Since being a small girl, growing up on a farm, I have loved flowers. I gathered flowers from our country garden to put in vases and decorate the house when Nana was coming. I grew flowers in my own garden as a child – Sweet William, Sweet Peas, Nasturtiums and Sweet Alice. I just grew what was easy – I wasn’t conscious of the clashing colours back then.
I have always loved garden flowers – they somehow seem more special than those that come from hot houses. As a young woman I asked my mother if I could cut flowers from her farm garden and take them back to the city – they always reminded me of the country, farm life and an idyllic country garden. I loved arranging these flowers and putting them throughout my houses in the city. They brought the country with them.
At the first Edwardian house we owned, I developed a pretty cottage garden. There were roses, freesias, pinks, violets, Forget me Nots, Granny’s Bonnets, foxgloves, delphiniums, hollyhocks, lavender, penstemons, catmint and all other manner of plants in this garden. A vase of freshly cut flowers placed on the hallway table always preceded the arrival of friends for a joyous social occasion. Working in that garden made me feel healthy and always lifted my mood. Enjoy examples of these cottage gardens below.
At the next Edwardian house we owned, in a trendy bayside suburb, I employed a well-known garden designer to design a formal white garden of box and camellia hedges, lavender and roses for the front. It was beautiful to look at but was a disappointment to me as a gardener. I could never change the garden much – my only choice was what annuals to plant each season. The standard Iceberg roses were particularly disappointing – they had little perfume and never looked full and splendid in a vase.
Now that we have developed St Claire Country House, I have come full circle and designed and planted a new country garden. The garden is surrounded by green tranquil countryside dotted with cows and sheep. This garden is in Wild Romantic style, a style I have been drawn to for its sense of wildness, freedom and beauty. In doing so I am emulating gardens of the renowned English garden designer Sarah Price, whose work is often featured in the international “Gardens Illustrated” magazine. These photos show “The Old English Garden” that she has replanted in Battersea Park in London.
Sarah is creating gardens that are related to the New Perennial Movement that is all the rage in Europe and the United States. The photos below show gardens from this style, where perennials including grasses are being brought together in naturalistic plantings.
The Wild Romantic country garden at St Claire Country House has been planted with softly coloured flowers that have delicious perfumes. The garden is formal on the edges but in the middle and further away from the house it is left to grow and spread randomly, with the plants mixing together in wild profusion. There are flowering trees and pretty perennials all around. Roses are the most frequently occurring plant in the garden – old French ones and new classical looking varieties. I can’t wait until the plants have grown, and there are enough flowers for me to cut and take them into the house, to arrange in vases for our guests - just as I used to do as a child. The flowers will decorate and perfume the rooms beautifully and I will feel very satisfied.