April showers and sunshine

It’s been a cold spring. I can’t say this for a fact… I haven’t checked the official data, but I’ve been feeling it. But the advantage of a slow spring is that it is with us for a long time, and that’s a rather beautiful thing.  I have checked my very own data, which is called this blog. And there’s absolutely no doubt that this time last year, and the last few years, the trees and bugs and flowers were further on than they are now.

It’s also been a slightly slow month at the blog, for the pure and simple reason (that you will see in due course) that I’ve been around and about rather a bit. We got back from our wonderful trip to America and I have been away from home a lot since. Which makes the time there all the more special.

Sorry, this blog is very long. Buckle up for the ride!

P A R T   1 :  E A S T E R

Here was the garden at the beginning of the month. Shades of green and Charlie’s incredible neatness – without tweeness, as someone rather well put it on a comment on my instagram account recently.
Church flowers in a bucket waiting to be taken down.
There is a tradition in the village that we pick hundreds of bunches of primroses every year…  Which are then placed in ancient Victorian armatures on the window ledges, spelling out – HE IS RISEN

ALLEUJIA  (I think the spelling has changed in the last 150 years). It’s the most magical tradition.  I hope it continues for ever.

Views of the church windows remind me that I will be writing a big blog on this subject soon.  Later this month we have a final meeting with the stone mason, builder, glass restorer and architect to finalise the contract which starts this summer.  The hugely generous donations of the readers of this blog – amounting to £15,000 which we then match funded – were supplemented by a very, very generous legacy to the church which has allowed us to complete the massive restoration project in one go, this summer.  I cannot wait.  It will be a powerful moment for this little church.  I will be writing about progress regularly as it happens, although it does mean the church will be intermittently dark this summer.

The primroses have been amazing this spring.  A few years ago now, we made a decision to stop mowing the older parts of the churchyard and the effect has been astonishing.  On a lighter note, we took the dogs for a walk that evening. In an otherwise completely dry valley, Sibyl, like a water diviner, managed to find the only puddle for miles around.
She loves a puddle.


P A R T   2 :   D E D I C A T I O N

The next day, Easter Saturday, we went to Devon to see a friend of Charlie’s, David Carver, who is a big noise in the Alpine plant world.

The village church has this beautiful and wonderful tower.  And this even more amazing monument… Carved by the astonishing John Bacon, the most famous English sculptor of the 18th century.  I love the things you find in tiny parish churches in the middle of sleepiest nowhere.

Made even more special by the position against the side windows.  As well as loving Victorian floor tiles, almost even more.  And signs like this.  And, for good measure, village names like Buckland Monachorum.  We were visiting the famous and beautiful Wildside Garden, one of the most wonderful alpine gardens in the country.  But then, we went down the road to David’s own Alpine garden.  Extraordinary.  Such dedication.  I was in awe.  The glasshouses had a lot of interesting paraphernalia in them, such as these – which could almost, in a different world, be the name of an Indy Rock Bank.
Charlie and David talking plants.  Yes. David is also probably the youngest member of the Alpine Garden society, as well as one of the most successful exhibitors out there.  It was a brilliant visit. Please don’t ask me the names of anything.  That would be like me testing you on the names of obscure details of classical architecture.  They don’t matter except to people who already know them.  But the dedication – now, that, I can appreciate.

Easter Day was bright and fair. 


P A R T   3 :   A U S T R A L I A N   I N T E R L U D E

Things get strange now.  We have been asked to work on some magical sites in Australia, in the Southern Highlands, south of Sydney, and after much humming and harring the best way for me to visit these was a forensically quick visit which took me to Australia for two days, then home again. So a few days after Easter I found myself transported to a magically different landscape, working with a wonderful, enthusiastic, interested client who has an incredible appreciation of authentic classical detail – and, how simple things need to be kept to get them right. It’s rather extraordinary to have been asked to work on the other side of the world, but if I can put it like this – our client struggled to find anyone close to home who could speak her language. So here I was.

We visited sites, and towns, over an incredible two days, and absorbed it all, and bounced around a thousand and one ideas.  My kind of place: Very much my kind of place! Landscapes of astonishing beauty, and so unspoiled.  Long may it so remain.  I am not sure how much landscape and building protection is yet in place.

It was an amazing morning.  And after two long and very, very happy and fruitful days, I found myself on the long journey home again.  Here we are, flying – I think – somewhere to the north of Baghdad.  


 P A R T   4 :   H O M E

I arrived in London with no jetlag, I hadn’t been away for long enough.  There are a lot of houses to design now in Australia, one of the most exciting and interesting commissions we have had in the practice for some time. Combined with our work in Christchurch for Brooksfield, this somehow makes me very happy.

I got down to Dorset to see Charlie and the girls the next night. Spring was springing.
It’s been an amazing spring for cowslips too.  The chickens out at last. 

 P A R T   5 :   S U F F O L K

And then I had a lovely weekend in Suffolk with Charles and Rachel.  My first boss, Charles – my great mentor and friend. Every year we have an office reunion, a lunch in memory of one of our colleagues Gavin, who was tragically taken from us far too soon, by cancer, in his 30s. It is a tradition we began at his funeral and it has lasted without break save for the pandemic years.  It is so wonderful to catch up with everyone from years and years ago, as if, really, nothing has changed.

Here is Charles and Rachel’s beautiful Suffolk garden that weekend, in soft misty evening light.  I love the bunny and caterpillar topiary.  Blythburgh Church, like a great stone ship.  Tiny flies dancing in the setting sun.
On our walk the next morning,  Old methodist chapels,  Modernist bungalows, And reeds for miles. 

P A R T   6 :   H O M E   A G A I N

And home.  Not much to say now, except May is almost upon us. Spring is here, Charlie’s garden is more ravishing than ever.
Little hints of the Coronation are appearing.
A bunch of tulips for our lovely neighbour Christine – and for you! 


P A R T   7 :   C O R O N A T I O N   D E C O R A T I O N S

Meanwhile, back in London, the brilliant Bridie and team have created the most ASTONISHING Coronation decorations. They were installed on Thursday, and will be up for two weeks. Please come and visit, and let’s have some fun! God Save The King! 

That’s April gone, and that’s a wrap!


neatness without tweeness and ravishing indeed – quite the most appropriate descriptions of charlie’s garden to my mind……

jane marshall

This was a wonderful blog. Charlies garden is looking magnificent and those tulips are just fantastic and what a lovely bunch your neighbour is receiving. Nice to see Charlie’s friend and his plants too. Love to see Sybil enjoying her time in the puddle, so funny. She definitely loves water. Your church at Easter was so beautifully decorated with those words in flowers. Your former boss and his wife’s home and garden was nice to see. Congratulations on that project in Australia, the homes in the pictures were so quaint and the scenery was so beautiful with so much vegetation. I had a feeling you would be decorating your shop and doing a celebration for the Coronation. I have such found memories from past trips from Canada at Christmas coming to the Christmas night celebration in December always and all of the shops taking park. I so miss your shop and again, have so many wonderful products and prints on my walls as a wonderful memory and really hope to be starting back to London frequently in September and will be visiting your shop and wonderful staff. This was such a lovely vlog. I must tell you where I live they have down so many trees, bushes and iris plants that bloom each year, and they were all 50 years old, the property has been flattened to built a 38 tower rental building. I spent last night walking around the property trying to salvage plants and small bushes before they bulldoze more and have replanted all on my terrace and hope they will survive a second life of peace and beauty for me. It saddens me to see this destruction of our environment without a thought for maybe recycling the plants to a safe area on the grounds aways from being flattened at a moments notice. I will go and try and salvage and save more tomorrow after seeing Charlie’s garden thriving and all of your wonderful trees, plants and flowers. I hope I save a bit of nature. And I am a disabled senior, yet found the strength to preserve and save a life of a few plants and it made me feel stronger then ever. So thank you again for your beautiful blogs, they really make my day each and every one for a very long time of reading the.

Darlene Chandler

Just decided to check your blog this morning and found the most amazing post. Spring in your part of the world really puts on a show and you captured it beautifully – Charlie’s garden, old churches, architectural designs, your dogs, it just all made my day! Thank you for taking us along.

Ann Collins

Ah…british gardens…what’s not to love about them! You’re very lucky!


Isokon, and the poor old chapel, two of my favourite buildings. Sigh.


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