners of the flat underneath mine. I have tried to keep to blues, mauves and pinks but I've also included a soft orange at the bottom of the steps.  Bees love blue and mauve flowers which is why I tend to go for this colour palette

I hope these photos have inspired you to create some gorgeous displays inside and outside.  I cannot live without being surrounded by flowers (you can't take the florist out of the gal, as I always say!).

I'd love to hear about how you use flowers to style your home and also about your outside space and if limited, how you maximise it.  Do let me know as I'm always keen to hear from my readers.  I'd also love to get some feedback from you as to what topics you'd like me to cover in my blog.

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A lesson in flower arranging at Perch Hill, Sussex

It's been a crazy week and I'm behind in my blog posts, still catching up on posts relating to my friend's visit - she's been gone over a week!  My friend from back home who stayed with me for two weeks (see previous post 'Route Marching Around Richmond Park) very kindly paid for the two of us to attend a Sarah Raven course with the charismatic and charming Juliet Glaves of Thoughtful Flowers. The course was at Sarah Raven's inspirational garden at Perch Hill in Sussex which is in the most glorious setting.  For those of you who don't know Sarah Raven, she is a well-known gardener, writer and television presenter and she runs a garden and cookery school at Perch Hill.

Juliet Glaves had a pop-up florist in The Designers Guild during the Chelsea Flower Show week. You can see the beautiful displays of flowers and arrangements she had in the Designers Guild in my post 'Designer's Guild Embraces Chelsea Flower Show' dated 25 May.

It was wonderful to head out of London in the car on a glorious sunny day and head into the countryside.  Everything is very green and lush at present so it's the perfect time of year to appreciate the English countryside.  I don't get out of London enough but have made it a resolution this year to escape London more often. It's so good for the soul!

Perch Hill is off the beaten track down a long winding road. The entrance to it is stunning - the lichen covered gate and the purple and white wallflowers flanking one side of the driveway: 

There were about 30 of us on the course, all women, and all passionate about flowers and flower arranging. Even as an experienced florist there was plenty to learn from Juliet Glaves, whose style of flower arranging is much less formal than the way I was taught.  She and her husband grow all their own flowers as well as picking wild flowers from the hedgerows so all the flowers she used in the two arrangements she made were home-grown.

When you first enter the Perch Hill building,  you walk through the small shop (full of lots of fabulous items to buy) to a large glasshouse/conservatory which has the most spectacular view of the countryside. Coffee and delicious cakes were served here while we soaked up the view.

Juliet began her first masterpiece in a large metal horse's trough. She uses chicken wire rather than oasis which she attaches with tape.  Chicken wire is a lot more effective and versatile in large containers especially if using tall and/or heavy stems.   Juliet chatted to us as she created her masterpiece and answered all of our questions.  We all took copious notes!  I've shown below the progress as she added more and more gorgeous flowers that she had grown. It was amazing to watch the way the arrangement transformed.  Right at the end she decided to add a few red peonies and there were gasps from the floor as  these pops of red suddenly transformed the whole arrangement and it took on another dimension. 

Sarah supported Juliet's presentation by providing the botanical names of each flower and how they are best cultivated. They were a great double act!!

The second arrangement that Juliet created was much smaller but equally as stunning. She used a smallish glass vase and it's incredible the size of the arrangement that she put in it.

After a delicious lunch made from vegetables produced on the farm we had the chance to wander around Sarah's magnificent vegetable gardens and cutting gardens.  They really are absolutely stunning. The vegetables and flowers are mainly used for the courses that Sarah runs. For some of the flower workshops you get to go and pick your own flowers from her gardens. Now that really would be a treat!!  I've split the photos into the flower gardens followed by the vegetable gardens.

And here are some photos of the vegetable gardens. I love the way some of the vegetables have been interspersed with rows of flowers or beds of lavender.

After we left Perch Hill we decided to return to London via the village of Chiddingstone in Kent. This is where the movie, Room with a View, was filmed and it's one of my favourite villages in the South East.  It was one of those limpid afternoons and the village was sleepy with hardly any cars passing. We parked up next to the church and sat on the wall of the church yard listening to the birds. I wandered through the gate that leads to Chiddingstone Castle into a wooded area thick with cow parsley. It was truly magical.  What would have made it even better would have been a pint in the village pub but given I was driving that wasn't an option!

I hope you have enjoyed the feast of colour and texture from the photos above.  Always remember that what works in nature also works in the home. Don't be afraid to use colour(s) in your rooms, be they pops of colour or painting/wallpapering whole rooms or walls in strong colours. Take another look at Juliet Glaves' arrangement above with those pops of red peony colour in that huge masterpiece of hers.  I would never have thought to introduce red but then I always say "be brave, follow mother nature in your interiors and you can't go wrong".


If you’re working on your own home decorating project, need help with your outside space, home staging if you are about to put your home on the market or just some de-cluttering/organising techniques, please get in touch and see how I can help. I always offer an initial free consultation with no obligation so contact me to book this.

Route marching around Richmond Park with a friend

Apologies for not having posted anything for a couple of weeks; I've had my dear friend Jill Neame staying with me from my home town, Christchurch (NZ). She comes to stay each year for five years (this is year 2) to walk another section of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route in Spain.  She needs to get some serious walking practice during her two week stay in London so it's a great opportunity to see London on foot and to get some more exercise.  I am always surprised how much more you see when you walk - I'm used to zipping around London on my 50cc Vespa moped or getting exercise by jogging around Tooting Common opposite my house!

I also had some painful surgery on my thumb nail on 29th May and have spent the last 10 days with a fat bandage on my thumb and my arm in a sling for the first four days to relieve the pressure so typing on my laptop has been nigh impossible! You don't realise how much you need/use your thumb until you can't use it.  I had to get Jill to wash my hair, attach my necklaces, chop vegetables ..... but I could unscrew the top of a wine bottle!!!  

Both Jill and I had wedding invites (hers last w/e and mine in July) so here we are modelling our new hats from Petersham Nurseries - these gorgeous Italian made hats made from 70% straw, are just perfect, not too formal and just enough flippancy to counter any formal attire!!

The first day of Jill's visit we decided to route march around Richmond Park. I'd visited the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park a few weeks ago (Bedazzled by Colour) to see the spectacular azaleas and rhododendrons but I wasn't disappointed when we visited the Plantation again, despite the azaleas being well past their best; on the contrary I found their faded glory much more appealing.  You have to forgive me for yet another blog post on Richmond Park; it never ceases to inspire and enthral.  It's hard to believe you are actually just outside the centre of London and if the planes weren't on the flight part to Heathrow airport which crosses the edge of Richmond Park, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the countryside. Entering from Roehampton Gate, the first thing you notice are the deer which is always such a wonderful sight of peace and tranquillity.  Sometimes a deer will saunter into the road and all the traffic has to stop while all the other deer decide to follow suit. They definitely have their right of way!!

After route marching around Richmond Park and the Isabella Plantation, we returned to Petersham Nurseries for a much-needed cup of tea and slice of cake

See subsequent posts for further route marching around London !!


If you’re working on your own home decorating project and looking for some inspiration, please get in touch and see how I can help.


Designer's Guild embraces Chelsea Flower Show

Every year during the Chelsea Flower Show I visit Designers Guild in the Kings Road, Chelsea as I love the way they embrace the Flower Show by having a florist pop-up shop in the internal courtyard.

This year the florist was Thoughtful Flowers  and I had the pleasure of meeting the owner Juliet Glaves in the shop. As you can see from the photos below, she creates natural and creative arrangements to enhance the beauty of the garden-grown flowers and some  harvested from hedgerows. I am actually doing a course on 3rd June Really Romantic Flowers at Perch Hill Farm with the wonderful duo Sarah Raven and Juliet Glaves. This should be a fantastic day and it includes lunch made with fresh produce from the garden at Perch Hill.

I love the way Juliet's flowers complement the beautiful surroundings of the Designers Guild showroom. The Designers Guild is  bit of a mecca for me as I always find inspiration especially on using colour and of course I usually end up buying one or two things! Below I've included a mix of images of Juliet's gorgeous flowers and Designers Guild items including fabric and wallpaper.  I hope the colours inspire you as much as they do me.

Seeking style inspiration?

If you’re working on your own home decorating project and looking for some inspiration, please get in touch and see how I can help. 

Spring slowly injects colour into my three square feet of outdoor space

Spring continues to slowly make its mark in my tiny outdoor space, all of three square feet outside the kitchen door and the steps leading down to the garden belonging to the flat downstairs.

It's been a pretty miserable May so far with a lot of rain and cold days. I've even had to use the central heating on a couple of occasions which is unheard of in May. Colour is so slow to appear in my outdoor space this year which is frustrating so I've resorted to buying some plants already in flower to inject some colour. 

I design and style my outdoor space in much the same way I do with interiors and usually apply similar principles - maximum of three colours per space, grouping colours, mixing up the textures to create interest, creating a focal point and I even use mirrors to reflect light and make the space seem larger. 

I am a huge fan of monochromatic garden schemes as they create such an impact but this year I've chosen to break the habit and have chosen pinks, blues and a splash of orange. And a random yellow poppy found its way into the scheme!! Blue flowers are superb for attracting bees and butterflies and my garden is no exception. 

I've even got a planter of rocket and fennel (the herb) which I've had for several years. The rocket is absolutely delicious and tastes so much better than the stuff you buy in supermarkets.  The fennel herb is very useful in fish dishes and many of Ottolenghi recipes.

I'd love to see photos of your own gardens and how you style them so do share your thoughts, comments and photos with me.

You might also like to read previous blog posts about my three square feet of outdoor space