I had quite a chuckle reading the Flanders and Swann song “Design for Living” which James included in his comment on my previous post, especially the lines:
We’re terribly House and Garden,
Now at last we’ve got the chance.
The garden’s full of furniture…
And the house is full of plants!
James cautions me not to fall into the trap of excessive interior decorating. Unfortunately for me, it’s a case of “it’s too late, too late, she cried” – I’ve already gone over to the dark side. I blame it on all the years I spent shopping in Musgrave Centre. In need of respite from the tedious chore of grocery shopping, I would while away the hours drinking cappuccinos and browsing in Adams Bookshop. I tended to gravitate to the garden and interior design sections, and actually landed up with quite a collection of books with titles like: The Nook Book; Modern Rustic; and Shabby Chic. The gardening books (of which I have over 50) include such gems as Organic Crops in Pots; Planted Junk; and Bob Flowerdew’s (yes, really) Organic Bible.
And of course magazines are strategically placed at the checkout counters and, like sweets to a child, I’m ashamed to admit that I found the gardening and decor magazines irresistible. I had quite a pile of Country Living, Art Et Decoration and Garden and Home magazines, which mostly got tossed when we moved. However, all those images of beautiful homes and gardens are there, buried in the recesses of my unconscious mind.
Over the years it has cost me big time as I’ve tried, and failed dismally, to recreate various interior and exterior designs. However, I’m pleased to report that I do learn from my mistakes, eventually, and I have discovered that when I have the confidence to follow my own instincts, things tend to turn out much more satisfactorily.
My interest in gardening started about 15 years ago when I took my mum, an avid gardener, to a talk given by Mary Keen, a British garden designer. She was very passionate and eloquent and I was hooked. I landed up buying her book, Creating a Garden, which I devoured from cover to cover. She writes that:
Gardens with soul need an animator who will breathe life into their being, and who responds to the resonance of a particular place. Otherwise they slip back into insignificance. ‘Beautifully maintained’ is not the same as ‘lovingly managed’.
My garden is certainly lovingly managed, well some might say mismanaged. However, it is only recently that I have stopped trying to recreate other people’s ideas (Mary Keen included) and “respond to the resonance”. When I first started creating the garden here, I had it in mind to only plant indigenous because I thought that it was the right thing to do. After the first frost and lots of money and effort down the drain, I revised that idea and decided to go for northern hemisphere trees and a mix of exotic and indigenous plants. As the garden has become more established, I’ve started introducing more and more indigenous trees and shrubs and they now seem to be handling the frost better, although they did not like the snow at all. And now I want a predominantly indigenous garden, not because it’s politically correct but because it creates such a lovely natural look and ambience.
As far as interior design is concerned, I’m going for the “comfortably country” look. You can get away with murder by calling something rustic, you know. A bit of rust, peeling paint, “distressed” furniture, wobbly paving, very uncomfortable metal chairs and, Bob’s your uncle, you’ve got French country chic. By the way, we’ve got all of that, and Peter calls it an eyesore! On the positive side, our house no longer looks like a second-hand furniture shop.
Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet:
Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power?
Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind?
Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?
Tell me, have you these things in your houses?
At last I can answer yes to those questions. I have regained the quiet spaces. I have displayed the artefacts that speak of our history. And our house is starting to look beautiful again. My heart leapt when Alex came home in July and said in wonder, as he walked into his bedroom, “This feels like home”.