Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Celebrating Flowers, London and Life



One of the lovely projects I've just finished photographing and writing is a new guidebook about London, called LONDON SECRETS, which is to be published later this year by my former publisher (and employer, when I was a book editor), Images Publishing. It's designed to be a companion to the bestselling PARIS SECRETS -- details of which are here. London is going through a huge design revival at the moment, and it's always a joy to return to this city, which seems to look beautiful regardless of whether it's drizzling and grisaille grey or shimmering under silvery sunshine. 

I'm now working on a beautiful garden book for Rizzoli New York, which involves shoots in the UK, France, Italy, the US, the Caribbean and other destinations. So if the blog and Instagram posts are sporadic, that's why, and I hope you'll forgive me. As compensation, here are some glorious garden bits and pieces to celebrate the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. (And a few travel tips for London, too.)





LONDON -- NEW SPACES AND PLACES
(From the new LONDON SECRETS book, published by Images in late 2016)

I love London. It's my second home. But the city is changing so fast at the moment that it feels like there's something new going up every week. Of all the new architecture appearing in London, some of the most exciting buildings are the new hotels, which seem to be sprouting like spring bulbs at the moment. Two of the most talked about are the Hotel Costes on Sloane Square (still to break ground, but not far off), and a new hotel planned by bestselling writer Alain de Botton called The Philosopher's Hotel. The latter project is tucked away in the serene, leafy streets of Hampstead, and is being billed as "the thinking person's hideaway". Spaces include a library (which Botton has dubbed 'Keats' Living Room'), a study (naturally called 'Freud's Study'), and an art studio, named after Constable. (You don't want to turn up with a low-brow book here!)

If you can't wait for these two boutique hideaways to be finished, there is a new, superbly named hotel called Batty Langley's, which is the third hotel from the gentlemen behind the equally quirky Hazlitt’s in Soho and The Rookery in Clerkenwell. The theme was inspired by the eccentric English garden designer and writer Batty Langley, who was famous for producing 'patterns' for Gothic structures, including summerhouses and garden seats, in the mid-18th century. He was particularly fond of cabinets de verdure, but all his garden designs were popular. His book New Principles of Gardening, in 1728, was a surprise bestseller. Even George Washington was a fan. There are likely to be many fans of this new London hotel, which is arguably one of the most charming retreats in the entire city. www.battylangleys.com

There is also a newbie in Notting Hill -- The Laslett Hotel (although I was a bit underwhelmed by it), and another cutie in Marylebone, the Zetter Townhouse in Marylebone, which is sister to the much-loved Zetter in Clerkenwell. The latter is probably the best bet for those who love textiles, antiques, books, and beautiful rooms, although its location -- right in the middle of Marylebone's magnificent shopping quarter -- is pretty irresistible too. Like Batty Langley's Hotel, The Zetter Marylebone is modelled on a character, only this one is fictitious gent called Uncle Seymour. The idea is that it's meant to represent the London townhouse of a well-read but slightly eccentric gentleman, whose books and antiques are all still as they were when he resided here. (It's a tradition: the sister Zetter in Clerkenwell was the townhouse of 'Great Aunt Wilhelmina'). There's an extraordinarily beautiful restaurant / bar called 'Seymour's Parlour', which is cosy and claret colored, and filled with things that look like they should be in the Soane Museum. The best suite is the Rooftop Apartment with its own terrace, outdoor bath and an (indoor) bathroom decorated with an enormous vintage map -- all mad but so fantastic too! www.thezettertownhouse.com/marylebone

As for horticultural havens, there are a few of those in this new book. My favorite new discoveries include the Isabella Gardner Plantation in Richmond (stunning azaleas in spring!), and Duck Island Cottage in St James's Park. (There is a fantastic story behind this cottage; too complicated to include here, but do look it up if you love gardens and history.)


EIGHTY, AND STILL ELEGANT IN WELLIES...

Speaking of London, and gardening, and all things charming and quirky and quintessentially British, it's fantastic to see that Jo Malone's new spokesperson is the eighty-year-old model and gardening cover girl Gitte Lee. (Christopher Lee's widow.) She's so beautiful. Look at her, with her three hats, her silk scarves (she's wearing two, just to be sure!), and her diamond brooch. What glamour! 

She's also the perfect person to spruce the company's new limited edition collection of fragrances, 'Herb Garden' , which are designed to be the best kind of casual scents. The descriptions alone make you want to try them -- 'Lemon thyme crushed in soil-covered hands; cool earth encasing ripening carrots and fennel; the aromatic artistry of herbs -- verdant, crisp, juicy and sweet...' Just the thing for weekend spritzes.

www.jomalone.com


MAIRA KALMAN'S ILLUSTRATIONS

It could be argued that Jo Malone's team has taken inspiration for the above photo shoot with Gitte Lee from Rhoda Birley's famous photo in the fantastic book Garden People: The Photographs of Valerie Finnis  (Thames and Hudson). 

Many gardeners know about this book and the colorful characters in it (Rhoda -- Lady Birley -- was shot in her garden at Charleston, in Sussex), but what's interesting is how it continues to inspire people -- and photo shoots -- years after it was published. 

I recently came across these sublime illustrations by New York illustrator Maira Kalman, who loves to paint gardens and gardeners, and perfectly captured Rhoda (above) in her now-legendary gardening outfit. 


Maira Kalman also painted an exquisite study of Sissinghurst's garden (above).


Maira is now so highly regarded that many people are commissioning her to do books and magazine covers. The New Yorker has been asking her to design their covers for years. (This week's issue of The New Yorker; a pink-hued, petalled study of a green-mustached man to celebrate the advent of spring, is by Maira.)


Here's one of her spring covers here --

For more information on Maira Kalman, there's a TED talk here -- The Illustrated Woman. Or there are lots of articles on various sites around the Net.



BEAUTIFUL BOOKS, NEW AND OLD

There are some gorgeous books being released this year, including an enormous tome of all of Karl Lagerfeld's theatrical catwalk shows for Chanel, published in May (LINK HERE), and a new Thames & Hudson title called Floral Patterns of India -- a must if you love design (and India!). 

However, I've been quietly buying a lot of vintage titles, as much for their charming covers and design as for the stories inside. 

The favorite so far has been Vita Sackville-West's English Country Houses, which she wrote while London was being bombed during the Blitz, and entire areas of southern England were being destroyed. It was her hymn to a way of life that was fast disappearing, not just because of the war but because of the changes that were taking place in society. 

Beverley Nichols' books are well worth reading, too -- although perhaps start with his biography first, to better understand him. Warning: Once you start reading his books, you'll find it difficult to stop!


GARDENS ILLUSTRATED -- AND VITA'S LOST ROSES

One of the best magazines in the world is Gardens Illustrated, the beautifully produced UK publication that's also sold elsewhere in the world. The photography is always superb, and the articles always feature under-the-radar gardens, interesting landscape designers and gardens, and beautiful flowers and plants. 

The latest issue, No 229, is a special edition that features an enthralling story written by Sissinghurst's head gardener, Troy Scott Smith, about Vita Sackville-West's lost roses. (Released Feb/March in UK; March elsewhere, including Australia.) 

Vita Sackville-West was famous for her roses. And when she noticed that many cultivars and species were dying out across England, she made it her mission to save and protect as many as she could. Unfortunately, of the 300 roses that she saved at Sissinghurst, only 100 were still alive in 2013, when head gardener Troy Scott Smith took over the estate. Cognizant of Vita's horticultural legacy, he took it upon himself to find "Vita's lost roses" and reinstate them into the garden. He used Vita's diaries and notebooks to identify where the roses had been in the garden, and what their names were, although head gardener Jack Vass' detailed garden plans were also helpful. Sadly, some of the roses seemed to be lost forever, but Troy tracked down more than 200 of Vita's original plants and brought them back to Vita's beds. 

Gardens Illustrated has a lovely story on the search for the lost roses, as well as four wonderful pages showing 44 of the best roses grown in Vita's garden. (And also specialist suppliers where you can source rare roses.) 

If only Vita were alive to see her rose beds restored to their original glory. She would no doubt be very pleased.

Link to article HERE.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NEW BOOKS AND OLD LIBRARIES



I would like to apologize to you all for the radio silence, and give you a little update from our small corner of the world. Even though it seems very quiet at times, bound by books, work and deadlines, and softened by travel, friends, family, gardens, and a few fulfilled dreams too.



One of these fulfilled dreams has been a writing project that's had a five-year gestation period. (Which is not long for a biography, but very long for me!) It's called THE PICNIC, although some of you are already aware of it, having followed the progress of it on this blog. It's an illustrated biography of Lady Joan Lindsay, the elegant but enigmatic author of the bestselling novel Picnic at Hanging Rock.  It's part biography, part essay and part analysis, and yes, we DID unearth the story behind the mystery. That's what took five long, research-intensive years!

I have to confess that, at one stage, I thought this writing project would never end. Information, leads and insights kept trickling in from kind readers and generous strangers all over the world. But in hindsight, these contributions were what made this project such a special one to work on, and I'm deeply grateful that we've had so much assistance from those who knew the Lindsays personally.




After three publishers vied for the book, the highly regarded publishers Hardie Grant made a offer too good to refuse. (I would have been happy to go with the other two publishers, as I know both women and they're very nice.) I'm pleased to say that the illustrated biography of Joan Lindsay and the story behind Picnic at Hanging Rock will be published in October / November this year (2016).  It's a beautiful story. I still tear up reading the chapter about Joan Lindsay's final years. So I hope you all love it, too.

These pages are only mock-ups (forgive the typos; the copy hasn't yet been edited), so they won't be the final page designs, but they do offer a glimpse at the wonderful people who punctuated Joan and Daryl Lindsay's private world. These friends included the great man of theatre Sir Laurence Olivier (who is pictured above wearing Joan's gardening hat in the couple's walled garden of 'Mulberry Hill'), and Sir Keith and Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's parents, who were Joan and Daryl's close neighbours and friends for more than half a century, and who are pictured at both the back door and the front garden path of Mulberry Hill in the photo above Laurence Olivier. By all accounts, the Murdochs and the Oliviers were genuinely nice, down-to-earth people; something that is clearly evident from the photos above. 

The story behind THE PICNIC is a truly remarkable story and I wish I could tell you more but it's embargoed until Hardie Grant release further details later in the year. For now, I'm very happy to leave it in their capable hands, and move onto another lovely project, this time for Rizzoli New York. This book is all about gardens, which will make for a refreshing change from the Edwardian era and all its glamorous mysteries and secrets!



AND A FEW MORE BOOKISH THINGS...

In between all these books, I've been taking the time to remember old books. Old stories. Old memories. This is because my mother is moving out of her large house in the country to a smaller place and our family has been helping her move.  I was coping surprisingly fine with it all until I saw Mum and Dad's study, which is being emptied of all their books. It's funny how things like that can make you sentimental, isn't it?  We may cull our libraries but the nostalgia for the stories we've read in them will always remain. So here, on the eve of Deborah, the Duchess of Devonshire's great estate sale at Sotheby's London (Oh, for all her garden books! I'm going to attempt to put in a few pathetically low bids...), are a few more bookish things to entertain you.

PS I'll be back to Instagram soon! It's been a big few months.



A GRAND LIBRARY RESIDENCE TO RENT IN PARIS

One Fine Stay, the international accommodation agency that's much like an upmarket Airbnb, has released a coolly elegant new residence to rent in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. 

Its key features are not its French doors and its Instagram-worthy vistas over grey Parisian rooftops, but its grand, Neoclassical library and its all-white salon, both pictured above. Beautiful, non? And large enough for the whole family to be happy.

More details are this grand Parisian library apartment at on One Fine Stay's website at www.onefinestay.com 
Or here -- LINK



A WRITER'S GARDEN

I love the writings of author and garden columnist Anna Pavord, who received worldwide acclaim for her bestelling book The Tulip, but who had been penning moving and memorable pieces long before then. 

There is a gorgeous video on her garden, which gives her so much literary inspiration, on the link below. There are some other lovely videos on the same site, too, including the Duchess of Devonshire's garden at Chatsworth—all worth a look. 



WRITERS' ROOMS

There was a joyful piece in the New York Times recently about the rooms in which authors work, including the beguiling study of bestselling author Jeanette Winterson. I love the enormous, light-filled artist's studio above. What an inspirational place to work.




LIBRARIES THAT FORM THE CORNERSTONE OF BUILDINGS

We've recently purchased an off-the-plan investment apartment in a quietly sophisticated new project called OPERA, which is located on St Kilda Road, a leafy boulevard in Melbourne. What most attracted us about OPERA was the enormous Library downstairs. That, I think, was even more appealing that the residents' Wine Room, the Winter Lounge (above), the garden terraces, the restaurant, the pool and gym, and the glamorous navy-and-marble interiors of the apartments.

I'm just hoping they fill the library with good titles. Wouldn't it be a cosy place to entertain clients or friends?



THE BOOKSHELVES OF A BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Do you read The Style Saloniste? It's a great blog written by former Vogue Living features writer-turned-author Diane Dorrans Saeks,  who now lives in the US where she's written many bestselling design and architecture books.  LINK HERE  One of her recent posts was on her extensive library, which has some of the most interesting design titles I've ever seen. (I was touched to spot a few familiar books among them.) She often does posts on her enormous library and always gives recs for great books. Some of her favorites are from publisher Persephone, which discovers old novels and re-releases them. If you haven't yet discovered Persephone, do look at their website: the titles alone make for humorous reading.



A FASHION TAKE ON LIBRARIES

I love how Net-a-Porter's magazine The Edit recently chose a library in which to do a fashion shoot with actress Dakota Johnson.  The backdrops were as charming as the clothes. 



A LIBRARY SUITE TO LINGER IN

My long-suffering partner is joining me in Europe this May, while I'm there to shoot gardens (we're also trying to plan stopovers enroute; all very complicated for this travel organizer!), and I'm trying to get him to agree to one night in this splendid place: the Library Suite of Blakes Hotel in South Kensington. 

Few people know that this exists; even the celebrities who check into Blakes don't opt for this room. It's a real secret in London; an enormous hideaway decorated with shelves and shelves of books. 

Now Blakes Hotel has lots of design and architecture books scattered around its foyer and rooms anyway, but I can't imagine anything nicer than actually sleeping in a library. 

I've always loved Anouska Hempel's interior design work, particularly the British Colonial antiques and other Asian elements she incorporates from the Far East. It reminds me of the romance of travel. And how often can you say that about modern hotels?



AND THE DECAYING GRANDUER OF A LONG-FORGOTTEN LIBRARY

There was a lot of media late last year about this extraordinary place, which hides a grand but decaying library. It's called Berkyn Manor and it's the former home of poet John Milton who wrote Paradise Lost

The once-elegant mansion has been empty for three decades -- the last inhabitant died 26 years ago at the age of 96 -- but the rooms are still filled, rather eerily, with furniture, and the library is full of books. As photographer Josephine Pugh described it: “The house was so full of personal effects that it had an eerie stillness without the owners being there. Nowhere was this more evident than in the large, first floor room which housed an untold number of pictures and objects."

Apparently there are plans to restore the mansion and perhaps develop it as a residential estate, but let's hope the books are saved before all the looters get in and run off with the first editions... (NB There is now security around the premise, but many fear it's too little,  and has come too late.)

Let's just hope somebody saves those gorgeous, gorgeous book cabinets.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

News on the Duchess of Devonshire, Pierre Frey and Belmont House


SOTHEBY'S AUCTION OF THE PERSONAL TREASURES 
OF THE DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE

One of the most anticipated auctions this year is Sotheby's forthcoming auction of the personal items of one of this century's most remarkable women, Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire. It seems strange to think she's gone, after such a long and extraordinary life as one of the legendary Mitford sisters, and even stranger to think that her beloved things are now being auctioned. But she was so adored by the public, and if some of the contents of her final home The Old Vicarage at Edensor on the Chatsworth Estate can be sold to raise money for estate of Chatsworth, why not?

I always regret not meeting her before she passed away. A contact at Heywood Hill bookshop in Mayfair (which the Devonshires bought in recent years, in order to save it) kindly said he would make arrangements for me to visit (it was for a forthcoming book on gardens, one of the Duchess' passions), but in the end she wasn't well enough. A friend of mine in the US dated Elvis for the briefest of periods (she was very young at the time!) and I had some great stories about Elvis to tell her (another of her obsessions). But it was not to be. I probably would have been too shy to converse much anyway. She really was one of the most interesting, most inspirational businesswomen of our time.

The Financial Times (FT) has recently published a wonderful piece about the sale here. And Sotheby's has another, smaller, article about 'Debo' (as she was called) on its website here, as well as a glimpse at a few of the pieces going to auction here.   The sale includes exquisite jewels (some gifted to her by her husband and his parents), a rare copy of Brideshead Revisited personally inscribed by her friend Evelyn Waugh, plus fine and decorative art, and (something I'd love to view) the contents of Duchess of Devonshire’s library.

Here are a few pre-sale photos and pieces from the auction, from Sotheby's website:




The collection mixes high-end and low. There are many personal photos, including the one above of the Mitford family, priced at a reserve of only a few hundred pounds. But there are is the Duchess' jewellery, including a Chanel camellia (£400) and a pair of aquamarine-and-diamond clips (£2,000), and a book of John F Kennedy portraits (£1,500 -- £2,000) signed by the former US president with the sign-off 'L.O', a reference to the sisters’ habit of calling him 'Loved One'. (JFK was a close friend of the family.)


More details of the sale, including the pieces in the photos above, on Sotheby's website.

The auction is at Sotheby's London, March 2, 2016, with pre-sale viewing from February 27 -- March 1.



BEAUTIFUL BELMONT HOUSE: 
ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR PLACES TO STAY IN ENGLAND

One of the most popular places to stay in England isn't a hotel but a small, relatively unknown Landmark Trust property known simply as 'Belmont House'. It's an exquisite, pale pink, 18th-century, Grade II-listed villa in Dorset that was once owned by businesswoman Eleanor Coade and more recently the author, John Fowles, whose books include The French Lieutenant's Woman. 

The Landmark Trust has spent several years carefully restoring the house, including the Victorian observatory tower, with hatch and revolving roof, and the garden leading down to the beach, and has opened it up for short stays. However, it's proved so popular that the earliest available booking is now mid-2017. (NB: It's incredibly inexpensive; the villa sleeps 
8, and 4 nights is £640, or just £20 per person, per night.)

For those who would love to see it but can't wait until 2017, there is a rare Open Day on the weekend of Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 February 2016 , from 10am to 4pm each day. No booking is required.

More details on Belmont can be found here. It looks beautiful.


MAISON PIERRE FREY EXHIBITION 
AT PARIS' MUSEUM OF DECORATIVE ARTS

The first major exhibition of French textile house Maison Pierre Frey since 1935 opens at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris this month. The show features many of the famous fabrics produced by Pierre Frey as well as the stages and techniques involved in creating and producing a textile, from the sketch to the finished product. It's set to be a fascinating show about fabrics, but it also covers wallpapers, and how they're conceived, created and produced.

 Knowing Pierre Frey, there is certain to be awealth of patterns, colours and information on display.


TISSUS INSPIRÉS: PIERRE FREY is  at the
Musée des Arts décoratifs from 21 January until 12 June 2016. 

More details can be found  here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The New Trend for Flowers, Scents, Floral Books and Other Gardenalia


There is a quiet but highly scented new trend sweeping England, France, the US, Australia and other international destinations. And it's all to do with botanica. In this grey, urban, high-tech world, we're turning to a new kind of therapy to offset it all: Petal Power.

I'm currently working on an ambitious new garden book, but my project is daisies compared to some of the extraordinary floral and garden projects being seen around the globe at the moment. 

Here are a few incredible ones...

As always, follow my Instagram at LINK ,  or at https://www.instagram.com/janellemcculloch_author 
I'm finishing writing two books but will be back to IG next week, once the deadlines are over.

(PS It seems strange to do this in a post about gardens, but RIP David Bowie. He will be greatly missed.)


A GRAND SCANDINAVIAN GARDEN 
(AND A GRAND NEW BOOK)

Do you follow Claus Dalby and his gorgeous garden on Instagram? I've written about him here before, but his photographs are becoming more and more beautiful with each passing season. Claus is a Danish plantsman, publisher, author, florist, photographer and an all-round lovely man man whose Scandinavian garden is arguably one of the best private picking gardens (flower gardens) in the world. 

Unfortunately, the garden isn't open to the public, apart from one or two rare days each year (usually August). But the good news is that Gardens Illustrated magazine is featuring his spring bulbs and other stunning tulips in a forthcoming issue. (Most likely April 2016)

And the even better news is that Mr Dalby is also working on a book, which will detail the whole development of this grand garden over the years.

The image above is the entrance to the garden. Glorious, isn't it?
Here are some further images from his Instagram feed.

It's an astonishing estate.



The room above is his 'vase room' (this is half the space). It's interesting how most of the vessels are green shades. Perhaps they highlight the flowers better than more neutral-colored or glass vases?

More of Claus Dalby's beautiful images can be found here . Many of them are his flower arrangements, which are just as superb as his perennial beds.

Further details can be found HERE.



THE LAND GARDENERS AT WARDINGTON MANOR:
FLORAL WORKSHOPS AND GARDEN GRANDEUR

Another Instagram feed worth following is The Land Gardeners, the business name for two floral entrepreneurs whose skill with arrangements is almost more impressive than the Oxfordshire garden and manor house they do it in. 

Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy established The Land Gardeners in order to grow organic, quintessentially English cut flowers. Each week, they deliver buckets of blooms to London florists, local markets and individual clients. However, they also design gardens -- "wild romantic, productive and joyful gardens", says their wild, romantic, joyful website- - and they've already finished projects in England, France, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. 

But perhaps the one thing they're really becoming noted for are their workshops, in which they explore "healthy gardens". These workshops, held at historic Wardington Hall, are not only a chance to learn about gardening, flowers and other beautiful botanical matters, but to see the Manor and its gracious garden beds up close. (The dahlias are spectacular.) 

Forthcoming workshops include Grow Your Own Cut Flowers (Edwardian cutting gardens are very 'in' again), Planting a Dyers Garden and How To Grow Edible Flowers.

For more details, see http://thelandgardeners.com/learning--events or THIS LINK for details.




CHELSEA AND THE ORIENT EXPRESS 

The Chelsea Flower Show has seen some astounding show gardens over the decades, including one by the house of Chanel. (Still my favourite.) But the masterful, magnificent garden planned by Harrods and Orient Express for this year's show looks set to be one of the best yet.

The grand centerpiece will be a 25-m (80-foott) -long carriage from 1920s Belmond British Pullman (sister train to the legendary Venice-Simplon Orient-Express), which will be 'parked' in a special Chelsea Flower Show train station that will be surrounded by a a 6,000-square-foot garden. There will be two platforms, with Platform 2 featuring rare jungle ferns and other exotic, eye-catching plants. 

It's all designed to represent a 'journey through gardens' over the centuries. Very, very clever, indeed.

There is also a garden called ‘The British Eccentrics Garden’ (above), which looks like being one to watch as well.

More details on Chelsea can be found HERE.


A LOST HOUSE AND GARDEN IN MALAYSIA, REDISCOVERED BY A FILM CREW

Did you catch the period drama Indian Summers on Britain's Channel Four or in the US or Australia last year? (It's now on DVD if you didn't.) It was so successful that a new series has been commissioned and is currently in production. 

It's an epic drama set in the summer of 1932, at a time when India dreamed of independence, but the British were still clinging to power. The series revolves around the events of a summer spent at Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, by a group of British socialites at the time of the British Raj. 

The producers looked at filming in Simla, but eventually decided, due to logistics and monsoons, that Georgetown on the island of Penang would be better. (NB Because of this series, I now want to see Georgetown, which has been declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, and so do thousands of others, judging by the increase in visitor numbers!) Executive producer Charlie Pattinson found their perfect setting on the VERY LAST DAY of their five-month scouting mission, after many countries and countless sites. It was at the top of Penang Hill, in Malaysia, where the wealthy had built hill stations to avoid the heat. It was a semi-derelict house that was hidden by jungle overgrowth but that clearly showed the remains of a grand floor plan and garden. It took the team some time to hack through the jungle to fully assess it, but when they at last emerged from the overgrowth, they knew it was going to make the whole show.

Woodside Bungalow, as it is known, was always going to take a lot to restore, and so Penang’s chief minister, who knew the colonial property and its architectural neighbours from his childhood, stepped in to assist. He found the funds and became personally invested in the project. After several months,  and great deal of painting and replanting, the house and garden were ready to be filmed. It was renamed 'Chotipool', and can be seen above, serving as the home of  Indian Summers' central character Ralph Whelan and his sister Alice. 

However Woodside wasn't the only hill station to be saved by Indian Summers' team. They also stumbled upon the old Crag Hotel, which was also perched on top of Penang Hill with its spectacular views. (Both houses could only be reached by a water-powered funicular railway, a real relic of empire, which eventually caused problems with production and the transporting of equipment up and down the mountain.) The Crag Hotel was one of several 19th-century hotels, including Singapore’s Raffles, that had been owned by an Armenian family, the Sarkies. After the Second World War the Crag Hotel became a boarding school, and was then used as a set in the 1991 film Indochine, starring Catherine Deneuve.  (I still remember the scene where she steps out onto the verandah, with the old timber shutters visible behind her.)

But after the Indochine film crew left, the jungle re-claimed it. When the Indian Summers team came along and saw its forlorn facade, barely visible through the vegetation, they knew that the Crag would be perfect as the Royal Simla Club, where much of the action happens in the series. (Julie Walters is the club's owner and powerbroker.)

Isn't that a great story of two great houses and gardens, lost to the world and then rediscovered just in time?

More details on Indian Summers' setting can be found HERE.
Let's hope they commission a third and fourth series, and it becomes -- as the media are suggesting -- the next Downton Abbey.


PAULETTE TAVORMINA AND THE ART OF FLORAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Have you heard of the New York photographer Paulette Tavormina? I was first alerted to her by a friend Lee. (We send each other recommendations all the time; aren't they the best kinds of friends to have?) Paulette composes the most beautiful still lives you've ever seen; intricate studies of figs and roses and fruit that look more like 17th-century Old Masters' paintings than something put together on a 21st-century  photography studio. (She admits to being influenced and inspired by the still life art of Dutch, Italian and Spanish painters of the 17th century, including Francesco de Zurbarán, Giovanna Garzoni, Maria Sibylla Merian, and Willem Claesz Heda.)

Well, Paulette Taormina has, not surprisingly, gathered a following and is now producing a limited-edition book on her work, which is available to pre-order. There are also exhibitions and workshops planned for 2016.

Here are a few more extraordinary studies from her website. 



Do go and have a browse, and then make a note to look for the book.
More details can be found HERE or on Wikipedia.


More floral posts shortly! Until then, I hope you're all having a wonderful 2016!
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