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.
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