Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Much Ado About England

We spent hours walking through small towns and soaking in the beauty of the landscape.

Sorry to have been out of touch for a bit, but so much seems to be happening, and it is near impossible to keep up. I haven't been able to visit blogs or answer many of your e-mails, but I am thinking of you and will get back to whatever I think of as normal as soon as we reach our home in California.

We will be on the road for two weeks, and I will be writing a post on our WONDERFUL and exciting Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta, Maine. Pumpkin lovers unite. You will not believe the creativity we've seen here. Also, I was a judge at the Pumpkinfest baking contest; we'll have photos of the winners and photos of the amazing giant pumpkins that now line Main St. and other far flung places. 

Speaking of far flung places...this posting is an amalgam of different areas of England we visited. Think of it as an armchair, whirlwind tour.

We peeked inside garden gates and found magical, personal landscapes.

We visited many museums, but the Garden Museum has been a goal of mine for years and worth the wait. Darn it, we didn't get a chance to see the "Going Dutch" show or to hear the speakers. The "Dutch Wave" is sweeping through England. Perhaps you've seen the garden designs of Piet Oudolf.  His influential designs are injecting the world of gardening with a shot of adrenaline. Do your homework and check out some of his gardens. You may feel a major shifting of tectonic plates in your own small garden.

Smack in the middle of the hub bub of London sits this tiny jewel of a museum and walled garden. Oh, and my friend Nancy (Lemon Verbena Lady) told us to try the restaurant in the Garden Museum, and it was fantastic. Locally sourced organic foods prepared for vegetarians.

I loved the way they utilized twigs and branches in constructing their trellises. I'm going twig hunting as soon as we get settled in California.

Am I a garden geek? I thought that these tools looked like fine sculptures.

LOVE this cat cut out to deter birds from eating fruits, but how do you deter the kitties from eating the birds? A big cut out of a hawk?

Gorgeous old watering cans. Can you ever have too many of these?

"I have been to the mountain, " I said as I stared at the desk once used by Gertrude Jekyll when designing her famous gardens and writing her books.

Onward to the Chelsea Physic Garden, a walled garden in the heart of London. It felt so good to walk in here and let the city's pressures fall away. All the beds of herbs made me feel right at home-just like my old Heart's Ease gardens.

Rhubarb forcers, a tepee, and the city looming behind the wall. 

Jeff had to physically restrain me from reaching for the clippers and starting to work.

Love this mini-lobata, which is commonly called fire cracker vine. This charmer can grow 15 to 20 feet in a season. They had it growing up a tepee, which it had completely covered. 

A seating area inside the garden.

This is a Victorian era PORTABLE greenhouse. It is fabulous and sat in the middle of an Anthropologie store in the Chelsea district. What a great place to start tender seedlings, and a mere 12,800.00 pounds sterling, that is. 

Interior view of the portable greenhouse. Zinc work surface and the potting area slides out. Wow, wouldn't I love to have this in my garden???

The gate opens onto the gardens of Dove Cottage in the village of Grasmere. This was the home of the poet William Wordsworth during his most productive years.

Wordsworth's sister Dorothy kept this little garden flourishing. I loved the bits of slate they used to quote Dorothy Wordsworth's diary entries about the garden.

Quinces on the windowsill at Dove Cottage.

BLUE. Is there a bluer blue?  Borage, the herb of courage, held court in Wordsworth's garden. This annual attracts not only honeybees, but also flower (Syrphid) flies, who deposit their eggs on the hairy stems. The flower fly larvae look like green maggots, but don't squish them. They're voracious and feed heavily on aphids. I love how the borage self sows everywhere. Is there such a thing as too much borage?

This is our friend Rachel Lucas, or, as she has been dubbed, The Queen of the Blue Angel Bakery. She is an accomplished and adored baker who is followed by legions of fans. She now sets up shop at the Aylesbury Farmers' Market, about 45 minutes from London. 

Within an hour of taking this photo, Rachel's platters were empty. The dapper gentleman with the adorable dog (well, the gentleman is pretty adorable, too) is Rachel's husband Paul. The dog is Alice, who Rachel says is "the little heartbeat at my feet." Please do visit Rachel's blog.

The Aylesbury Farmers' Market.

We passed on the ostrich burgers, ostrich steak, and, darn it, the ostrich soup, too.

What does the ceiling photo have to do with anything? Those are hops flowers hanging from the beams, and I love them. These are the hops that are used for brewing beer and for stuffing dream pillows. I grew golden hops at Heart's Ease, and they're aggressive, but worth having for these elegant blooms. 

A moment of reflection in Roald Dahl's writing chair where he sat as he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. The Roald Dahl Museum.

Roald's grave where children leave coins, pencils, and chocolate bars. I wanted to leave a peach, but couldn't find one.

No journey to Oxford is complete without visiting The Kilns, the home of C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and also a visit to the Eagle and Child where Lewis, Tolkien and others gathered for their weekly meeting of The Inklings. In this pub, they read their rough drafts, critiqued each other, and, I imagine, they tipped a few pints too. 

Look closely at the writing and signatures.

And, no visit to Oxford is complete without a trip to Jamie Oliver's Italian Restaurant.

Jamie's corner.

We were first in line, thus the empty restaurant, but within a few minutes, it was jammed.

Freshly made pasta on display.

A glimpse of the kitchen.

These cutting boards were scattered throughout the restaurant. 

Pasta in progress. It was like watching a ballet.

Entitled "Jamie's amazing crackling chicken salad." It was amazing. 

We're leaving our beloved cottage and Maine this weekend. Off to visit a dear friend in Connecticut, spend a day with my editor and publisher in New York, then onward to the Cape May Bird Observatory, and south to Little Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. 

I'll post about the Pumpkinfest before we leave Maine. 

Joys to you all,



Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Beautiful photos! Makes me homesick! I just love England so much! Glad you liked the Garden Museum and lunch! Safe travels friends! xxoo Nancy

Cro Magnon said...

Goodness, what a huge post. But then England has so much to photograph and write about. Loved your view of it all.

Marigold Jam said...

Looks as though you had a great time in England - thanks for mentioning the Garden museum - I hadn't heard of it before - I am off to London next week for a day out with a friend and we might go there as it certainly looks interesting. Loved your photos in previous post too - the Lake District is stunning isn't it?


Mozarts Girl said...

Hi darling Sharon, this is me commenting from the Land Down Under!! Thanks so much for your sweet words, lovely comments, encouragement to 'follow that blog!' & fantastic pictures. Wonderful memories of a too short visit. I'll be in touch properly when I get home xxx Rachel

Leigh @ Toasted said...

Hi - you found so much inspiration in your travels - but I do suspect you find it anywhere. I especially love Roald Dahl's armchair. I wanted to let you know that it's spring in Australia and I'm having so much fun in my garden and I have to attribute a lot of it to you. I;ve only read one of your books (Roots, Boots, Buckets and Shoots) but it put me in the right frame of mind to garden and enjoy it as something to do with my kids. We're just starting to build a community garden in my area too, and I fully plan to build lots of kid spaces in it!

Courtney at SL's No Ennui said...

Omigoodness... how to I even BEGIN to comment on so many wonderful things!?!?!

I LOVED seeing Roald Dahl's house and grave... I must go there someday!

Thank you for sharing so much! I am going to have to go through this post a few hundred time to memorize it :)

Thea said...

I know you're mad busy, Sharon, but you have THE life! Have a great time traveling south! Give a wave as you pass Arlington VA. By the way, the Ostrich Soup - I wonder, does it taste like chicken???? hehe huggers t

Kay's flowers said...

Absolutely marvelous! I loved all the pictures of where you had been. A trip to remember. Have a safe and fun trip home. Always look forward to your posts.

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

A tour for both the gardener's soul and the writer's. Aaah.

BTW, my children are huge fans of Roald Dahl. Me too of course. What a creative mind.

I love your teutonic shift comment. Maybe. I've seen his work in Chicago's Lurie garden.

Love to you my friend.~~Dee

Sharon Lovejoy said...

A thought for today-

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."

Helen Keller

maggie said...

I just love these updates.

And I so wish we had a pumpkin festival here! That's it- I'm moving to Maine!

Cher' Shots said...

I truly enjoyed my stroll through the streets via you. My husband enjoyed your pics as well as he had walked those same streets years ago.

Anonymous said...

I´m surprised that You actually gets the time to post anything since You are moving around a lot!

There is so much to comment about today that I would need more space than I can get here, so I keep it short instead :-)

The Dutch wave hit us ten years ago i think and our most popular parks are made in that style. I do like it a lot!

I really like that portable green house :-) But I don´t like the price it has :-) :-)

It would have been perfect to leave a peach on Roald Dahls grave, I love that story :-) and I think that if I ever get to England I have to visit The Eagle and child!

Have a great day now!

The Herbalist's Cottage said...

Thank you for taking the time to share with us all your travels.
I must admit the places you are visiting is making me want to think hard about getting on a plane & visiting.

Love Leanne

Dawn said...

I am speechless...just read this post and the one before it...I have a lump in my throat...the gorgeousness and simple beauty which still exists on this earth...I want to see it all!

Thank you for posting these I have seen just a little more...

Joyful journies this fall,

xoxo dawn

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Oh, your so lucky Sharon!
What an awesome trip and what awesome pics!!
I am just green with envy!

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

Loved seeing every photo here. I love England for its Cottages & Gardens. It was so much fun seeing all you posted. Have a safe trip back to California.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

wow...i really love this post. i am having greenhouse envy and want that soooo bad. i'm on my way to salem!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, Sharon, what a gorgeous tour you have taken us on! LOVE everything you shared! I will be sure the visit the links too - just wonderful!
Wishing you a very lovely weekend!
~ Zuzu

Pat said...

Have savored every garden, bakery and pasta image...and the quote from your friend, Rachel Lucas - her little companion - "the heartbeat at my feet." Just so priceless!
Oh to be in England...someday...

rebecca sweet said...

Oh, how I treasure reading your posts on a quiet weekend morning. It's such a wonderful way to start my day! My husband and I have been wanting to go to England together, and am so thankful you've given us this information! The only thing I might pass on is the Ostrich restaurant - but the rest we're sure to visit! It's funny you mention you felt right at home at the Chelsea Psychic Garden, reminding you of your gardens at Heart's Ease. Before I read your words, I had just thought the same thing when I glanced at the photo! Your gardens at Heart's Ease were truly magical and inspiring. How nice that you got to see so many other gardens similar to yours on such a grand scale - I can only imagine how inspired and energized you must feel (after jet lag has passed, of course). Safe travels back to California, Sharon. We're waiting for you!

Donna said...

Oh, Sharon, a safe and fun-filled journey to you! I do hope you were able to stop by Portsmouth on your way to Connecticut! It's hard to believe the summer is over. Looking forward to your Pumpkinfest post!... Donna

Lili said...

My mouth is still agape over that fabulous greenhouse in Anthropologie. Oh Sharon, so many delightful sights and nuggets of information in your posts. Thank you so much for putting it all together for us, it is always such a treat to visit you here. Safe travels dear. ~Lili

Ginny said...

What a fun virtual tour! And I am also in awe of that greenhouse!

suzanne said...

What a feast for my eyes...I sure hope to make my way to England someday soon. You must feel so fulfilled Sharon!~

Warm regards

Terra said...

Thanks for reminding me to read this post with the Eagle and Child in it. I have a Lewis and the Inklings itinerary all lined up, but don't know if I will visit, so I am enjoying a vicarious visit here. I met a man who helped preserve the Kilns and the books owned by Lewis, and visited his house where he had a Lewis library.