Monday, 24 June 2013

Down The Garden Path

I am eternally grateful to Botega Veneta for bringing back one of my favourite types of dresses this season: the tea dress.  Along with the occasional sunny day in London it has given me the perfect reason to pull out this well loved version of the tea dress, one of my favourite wardrobe items and previously featured here.  Given that most of my socialising seems to be around afternoon teas these days I shall be hanging on to it for some time (middle age spread permitting!).  I can also feel smug that I didn't have to pay £1675 for the Botega Veneta version!

There is something eternally romantic about the tea dress: the old world femininity they represent, the floral prints, the delicate trims, the tiny covered buttons, the light fluttery fabrics from which they are cut that whisper of more genteel eras gone by.  For me the tea dress always brings to mind idyllic scenes of English ladies taking tea from exquisite tea sets, all whilst seated in their lovingly tended gardens which are always filled with the most beautiful flowers.

I've always been a great admirer of the English garden and have always attested that if there is anyone that knows how to create beautiful gardens, it is the English.  While they might have earned global fame for the manicured lawns and topiary mazes which are found in abundance in England's national tourist attractions, it is actually the humble English house garden which fascinates me.  What I love most is the knack they have for making the most of small spaces, where the wild and cultivated charmingly collide in a riot of texture, shape and colour.   It is this eternally stylish floral mash up which never fails to inspire designers every spring and summer and it is no wonder that florals turn up year after year as a motif in fashion and interior design.

As you know we recently moved and I'm absolutely thrilled to have become the proud owner of a small but perfectly formed English garden (lovingly tended previously by a doting Frenchman).  In London where garden space is often a luxury we were very lucky to find a second floor flat that had its own garden space.  It has been looking quite lovely of late and this weekend we were busy gardening so I thought I'd show you around.

These are "before" photographs when part of it was looking quite untended and wild, which I felt had its own kind of raw beauty.  You had to walk down a small narrow garden path bordered, in fact almost covered by wildflowers to get to it.  Most of these flowering plants were actually weeds that came up and went to flower in the period when the flat was vacant, but I actually rather quite liked them (that is until I spent three hours trying to pull them out!).

The path leads to a small, walled off area of grassy lawn bordered by flower beds where there are a range of seasonal plants, shrubs, trees and flowers.  There is bamboo along one wall, a young magnolia tree in one corner and a holly bush which will come in handy over Christmas.  The tree pictured above was covered in pale pink flowers and is now going to seed with the formation of thousands of small soft greeny-grey bean pods.

The list of flowers we have reads straight from an Enid Blyton novel: foxgloves, poppies, tulips, bluebells, lilies, flocks, buttercups, clover, lavender, thistles and bleeding hearts.  And that's just the ones we've managed to identify!

It may be small but there are lovely features in this garden that immediately charmed us when we first saw it.  In addition to ivy scaling the walls we also have some red and white climbing roses and a climbing clematis with bright purple flowers.  Yet another wall is covered in a thick jasmine vine which is waiting to burst into flower.

We enjoyed a couple of weeks when a crop of giant red poppies graced us with their presence and we have a standing terracotta pot with trailing succulents as a garden centre piece.

The numerous flowers have attracted butterflies, bumble bees and honey bees (one of which posed for long enough for me to photograph him sitting inside a poppy.) We also have several species of birds visiting the garden too. So far we've spotted a robin, several swifts, coal tits, pigeons and some colourful finches.

There is a also a large fox that likes to visit the garden, I know because his favourite sleeping spot seems to be on top of the poppies which we have found squashed flat most mornings!  And tonight, while writing this post, I saw him from the kitchen window sloping off down the side road that runs past the house.

And if the small garden didn't pack enough punch with all that flora and fauna, there is even a herb garden with French thyme, a rosemary bush, mint, oregano, majoram and a entire forest of sage.  Anyone got any good sage recipes?

Finally we have our own meadow! A patch where things have gone completely wild.  Or should I say had gone completely wild...we spent the weekend toiling to turn part of it into a vegetable patch.  


All in all we extracted eight big bin bags of weeds under the instruction of Mr V's mum who came over to instruct us in waging a war against weeds.  I might add, Mr V's mum is an English gardener extraordinaire with a garden to die for, and to whose opinion on what was a weed we obediently deferred.  Deceptively pretty flowers in our meadow were outed and identified as rampant garden pests that needed eradicating.  Did you know there was such a thing as "creeping buttercup"?  Neither did I!

We intend to make a nice corner for taking afternoon tea (or something stronger when the fancy takes us), so we are on the hunt for some nice garden furniture. We've been looking for some vintage wrought iron furniture. I've also always dreamt of having a little love seat in a garden, so when Mr V and I stumbled across a pair of ornate, wrought iron, vintage bench ends in a second hand gardening shop in Bath a couple of weekends ago for £24 we snapped them up.  The wood needs replacing but it will be a nice little DIY project and at the end I'll have a lovely bench to put under the climbing roses.

Now if all that doesn't get you all foraging around for your best floral dress to go skipping through a garden this summer I don't know what will!  I'm sure this garden is going to be a labour of love and no doubt our progress in putting our stamp on it will be featured on the blog in the future.

In the meantime I'm joining the other ladies over at Not Yet Dead Style for Visible Monday.  Have a wonderful week!

Floral print tea dress: Mango; Red Espadrilles: bought in Spain; Straw basket: bought in Thailand

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Supersize My Florals

I'm all over floral prints at the moment and I took every opportunity I could while on holiday in Spain to indulge in a fashion fest of the most flowery concoctions I could summon from my closet.  On route the innards of my suitcase resembled an overstocked florist - just how I like it really.  This crisp white cotton skirt with a giant rose print is my latest love.  Very feminine, very fifties and very Vivienne Westwood!  It has a matching corset style top in that signature Westwood tailoring which when worn as an outfit looks very Marie Antoinette.  However I thought I'd try the skirt with something more casual for a drive down the southern Spanish coast - a simple white tee shirt, a broderie anglaise jacket, some white espadrilles, a nude belt and a floral embossed metal cross.

Mr V and I usually hire a car when we're in Spain and drive out to the Costa del Luz for a whole glorious day lounging on the beach.  If we drive back late into town sometimes it isn't possible to get back to where we are staying and get dressed up in something nice to meet friends in time for dinner.  To solve the problem of packing a separate outfit to change into post-beach I just decided to wear something nice all day that I could change back into after the beach.

Speaking of flowers the wild flowers in Spain had really gone wild this year.  We stopped along the coast to admire the countryside which was in full bloom.  The combination of much heavier than usual rainfall and slightly cooler weather for longer has meant the normally dry, parched landscape got a decent drenching which has resulted in the local flora rejoicing.

I quite enjoyed wearing this skirt on the beach.  It felt light and pretty and almost of another era. 

As you can see I was looking suitably dishevelled after the beach and long drive home.  But the addition of accessories like the belt, necklace, jacket and a floral scarf to keep the evening wind chill at bay was enough to take me from beach to tapas bar.

I submitted this outfit a while ago to the "How I Wear My..." series hosted by Jill at Everything Just So and Adrienne of The Rich Life On a Budget.  Florals are one of my favourite wardrobe items so I was especially looking forward to seeing what everyone wore on this edition, and if you love florals it is worth going over there to see some stylish ladies wearing florals in their own individual ways.

How do you wear florals?

Linking up this week to Visible Monday over at Patti's Not Yet Dead Style.

Skirt: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania; Espadrilles: bought in Spain; Metal flower embossed cross and belt: Mango; Tee shirt: Cos; Broderie Anglaise jacket: Kate Moss for Topshop; Floral scarf: 21% Lino; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Birthday Girls

It's been a little quiet on the blogging front for me as last week Mr V and I were in Spain, fleeing the poor excuse for spring we've had this year. We fled in search of sunshine but actually found the weather in Andalusia was also a little on the unusually cool side. Cool enough during the day to be able to wear long trousers (usually unheard of in May!), and chilly enough at night to need warm knitwear to snuggle into when the wind picked up.

Spring in Andalusia is a very picturesque time to come.  Although the sunflowers are not out yet there are wild flowers all over the country side. The jacaranda trees in the town are also in full bloom and leave the streets and plazas sprinkled with their lilac flowers. The abundance of flowers certainly gets you in the mood to don your most outrageous florals for an outing.  This is one of my latest floral indulgences, a silky pyjama style trouser in an oriental floral print.

The other reason I went to Spain was to celebrate my birthday with one of my dearest friends Miss C, who I met while studying flamenco out here ten years ago. Also a flamenco dancer, she and I were born a day apart on different sides of the globe and so are the same age.  We have many personality traits and values in common and finding her was like finding a long lost sister.  Over the years we've managed to celebrate our birthdays together several times but not for the last two.  So it was nice to be able to do it again this year.  We decided to celebrate with lunch in Puerto de Santa Maria.

Where we had our favourite tipple - tinto con limon.  That's red wine with lemon Fanta - it sounds disgusting but it's actually really, really good!!

Puerto de Santa Maria has wonderful fish restaurants and tapas bars where you can eat extremely well without breaking the bank.

We took a walk around the town to burn off lunch but promptly replaced the calories with some rather delicious sorbet and ice cream from a local Italian ice cream shop. On the way we found some rather wonderful ochre yellow buildings.

One was a local flamenco club but the other one was the local motorcycle enthusiasts club!  Can you imagine your local biker hangout decked out like this?? In flamboyant yellow with little red flowering geraniums?

See if you can spot Mr V amongst the paintwork with his camouflage jumper!

Then we went for sun downer cocktails at a local bar overlooking the sea.  I'm not going to lie - facing another birthday felt a bit tough for Miss C and I this year and these colourful concoctions went some way to drowning our sorrows!

We did find reasons to be cheerful though.  Miss C and I have seen each other through our thirties, through good times and bad, and so we raised a toast here to celebrate our intention of doing exactly the same through our forties.

There'll be more Spanish posts to come!  In the meantime I'm linking up to Patti's Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.  I'll also be participating in "How I Wear My Florals" hosted by Jill at Everything Just So and Adrienne of The Rich Life On a Budget.

Floral Print Trousers: Zara; White t-shirts layered up: Cos; Blue Cardigan: Cos; Sequin Flip-flops: Zara (old); Bag: Michael by Michael Kors


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