Sunday, 17 February 2013

Drifting Towards Spring

Dear readers,

(Should you be in need of a splash of colour there are two cheery hares waiting for you at the end of this post!)
Misty, overcast, gloomy, and grey.  Oh, and did I mention the rain we've been having?  Walking along the slippery banks of the Loire this afternoon we observed a swiftly flowing river with high water levels.  It's hard to believe in such moments that the Loire Valley is considered to be the Garden of France.  And yet, there have been signs of Spring this week!  On Wednesday, the day in France when primary schools are closed, on returning home from Tristan's morning at music school I felt the urge to fling the windows and doors open and ... clean!  There was some undefinable magic at work which filled the children and I with gladness and caused quite a stir with the birds in and around our garden.  The air resounded with the sound of woodpeckers tap, tap, tapping on bark.  It was chilly still - the doors and windows were firmly shut again two hours later - but there was a special kind of sunlight this Wednesday noon which suggested hope and looked down kindly at the crocus heads pushing through the soil ready to join the crowds of nodding snowdrops.
I have been delving into some treasured books: The Virago Book Of Women Gardeners and Notes From The Garden: A Collection Of The Best Garden Writing From The Guardian famous in my household for its article about a gnome abducted from a women's garden and returned to her doorstep seven months later along with a photo album picturing him in the twelves countries he visited with his abductor!   (You can find both books here and here.) A few pages prior to the Garden Gnome with "itchy feet" there is a different but just as thought-provoking article entitled: "The Female Garden" dating back to May 26 1982. The journalist, Felicity Byran, explained that the three modern gardens she loved most - that of Rosemary Verey near Cirencester, of Eve Molesworth at Iver, and Joyce Robinson at Arundel -  were "all creations of women who are gifted and knowledgeable amateurs.  It is not just that they enjoy them visually.  It is the surprise element, the eccentricity and daring, you might say - odd plants and colours juxtaposed and intertwined regardless of rules - that make them thrilling.  They are also happy gardens with nothing rigid about them."
Having pored over French plans and gardening treatises dating back to the sixteenth- and seventeenth centuries, such as André Le Nôtre's Versailles Gardens shown above, I have had more than my fair share of "rigid" garden design.  I was intrigued, therefore, further into the same article to read Penelope Hobhouse's thoughts on female gardening: " 'I'm sure,' says Penelope Hobhouse, 'that men feel much more strongly about straight lines.  With women it's much more like embroidery - interweaving colours and textures.' "

Of course many prominent women gardeners have also been painters or much involved with applied arts.  Gertrude Jekyll is the classic example.  Marvellous examples of her handiwork, particularly needlework, still exist, and it was only when she was fifty and suffering from failing eyesight that she turned exclusively to the art of gardening in her home at Munstead Wood in Surrey.  Thus began a stream of wonderful books and her famous partnership with architect Edwin Lutyens which created so many enchanted gardens.  Hobhouse, an authority on Gertrude Jekyll, feels that she needed Lutyens as much as he needed her.  Felicity Bryan goes on to write in her article: 'for only an architect (and only a man?) could make that bold framework - the incredible stone-work, the pergolas, vistas, inverted steps etc - and only she could soften it with the brilliant use of billowing plants and shrubs'.
But is it that simple?  After all, André Le Nôtre and his band of contemporary garden designers were capable of thinking beyond the straight line and embracing the curve as the parterre in the gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte above testifies!  So what do you think?  Are men more at ease with rigid design and women instinctive design softeners?
I myself am fascinated by both straight lines and curves.
This is a detail of my recently completed Driftwood by the talented designer Veera Välimäki.  This pattern has a clever twist which incorporates extra lines a third of the way through the design causing the wrap to widen gently.  Simple lacework creating curves and straight lines which have soothed me in the evenings and brought me back regularly to the rows of vines being pruned ready for spring.
Driftwood knitted with Madelinetosh Pashmina in Sugar Plum which makes this wrap drape spectacularly! 
My Ravelry notes are to be found here.
Finally I am sharing a couple of my latest hares inspired by spring and headed for warm Australia:
Mademoiselle Valentine
Mademoiselle Spring Dreams
Isn't that piece of 1900's tulle with hand embroidered raised dots beautiful?
I have the joy of working on a few customer orders (always a pleasure) but I promise to post a few pictures of my next hare to pop into my shop.  Spring is approaching fast and I feel particularly inspired to create so should you have a burning desire for an Easter hare, I would be happy to oblige.
That's enough shop talk I think.  I leave you with a picture of Tristan who has just celebrated his ninth birthday!
Happy birthday Tristan!  Poetic, musical, considerate, truly sweet-natured, and a prankster!  We could not wish for a more inspiring son.
A bientôt,


  1. A delight to read, Stephanie, full of interesting thoughts on gardens and those who design them. I get wrapped up in posts like this and, of course, enjoy seeing your beautiful handiwork. The wrap looks like just the thing I'd like to throw on to keep the chill at bay. (From your description, your s0n sounds delightful.)


  2. Lovely photos!! What a lovely job waits for you with these marvelous gardens!
    Your hand work is also fantastic. Love it!

  3. Oh I want to say, I am now following your blog. Interesting reading and gorgeous photos!

  4. Lovely as always, Stephanie....in every way. Your young son Tristan, brings back happy memories of my own little rogues years ago...N.xo

  5. happy birthday to your beautiful boy and to you too mama! nine is a lovely age to be. your newest bunny loves are precious, they look so sweet in their dresses and handknits. and your driftwood is gorgeous, i have it in my queue also, it looks like a wonderfully wearable knit, well done stephanie!

  6. Happy birthday to your son, I hope he had a wonderful day. I love the soft colour of your wrap and your Hairs are so very pretty they are sure to love it in Australia.

  7. Lovely post Stephanie! I've just finished watching a series of three programmes on the BBC by Monty Don where he visits French gardens, it was wonderful and I'm slightly sad that the series is over, I did enjoy it!
    I do love the story of the gnome. :)
    Your wrap is beautiful and your amazing hares are as always exquisite!
    What a handsome boy Tristan is, I hope he had a wonderful birthday.
    And yes I have to agree spring is very near. :)
    V xxx

  8. All so lovely....I love formal gardens, actually I quite appreciate the straight lines and mirrored symmetry, maybe more than the soft lines,but I do like the swirling gardens in your picture above though. Your new veera shawl is stunning, I do think she is a fantastic designer....pretty, simple and wearable....not so easy to pull off all three.

    Your new hares ate gorgeous...you are very clever!

  9. Hello Stephanie,

    I always feel like popping on the kettle and settling in with a cup of tea when I see one of your Posts arrive. So much loveliness and I enjoy your interesting snippets on gardens. Your driftwood is gorgeous as are your Hares. I love the little pink shawl and yes that Tulle is beautiful. Happy Birthday to your handsome boy and a belated very happy birthday to Angelique too.

    Mel x

  10. Dear Stephanie...
    Delights for the mind and senses on each visit to your idyllic corner of the world. Truly a quiet respite from daily strife.
    Your shawl is ever so delicate...intricate stitches, and the colour of a gentle Springtime.
    Sending Happy Birthday wishes to young Tristin...a most handsome lad indeed.

  11. Lovely wrap, it speaks of springtime and just the thing to chase away the grey.

  12. Ahhhh.

    First of all, I love the gray of the day, because I know it will not last. Like a peaceful moment bombarded with cheerful noises of childrens' laughter, so will winter disappear, and spring make its entrance.

    Your discourse on gardening my friend, is such a delight. I have never thought of the different perspectives one could find in gender! I must have a bit of masculine sensibility in my mind; I love and prefer a well-ordered, symmetrical garden, BUT I think that is beginning to change...

    That shawl in plum is stunning. I can see you wearing it on a chilly March day, strolling in the garden. I still want to have a shoulder shawl, like the one MADEMOISELLE VALENTIN is wearing! I want little sparkling beads woven into it!

    Which brings me to the end of your post. She is just heart-warming. Oh her bright attire makes me happy, and love is ALWAYS in fashion, always.

    Thank you for coming to view my post and THANK YOU for informing me about the postal mishap! That happens all the time, and just recently happened to me for an Etsy order was sent out!

    I look forward to your gift my friend. Grosses bises mon amie, Anita

  13. Lovely post.Lovely wrap.Lovely son.Lovely Loire Valley.We can't wait to get back there.I have had my knee op now so we can start planning.Over the last three weeks gardener Monty Don has been doing a series on French gardens and artists.Chenonceau,Villandry,versilles etc etc.Wonderful.We shall be back soon!!

  14. Dear Stephanie
    As always a fabulous post - full of things to delight in. The gardens, the hares and that beautiful Driftwood wrap. Heavenly.
    I thought of you this week as I have been watching Monty Don's Gardens of France - I know you like Monty and well the gardens he visited in the series were breathtaking - the French potagers my particular favourite.
    Have a wonderful week
    P. s can't wait to see your spring hares - I rather think mademoiselle Versailles needs a friend and as a spring baby it is my absolute favourite time of the year. I wonder if there may be a Mademoiselle Tulip??? I'm rather fond of Tulips and can't wait til they are in bloom here. Lots to look forward to in the garden over the next few months and I can totally understand how spring inspires you creatively! Me too.

  15. happy birthday to your son!!
    i always enjoy your posts about the loire valley :)
    cute bunny and beautiful wrap~i love doing lacework too :)

  16. Hello Stephanie and Happy Birthday to your oh-so-lovely son. Your post was very timely coming so soon after Monty Don's short series (only 3 programmes) left us hungry for more. Did you have an opportunity to watch him? If not and you get a chance to see a recording or a repeat do have a look.
    For once we are blessed here in the south of the UK with beautiful blue skies and warmth so an ideal day for getting out into the garden. I took my Mademoiselle Jardin du Printemps out with me this morning - to supervise my efforts and to feel the sun on her face! Needless to say she was in her element!

    Take care, Sue

  17. ~ A delightful read indeed, Stephanie....Those first pictures are beautiful and capture the atmosphere so well! ~ Ooh I love those sweet bunnies too, in their wonderful dresses... (love the material) ~ leaving YOU with a smile :) Maria x

  18. so love spending time with you in your blog world....happy birthday, Tristan (we just celebrated birthdays in our world, too!)
    Your little hares are as charming as ever----but I'm totally in love with the wrap. Simple, elegant, and i'm sure the pashmina is yummy to the touch. a perfect knit in all ways.

    we're still pretty grey here, too--and i'm somewhat dreading what my garden holds this year---we lost more trees; our shade plants will have to all be moved or risk burning to death in the heat. i'm trying to psych myself for the job---so, far, i'm not doing a very good job. i'm still at the dread stage.

  19. Inspiring reading as ever Stephanie and a lot to take in. Both hares are beautiful and are going to make their new owners very happy indeed. A friend of mine was given a stone statuette of an old couple sitting cuddled up on a bench by her sons one year for mother's day. She does not like it but is amused by the fact that every now and again they go missing and turn up somewhere obscure in the neighbourhood like on the top of someone's porch roof and she has to go and retrieve them.

    Happy 9th Birthday to your gorgeous boy.

  20. What a lovely post, your latest addition is beautiful! Happy Birthday to your son! :) x

  21. I have long been fascinated by the desire men have to bring 'order' to the garden. Well that is how they see it, but I see it as wanton destruction very often. I don't like straight lines and would go so far to say that I have never ever seen one in nature - blades of grass, trees, stems etc all have kinks or curves in them. Of course under the microscope things are quite different.... I am actually very resentful of mens presence in nature as they tend to stamp all over it, pollarding my beloved trees and chopping things down. Formal gardens and bonsai are things I hate because they just seem torturous of the poor poor plants and men seem happily occupied doing it - very worrying. Man never improves on nature. We have started on ourselves too with the pruning secateurs, a snip to the nose and eyelids etc. Oh dear, it certainly isn't an improvement there either. Why don't we just let nature do it's thing, the soft lushness and arbitrary entanglements are so much more enjoyable. Women are more accepting but by no means lacking in the over-powering by will and force department that men excel at, just a little lighter handed.

    I cannot bare to make my presence felt in a garden - who am I to restrict growth by cutting back, snipping and dead-heading. I find the thought abhorrent and very stressful. I hate 'weeding' or cutting grass for the same reason. The release of sap from grass is really an opening up of the veins and seems a horrible thing to me. Yes I realise I seem weird, I try not to go too far but gardening is not for me. Give me a wild overgrown garden any day. I prefer wild life to pruned roses (even thought I do love roses very much). I see gardening as a bit savage and a reflection of mans inner violent tendancies and constrictions.

    1. Thank you, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the matter. You have given me plenty of food for thought here!


  22. hello Stephanie, thank you for your lovely message. Your drape is beautiful and of course your hares! I'm kind of hiding from my garden at the moment. Really it's too big. I tell myself it's a wild garden and therefore I don't need to do much except mow the lawn! but it does need a bit of tending to eventually. I'm also remembering my step-dad who used to cut everything he could and my Mum would come out and tell him off! Heather x

  23. Stephanie, thank you so much for this graceful essay. Its words and photos follow a gentle path through many topics, viewing these topics from far away (geographically and chronologically) and then, little by little, closing in on the beauty to be found in your own home.

    Visiting your site always takes me to a place with a unique atmosphere. What a thoughtful, talented woman you are!

    Best birthday wishes to Tristan, too.


  24. We're enjoying a TV programme over here at the moment hosted by a well known TV gardener called Monty Don and the style of the gardens remind me of your gardens you show here. They're Italian but quite similar I think. (Or is that just from my perspective as a Brit? I love your patterns and the new shawl you've made looks so soft and luxurious!
    My heart skips a beat when I see these new hares! The sweet pinks and the fine detail in the clothes are breathtaking. It's always a pleasure to read your new posts!
    Happy birthday to your little Tristan, I wish you all a happy day with him on his special day. :)

  25. Beautiful gardens, beautiful hares, beautiful son (to whom a belated Happy Birthday) ... even the grey river and the grey boat with furled sail has it's own particular beauty ... you have the skill to turn dross to gold my friend, and with your needle in hand to make things of great delight :)

  26. Such a lovely post Stephanie, i really loved reading about the more feminist gardeners and the quote about women embroidering colours unlike men with more straight lines. Beautiful.
    Tristan, happy belated birthday. You look like a beautiful boy filled with all the promises of years to come. Keep being poetical and pranking, the best combination as far as i am concerned :o)
    I love all of Veera's patterns and this has truly turned out a real beauty Stephanie, it really does pay off to buy beautiful yarn me thinks. Have a wonderful week and keep enjoying the promises of Spring, I surely am xox Penelope

  27. lovely pictures of the castle gardens love the maddemoiselles rabbits the springtime is my favorite so pretty happy birthday to your son
    have a nice sunday evening leon10

  28. Happy birthday Tristan. So much loveliness in this post. I don't think I have ever seen a photo of the Loire looking so grey and dreary, not at all how it sits in my head! Juliex

  29. Hello Stephanie
    The rain has been incessant here too for months the rivers are so swollen and murky..
    I love looking at different garden designs (I have been following Monty Dons TV program on french gardens ) so enlightening...
    I love your Hares such a talent..Happy birthday to your beautiful son
    Thea x

  30. Dear Stephanie,

    Always a delight to come and visit you and the lovely things you have to share. The misty colours in the first photo are wonderful and yes please, would like to have some of your rain. The garden designs are amazing and love the sweet new Mademoiselles so pretty in their finery - {the tulle petticoat with the dots is gorgeous} as is your Driftwood with the exquisite pattern.
    Happy birthday to your dear son Tristan, nine is such a great age and wishing him all the best.

    Enjoy the week and many thanks for visiting me.

  31. Happy Birthday to your handsome and wonderfully named son!
    That wrap is so exquisite, and the picture of the boat on the banks of the river looks as if it could of been taken a hundred years ago. So peaceful~

  32. Happy Birthday Tristan! Your children are all so divinely beautiful! Did we already have our ooh and aah moment last yr upon discovering our kids have birthdays only days apart? Julia just had hers as well, this wkend! She is now 7. The grey...it's happening here as well. I'm waiting for Spring like you can't believe.

    Happy week to you my sweet friend! xo

  33. What a lovely post! Happy birthday to Tristan! :-)
    I love your pretty little bunnies! And I LOVE your springy banner. I always look forward to seeing what you'll come up with each season! :-)

  34. Liebe Stephanie,
    ein sehr interessanter Post voller Gegensätze und eine sehr interessante Frage. Ich denke, Männer sind eher Kopfgärtner und Frauen gärtnern eher mit und nach Gefühl. Von daher sind Männer sicher die geradlinigeren, strengeren und Frauen die "weicheren", schwungvolleren Gärtner. Aber mit Sicherheit gibt es da auch Ausnahmen. Mein Mann, der zwar kein Gärtner ist, mag auch eher gerade Linien im Garten, da er so den Rasen besser mähen kann...;-)

    Dein Tuch ist wunderschön, ich mag die Designs von Veera Välimäki auch sehr! Und die Hasen, was soll ich sagen...sie sind einfach bezaubernd, Du hast wirklich ein Händchen für kleine, schöne Details!

    Zum Schluss schicke ich noch liebe Geburtstagsgrüße an Tristan, Du kannst Dich wirklich glücklich schätzen, so einen lieben und vielseitig interessierten Sohn zu haben.

    Liebe Grüße, Bärbel

    PS: I hope you don´t mind that I write in German, I can remember that you once wrote in a comment that you understand German pretty well...

    1. Dear Bärbel!

      I am delighted you should answer in German (although your English is simply perfect to my eyes). I understand absolutely everything and, should you continue to leave me such wonderful comments in German, I may well pluck up the courage to answer you in German also. It would be the least I can do!


  35. Stephanie, I totally related to your opening paragraph. We too have had such a lot of rain, and when the sun came out one day last week. I snook out to the garden to tidy up a little, and realised how wonderful it was to be out, listening to the birds. I opened all my windows too!
    Your debate on male versus female was very interesting. I think I agree with it mostly, but of course there are exceptions to the rule. Your knitting as usual is exquisite, as are the Spring Hares, you are a very talented lady. Your beautiful tribute to Tristan, made me cry (as I am in that kind of a mood today), but it was so lovely. I hope he enjoyed his birthday? Much love, Linda x

    1. Dear Linda,

      You have brought tears to MY eyes now :-) Thank you, thank you! (It seems as if I too am in that kind of mood today.)

  36. Happy birthday charming Tristan!
    It's always a pleasure to read you about gardens... I am rather found of english embroidered and interweaved gardens (not very french in this respect).
    A usual, I'm falling in love with your new Mademoiselles... which one is my favourite, I wonder ... and today I must add your drifwood knit. Love the pattern and the colour. Had it not been for the knitted dress I should finish for Elsa before winter ends, I'd switch to this beautiful cosy wrap drape. Thank your for sahring all these marvels.

  37. Belated birthday greetings to Tristan. Hope he had a wonderful birthday.
    Lovely gardens post. Had you read that the RHS will be allowing gnomes at Chelsea this year? I wonder what GJ would have made of that. I think my favourite inspirational gardening read is "The Well Tempered Garden" by the late (great) Christopher Lloyd. I hope one day to visit Great Dixter.
    Your Driftwood knit is just beautiful and your hares are always wonderful. I do love Mademoiselle Spring Dreams, she is my favourite, until your next one!
    Carol xx

  38. When I read your posts, I almost feel like I'm reading poetry and getting such in intimate glance into your world. Beautiful work with these hares. I love parterres. I hope you incorporate a bit in your planned garden. The blanket I just want to snatch up and wrap a babe in.

  39. Hello Stephanie! Better late to the party than not at all...I have been waiting for a quiet moment or two to sit and savor your post. Lovely and thought-provoking. I'm not sure at all about men v. women in the linear/curve design question but I would imagine(and hope) that these days both are able to cross the borders of the other and design as they want because I am sure only better and more inspired design can come from the expansion rather than limitation of what is acceptable. Oh to be able to say, "walking by the slippery banks of the Loire today...". You lucky woman! Happy birthday to Tristan, what a handsome young man. I love the wrap, and the color, mmmmmmm. I feel as though I have been knitting tiny socks for months (oh, I have been!) and I'm vexed at how long they are taking me, I'm sure I should be able to rattle off socks quicker than this, but there you go. I am looking forward to some real knitting with you next. Madammoiselle Spring Dreams is just delightful in her sweater and beautiful dress. Oh, what a pleasure it is to visit you Stephanie. Keep well, C

  40. Dear Stephanie,

    Congratulations on Tristan's birthday! He looks like a very sweet boy!

    I am happy to read spring is arriving in the Loire Valley as well and with it inspiring books on gardening. I will check some out on Amazon. I enjoyed the story about the gnome. Isn't that story line used in the film Amelie as well?

    Your pashmina looks beautiful. Such a pretty colour and pattern! How do you find the time, with such a busy family life' to do all that sewing and knitting?! You must be busy always :-) Your two hairs look enchanting!

    Mademoiselle Country garden is sitting on my bedside table, but not for long. She is looking forward to get into the garden once more :-)

    Have a lovely evening!

    Madelief x

  41. Happy Belated 9th Birthday Wishes to your lovely boy, Tristan! (I think he looks like you?)...Beautiful lady hares Stephanie and now I have fallen for your latest Mademoiselle on your Facebook page this morning!...Your wrap is beautiful (I love the colour!)
    Hope you are having a happy and creative week,
    Susan x

  42. My garden is still buried under snow! Lovely post.

  43. Your wrap is just gorgeous. Good work!

  44. That is quite surprising... I have never heard of that before reading your post!
    It makes me quite puzzled and angry too!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...