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


  1. oh my goodness, your small garden is just perfect! the beauty and variety of the flowers is breathtaking. You are making me miss our little cottage and its garden, although I am enjoying a rest from the labors : > You look lovely in your tea dress and I hope you'll soon be having refreshing drinks in your garden. Thanks for linking up!

  2. I don't know which is lovelier - the garden or your dress! Isn't it wonderful to have a garden filled with beautiful and fragrant flowers? Your dress is perfect for an afternoon in the garden and I'm envious of your Spanish espadrilles ;-)


  3. I'm so happy for you and Mr. V!!! To be starting off with such a wonderful garden already underway is fabulous, and then to have a master gardener in the family? I can't wait to see how it grows and becomes your own. Your dress is delightful and accessorized beautifully. XXOO

  4. The garden sounds lovely. Cheers to drinking tea in your garden!

  5. Hey girl,

    Congratulations on your new home and your garden is lovely. I can spend hours outside in the garden in my backyard because to me it's so relaxing. You look beautiful in that pretty dress amongst the flowers. Oh! and those bench ends are gorgeous, can't wait to see when they are finished.

  6. Oh, where to begin with this post? Your dress is lovely; I, too, am very keen on tea dresses, although I haven't much opportunity to wear them.

    I've been extensively revamping half of my garden, aiming very much for the classic cottage garden style, and your plants list is almost identical to mine! (I think that reddish purple clematis may be an Ernest Markham; just planted one of those, myself!) Anyway, your garden is beautiful, and you're lucky to have inherited it! You're not kidding that gardens like that are hard to come by in London.

    Creeping buttercup is evil stuff. It looks so pretty, but it'll consume everything in its path if it gets out of control. Only bindweed is worse, and I've been battling that as well.

    (Long comment, but your post is fantastic, and there was so much to reply to!)

  7. Indeed, you are lucky to get such a beautiful garden! When I first visited London I was surprised to see those small but so lovely gardens in front of almost every private house. And what amazed me most of all that on such small areas there were so many varieties of plants and flowers.

  8. Beautiful dress and wonderful English garden.
    Un abrazo fuerte amiga.

  9. Wow that is a rarity to find in a city like London. Lucky you!

    Soon to be your favourite spot for tea I'm sure.

    I love the dress and the wicker handbag.


  10. A small English garden is just perfect ... it can look so pretty (as you have shown!) but doesn't take too long to get on top of, so that you can sit and have a cup of tea in your tea dress and enjoy it! M x

  11. What a lovely garden! I'm so envious of all the lovely flowers that grow in England. The red shoes are perfect with your pretty tea dress.

  12. How wonderful to have this gorgeous garden as part of your life. And to have a master gardener assist in turning it into your own special sanctuary. You and your tea dress bloom perfectly amidst the display of multi-colored beauties. It will be fun to see how your garden grows over the summer months ahead.

  13. How lovely to have your very own English (albeit not country) garden! I love being in mine, which has a very similar selection of flowers, I've been bee-gazing again this afternoon!
    Such a pretty dress to go with your beautiful outdoor space. I see plenty of vintage-style tea dresses in charity shops and on Ebay, no one needs to spend £1675, do they?! xxxx

  14. So happy to see you settling in. Excellent garden, as it is and in its potential! I wish you both many happy hours there. Wear sunscreen. And anti-bug stuff. And scrape your nails over a damp bar of soap before you dig in the dirt!
    Lovely dress, and you wear them so well. Isn't it nice to see a favorite style become easy to get and plentiful? One has to be of a certain age to have favorites like that!
    Enjoy your summer domesticity, and all the tea parties.
    Oh yes ... I love your sandals in multiple colors. Such a good idea.

  15. How enchanting you are in that gorgeous tea dress, in that beautiful new garden of yours! I love the tea dress, such a classic romantic look. Looks like you've a lovely array of flowers already here and ready to be tended. I love that action picture of the sweet bee on the poppy. Great to see you have a herb patch too, you'll find it comes in very handy - I use ours for cooking all the time. Sage goes well with bacon or pork, such as roast pork with apples, or calves liver and bacon, or lemony salmon... all pretty delish!

  16. How are you? What a charming tea dress, I am such a fan of dresses like this, and adore the scale of print mixture in your dress. The garden is a perfect setting for your outfit and the images are captivating. xx/Madison :-)

  17. How are you? What a charming tea dress, I love dresses like this and love the scale print mixture in your dress. Captivating images of the garden as well. xx/Madison

  18. So happy for you and your husband's English garden! It is so charming and full of flora (and tiny fauna! Extraordinary capture of the little bee in the poppy!). You have managed to identify more flowers in your garden than we have and are so much better than we are at weeding and growing specific patches. We have pretty much let ours grow wild. The deer do the pruning for us - though we try to shoo them away from the roses. Lovely dress in perfect keeping with the atmosphere in your garden. - J xxx

  19. Such a great summer dress. Lovely flowers.

  20. What a gorgeous garden, it looks so well established and pretty, the previous owner must have invested hours into creating something so lovely!
    That dress is lovely on you. I agree with Curtise, charity shops are a fantastic source, I can't understand anyone spending the price of a campervan on one! xxx

  21. Many congratulations on finally moving into your home and your garden is wonderful! I adore English gardens too and am also very slowly learning to tend my own. Do you like fruit trees? If so and you have space I would definitely plant some.


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