No 5 star of the second magnitude in my plant world is campanula lactiflora. Out now and lasting just a few weeks is this lovely silvery blue, four feet tall member of the campanula family. Beautiful in a vase (though with an odd damp smell - we spent ages looking around for the source of the smell, thinking we had left a damp cloth lying).
No attention required other than cutting to the ground in the autumn.
How beautiful and how simple is that? A silver star.
The garden has never been so full of baby birds before - there are baby blue tits, siskins, robins, chaffinches, greenfinches and swallows - such all day entertainment! Such noise!
The baby swallows left their nest today. We can watch them from about two metres away by sitting on the edge of the bath with the bathroom window just a little open. They teeter on the edge of the nest, stretching their wings, nudging each other, climbing on top of each other, then, suddenly, they are in the air and flying! I caught all five of them and an adult in this rather dark photo (they are under the eaves). Later in the day there were eight in and near the nest - I think they must form gangs with other young from nearby nests. The adults are more protective than ever today and are diving at us, and at a little squirrel innocently eating nuts in a tree.
The line which got me interested in this new book was 'I wanted to look out of the window and see more than just work waiting for me there.'
The author's ideas include: having a strong concept; design before plants; decisive editing of plants; investing in infrastructure; and thinking geometry. She suggests a minimum of lawn, little that needs dividing or pruning or staking or spraying, and plants placed where they can grow to their natural size. Also that you plan places to entertain, eat, stroll, nap, read, and relax.
I think I shall go to Amazon and buy it right now - it sounds intelligent, thoughtful and realistic. It is 'The New Low Maintenance Garden' by Valerie Easton.
The challenge will be to make all this eminently practical and sensible stuff dynamic and exciting - but I do love a challenge!
Fun things to do: start a collection of cuttings of looks you like from magazines and catalogues; make a shopping list of clothes and accessories you know you need; go shopping for a whole day just to look; look in shops you don't usually go to; try on things you've never considered before; start your style notebook - have pages headed To Do, To Buy, To Consider, To Look for in the Sales, etc; buy a new magazine or take a look at these books - Colour Me Beautiful, More Dash Than Cash (the Kate Hogg version), Simple Isn't Easy or any other books on style and fashion that take your fancy (it's just fun remember? Or research, if you prefer!)
Boring things to do: take things to the dry cleaners, get rid of those wire hangers, return that mistake to the shop, drop off stuff at the charity shop, take up those hems, sew on that button, pluck your eyebrows, shave your legs. Not as much fun as buying new things, but that's to come, when you have a clear idea of your style, what you are shopping for, and a list!
Not said by Shakespeare apparenty. (He gave us 'Frailty, thy name is woman.' Thanks, Will..)
To be conceited or big headed or have 'ideas above your station'! - all these things were so strongly discouraged when I was a child growing up in Scotland, that it was like some kind of epiphany when I realised it was OK to like to think about my appearance and my clothes! It wasn't vain, or remotely sinful, it was normal, and nice! I took great comfort from Linda Grant in her fascinating book The Thoughtful Dresser pointing out that all known societies decorate and adorn their bodies - both men and women. (So where does all the negativity come from about women and clothes? Men? Church of Scotland Sunday School? Dare I say it - feminists?) Or is it just me?
I think style is an art, and I am an artist, so - I am interested.
When I see someone who has style, I love to try and identify what it is that makes them look so good, so together. It seems to me lovely that they care, whether they are 19 or 90, and that it matters enough for them to give it some thought and to make an effort.
83 year old Carol Fox said 'I think I was born to love clothes, just as I was born to love literature and learning.'
The designer Jean Muir said if you have to live your life dressed, you may as well do it as attractively as possible.
next posting 'Vanity, thy name is woman' ? !
The 'cascading' staircase, the Ashmolean, Oxford - brilliant!
Place some halved fresh apricots on the dying embers of the barbecue, serve with a single chocolate placed on top to melt gently (Guylian sea shells mmm....). Enjoy with the last of the wine, and a little cup of really good coffee late on a hot summer's day and reeelax....
Rather belatedly I'm trying to define 'style' - it's actually quite hard to define, but I know it when I see it! (That sounds suspiciously like 'I don't know much about art but I know what I like'....)
As most of us do I suspect, I love to people watch, and I get great pleasure from seeing someone with style, someone who looks really good, really together. They may not be beautiful, or even fashionable and their clothes are often simple enough, even understated but stylish people wear them as if they are utterly at ease in them. I think it was Diana Vreeland who said something along the lines of 'You must make a great effort, then forget all about what you are wearing'. I love that someone makes an effort, then wears the clothes unselfconsciously, and without vanity. That is very attractive. That is style.
A really good fit, quality fabrics, good proportions, flattering colours - these things are worth making an effort with I think, rather than fretting about what is 'in' this season - though that can be fun to watch....
And it is about fun, and is not to be taken too seriously in the end!
Donatella Versace said 'Fashion is all about happiness. It's fun. It's important. But it's not medicine'
Nothing simplified my wardrobe and my clothes shopping more than knowing which colours suited me, and sticking to them. Everything goes with everything!
Take a look at Colour Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson. It's a clever system that really works. The basic theory is that you will look best in colours which harmonise with your natural colouring - hair, eye and skin colour.
Shopping is simpler. I know which colours to hone in on and just ignore the rest - a real time saver. If I stick to 'my' colours I know that any new item I buy will harmonise with everything else I've got. It saves me time and it saves me money. Simple!
(The original version is available for 1p on Amazon - used, like new - I don't know what the later versions of the book are like, but the principles remain the same I'm sure, though of course the illustrations are dated - and the title always was a bit naff! But it's really worth having........)
next - what is style anyway, and why would I want to look stylish?