Monday, 25 February 2013

Feeding the imagination - a Bloomsbury garden flourishes in East Sussex

 Garden torso hortensia: © Charleston Trust.
Photograph Axel Hesslenberg

What is it about the Bloomsbury Group that so captivates teenage girls? It can’t just be their infidelities – teenage girls are quite relaxed about affairs, if undying love elsewhere is the ultimate goal. It must be something larger; the whole, messy melange that Bloomsbury represents – the personalities, the atmosphere, the houses, the creativity, the progeny, the privilege and, at least for my teenage self, the indisputable force of the female protagonists.

I was fascinated by Virginia Woolf, with her lugubrious face and confused sexuality. I loved her writing – not just her novels, but her essays and letters too. I loved Vita Sackville-West, and her determination to make Sissinghurst a beautiful and welcoming home, in order to compensate for having lost her family pile through male succession. Katherine Mansfield was the most tragic of all – elfin, racked with TB, stricken with poverty, mistreated by her beloved, producing so few, but such exquisite stories.

But I saved my greatest affection for Vanessa Bell. As the sister of Virginia Woolf, I felt she had a lot to compete with (I say this as the sister of an brilliant, competitive girl), and yet she seemed to make a world entirely for herself, in which her sister and her circle were welcome, but not the centre. 

Studio Mantelpiece © Charleston Trust.
Photograph Axel Hesslenber

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Frosty February’s Winter Flowering Treats

Snow and hard frosts are still the order of the day in wintery February and we are all desperate to see an end to the cold weather and signs of spring. If you take a look in your garden there are clear signs of new life; trees and shrubs budding and bulbs forging their way through the rock solid earth. Thankfully there are also plenty of specimens putting on a show in the garden this week, despite the snow and cold weather;

These Crocii, just popping their lance shaped heads through the ground, are great naturalised in a lawn and a classic sign that spring is on the way!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Rhubarb reminiscences and other stuff about Rheums

We have always had a patch of rhubarb in the garden and I remember, as a small child, being marched down the garden by granddad, who was a keen vegetable gardener, to the rhubarb patch. I used to suffer from terrible all-over heat rashes and he was convinced that a stick of this plant would cure me… “sort your blood out our Mel” he would chunter. Chinese medicine does use rhubarb to purge the system and to encourage the liver to detox, so maybe there was some truth in his traditional country remedy. It became a real treat to go down the garden, break off a stem and dip each mouth-full in the handful of sugar I had been given to sweeten it. At the time I thought It was the best medicine I’d ever had, not sure it cured the rash but I definitely felt better from the experience and attention!