With a couple of hours to spare in London I took myself off to the V&A Museum in pursuit of examples of plants being used in art. In the Tapestry Room I immersed myself in the details of medieval hunting scenes where plants weave (!) their way through the action and there is also a beautiful example of a millefleurs tapestry. I identified pinks, daisies, campions and possibly butterwort, but would love to spend time with an expert who could talk me through the different plants.
But I was particularly taken by a pair of preliminary sketches by Philip Webb that accompany a newly restored William Morris hanging, featuring a fox and a hare, each with flowers in the foreground. I kept returning to them for another look.
The route to the Tapestry Room is through the magnificent bling of the Jewellery Galleries and here too there are plants to be found and admired.
One way and another it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to fill a couple of hours.
Seems that finally – after this long, warm autumn – the cold weather is about to arrive. With this in mind I have been busy bringing vulnerable plants undercover. The brugmansia was still flowering prolifically, but I took a deep breath and cut it back to about 50cm and have now given it a fleece cover as it is far too large to move.
Succulents are hunkered down under a cloche where they will get plenty of light, but no water. Like many hot climate plants they are surprisingly tolerant of cold – it’s the wet they hate.
The really tender plants are now mainly in the greenhouse and conservatory – and one of the citrus trees gets a starring role on the kitchen windowsill. I would love to bring all three indoors as they are flowering prolifically but they would cut out all the light in the kitchen. The other two are on a table in front of the window in the garage – the nearest I get to an orangery!
I’m very proud of the lemons I’ve grown this year – best ever. Time to pick some I think; I left them on the tree while they were outside because they look so pretty, but they will go unnoticed in the garage.
In the garden
I took a few moments to admire the black-eyed Susan that has romped 3 metres up the ivy this summer – it will disappear with the cold. The last time I saw this plant growing so rampantly was in South Africa (see it here)where it grows wild and is considered a nuisance.
This year I planted my sweet peas in a large galvanised water tank and once they had finished flowering I planted it up with a mixed bunch of leftovers from other parts of the garden – while everything else is gently subsiding into soft autumnal shades, this hotchpotch is continuing to perform in quite a jolly fashion.
Sometimes when I go to a far flung event I’m a bit like one of those gymkhana ponies that comes to a halt in front of one jump after another. Each change of transport has me tempted to bolt back to my stable and quietly munch some hay. Fortunately I stuck it out when I went to the preview of ‘Winter Light’ at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire and found my efforts rewarded in spectacular fashion. As we arrived, the late afternoon sun gilded the manor, but it was once that darkness fell that the magic began. The façade was bathed in vivid, ever-changing colours, while inside some of the rooms had been transformed into celebrations of light from various cultures and periods of history – as well as detours into Narnia and Peter Pan for the children.
It was once we went outside and followed a barely lit path into the gardens that the real excitement began. Rounding a corner we found ourselves walking between a double row of tents illuminated from within by throbbing and ever-changing colours, accompanied by what lighting artist, Bruce Munro, referred to as ‘the soundtrack of my life’. Much of it was the soundtrack of my life too, with snatches of familiar songs that were just getting to the point where I was tempted to start dancing when there would be a sudden change of mood to spoken word, ambient sound or classical music, all interspersed with the morse code for SOS which is the title of the installation. Bruce Munro was inspired to create this work by Shelterbox, the charity that provides tents and essential survival kit to people who have lost their homes through famine, war or natural disaster. It was a wonderful experience – I’m so glad it didn’t bolt for home. Times, dates and prices can be seen at www.waddesdon.org.uk