One of the pleasures of living is experiencing those moments when the past connects with the present. It’s like returning to a seed sown and finding a flower. You know, those instances when you say to yourself, “I understand.”
Five or so years ago I discovered garden designer Xa Tollemache while touring Castle Hill in North Devon, England. She designed the Millennium Garden there and I was an immediate fan. I admire her sense of proportion and scale and her ability to create visually compelling patterns with plants that carpet the ground.
Skip forward to spring 2011 and there I am introducing myself to Xa at a fundraiser in New York. After following her work for so many years, the moment was a little bit surreal. I was delighted when she came to Arkansas to speak at the Clinton School of Public Service and tickled pink to host a dinner party for her at the Garden Home Retreat.
It wasn’t until I was back in England visiting her home, Helmingham Hall, that I recognized the flower borne of the seed sown so many years ago. Surrounded by the graceful gardens she designed, I was transported back to the Millennium Garden at Castle Hill. The path from past to present was clear and I said to myself, “I understand.”
A gift from garden designer Xa Tollemache during her recent visit to the farm prompted me to rummage through my library looking for my favorite books on garden design. Lady Tollemache gave me Andrew Wilson’s book The Garden of Giubbilei. Xa takes her inspiration from many sources including her own garden at Helmingham Hall, but certainly the work of Luciano Giubbilei has influenced her award-winning designs and exhibitions at the Chelsea Flower Show. Thumbing through the book inspired me to go back to some of my old standbys.
Colour in Your Garden
Frances Lincoln (March 6, 2003)
This is the definitive book on color, or colour. I also love Penny Hobhouse’s book Gardening Through the Ages. A must for history buffs.
The Garden in Winter
Frances Lincoln (July 10, 2006)
There is a line in this book that I just love. “If our gardens are to be more than graves commemorating summer’s beauty, we must start by using our eyes.”
Designing with Plants
Piet Oudolf and Noël Kingsbury
Timber Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2008)
I had the opportunity to visit with Piet at his garden in Holland. He is a master of texture, form and the use of native plants.
My Kind of Garden
Antique Collectors Club Dist (November 15, 2009)
This garden design book reveals how the late Mr. Hicks’ sense of style extended far beyond his famous interiors. Lovely photographs and insightful commentary.
Rodale Books (February 15, 2011)
I’m currently reading my friend Stephen Orr’s book Tomorrow’s Garden. It takes on the topic of designing a garden with sustainability in mind.