Friday 31 January 2014

My Secret Garden by Alan Titchmarsh: Book Review

Welcome, all Modern Country gardeners.
Warning: Your book collection is about to feel very incomplete.

Alan Titchmarsh's My Secret Garden(by Ebury Publishing) is quite simply the most inspiring gardening book I've ever read. Hold onto to your boots, you're in for a ride!

Alan Titchmarsh's garden is Modern Country Garden perfection, by which I mean a blend of soft planting and topiary. This combination makes a garden design appear timeless, elegant and classic. It has the formal structure with more than a nod to the current Modern trend of formal design to carry it through these dull winter months but is juxtaposed by gentle Country pleasures of Cottage Garden delights.

Here's an excerpt from the wonderfully personal introduction...

To be honest, mine is not so much a secret garden as a private one, and that’s a bit of a novelty really. Having used our last garden at Barleywood for filming and photography for 20-odd years, I promised my wife and family when we moved, back in 2002, that the next garden would be just for us.

I struck a deal with Mrs T. The deal was that Jonathan Buckley – a brilliant photographer who has, over the years, become a good friend – would record our progress and I would share my garden in the form of a book. That way the garden would still be private and I would have the pleasure of progressing at my own pace, rather than fitting in with the hectic schedule of filming.

This book is the result. It encapsulates my own passion for gardening and my love of line, form, scale, perspective and colour. It will give you an idea of my tastes and predilections, my whims and fancies, as well as being a soapbox for me to expound a modest amount of my personal garden philosophy.

My Secret Gardenis divided, by season, into four delicious sections.
We get to look around, at lazy length, Alan Titchmarsh's spectacularly beautiful four acre garden. This is clearly not a garden built for television but an intimate, private joy. It's impeccably designed, yes, but for Alan's own particular pleasures, rather than to placate a nation of avid Gardeners' World viewers.

My Secret Garden gives us plenty of personal information about the design, inspiration and building of the garden, as well as faascinating glimpse into his mind by his sharing the frustrations and ongoing transformations behind the scenes, plus it features details on Alan Titchmarsh's favourite flower choices...

It shows progression; trial and error on the way, revealing his attitude on the making of a garden as a journey, an exploration, rather than one final static product.

From early spring...

through to summer...


and then deepest winter...

...along with collections of images comparing shots of the same part of the garden at different times of year...

My Secret Gardenby Alan Titchmarsh is a Modern Country Garden must-have. 

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Friday 24 January 2014

Make your own deliciously bespoke pen pot!

On these bleak January days, it's lovely to have a plethora of crafty ideas to while away long afternoons indoors with or without children. Here's my idea for one such project - your very own gorgeously bespoke pen pot- that is quick, easy and adorably effective. 

All you need is:

A sturdy cardboard pot (step in Whittards Hot Chocolate!)
A strip of delicious wallpaper of your choosing
Spray adhesive

For the wallpaper, I've used Laura Ashley Roses in Cassis. It's a lovely Modern Country update on one of my favourite Laura Ashley patterns. Soft, country roses have been given a fantastic modern twist with the introduction of grey. Yum!
{and, shhh!, it's now half-price in the sale!}

Here what you need to do...

Cut a strip of paper about half an inch taller than your pot....

...and with enough length for about an inch overlap, folding over the top edge by half an inch. This isn't strictly necessary but gives a lovely finish. .

Following instruction on the can, spray on your adhesive (leaving the top half-inch untouched, if possible) and carefully apply the paper to your pot, with the excess above the rim. Snip down into the paper to a smidgen above the rim of the pot..... 

...this allows you to neatly tuck down the paper without any ugly creases. Give it a quick spray of adhesive and press each tab inside your pot.

Cut another strip just shorter than the height of the inside of your pot, with enough room for a little overlap, remembering to fold over the top edge.

Spray it with glue and place on the inside of the pot.

Pat yourself on the back! 

You've created a completely unique Modern Country pen pot!

Doesn't this Laura Ashley Roses wallpaper make you hungry for a review of the best garden book in the world EVER

Coming right up!

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Tuesday 21 January 2014

Shaker-Style Home Tour

In the dark depth's of January, something deep inside me wants to reflect the grey skies, and ragged views, by paring right back, returning to nature, and enjoying, even revelling, in starker interiors, which are all the more beautiful for their bare-boned simplicity.

Hence today's Shaker-style home tour....

painted country kitchen

simple rustic living roomironstone crockery display

vintage kitchen linen

country style home

shelf storage with baskets

simple hallway natural colours

simple country bedroom

painted wardrobe country style bedroom

puritan style country bedroom

bedroom with American quilt

asters in september

wooden farmhouse Ohio

The owner, Phoebe Troyer, says, her home
"was designed and built by my wonderful husband and decorated by me. I love it. But mostly I love my home because of the people I share it with and because Jesus Christ is, and always will be, the center."

I love that.

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Tuesday 14 January 2014

The Howard Sofa: A Modern Country Classic

I recently received this request for help...

Dear Sarah,
We are at last contemplating buying 2 new sofas and ditching our 19 and 25 year olds! Oh the joy! But what style to go for? Not leather, classic to last another 20 years, but modern to fit in with my dream house, that hopefully we will find in 2014. As yet I haven't found one that features some gorgeous, comfy, but modern country styles! Please help!! Cindyx

You're in luck! I know just the ticket....

I have three words for you, Cindy: The Howard Sofa....

The Howard Sofa from The Sofa and Chair Company

...uber-stylish but completely timeless; 

Symons Sofa | The White Company

I will never, in a gazillion years, get bored with this look. Mainly because with the Howard sofa, there isn't really one look. By picking carefully with your upholstery fabric, you can go be a thoroughly Modern Miss....

or a cosy comfy Country chick...

Howard sofas strike the perfect balance between gorgeous looks and utter practicality. They are large. They are inviting. And they are super-squishy. Perfect for snuggling up on these cold January days, with a blanket, a favourite magazine and a big mug of something delcious.

The Howard sofa manages to embody reassuring chunkiness with curvaceous elegance, making it a Modern Country design classic.

However, do be reassured that it is A. Good. Thing. to be cautious about buying big items. These are pieces that will need to last you for years and years and years. Take the time to get it right and you will be smiling contentedly every time you kick back and flop into the soft, welcoming embrace of your chosen sofa. 

Good luck!

Images via: South Shore Decorating, The Sofa and Chair Company, The White Company, unkown, unknown, Beach Comber, Abigail Ahern

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