Wednesday, 14 February 2018

THE WINTER GARDEN...





Good morning!

As I write this blog post, it is still very early and dark outside, and it feels like the rest of the world are still asleep.  I am most definitely a morning person and at my most productive early on in the day, so try to grab this opportunity to get things done!   

Snug in the warmth (and still in my pyjamas I confess!) with candles lit and a hot cup of tea, it is a slightly more miserable picture outside.   Yes, you guessed it, more rain forecast.  Oh how we long for warmer, sunnier days and for getting out in the garden!

Realistically though, Spring really is just around the corner, and we gardeners need to make the most of these dormant days to maybe be productive inside, plan our gardens and projects, or just be kind to ourselves and enjoy a bit of down time in the warmth, without the pressure of the busy growing season.  




Last week, some snow finally came to Kent!  On and off for the last few weeks, the rest of the country have been enjoying their beautiful snowy landscapes, while we in the south have been looking on enviously, or at least I have!  I love a bit of snow to at least make Winter feel...well... more wintery!




Now we're not talking much snow....certainly not enough to get the skis and sledges out...but we woke the other morning to a beautiful light dusting which always makes the garden look a little magical in my eyes.





When Mr. W and I built our home and started designing and creating our garden ten years ago, it was a priority for us both for the two to integrate with one another harmoniously.  



(this striking stainless steel 'sculpture' was a special big birthday present to me from 'Mr W'...)


With large expanses of glass overlooking the garden, it was important that the areas surrounding the house had 'good bones',  providing structure and interest even in the depths of winter.




Although some areas are still yet to reach full maturity, and others are still a work in progress, I feel this year, that things are finally coming together, and we are achieving the vision that we first set out to create.

By planting areas of hedging in either Yew, Hornbeam or Portuguese Laurel, we have endeavoured to create 'rooms' within the garden.  

Large bold flower beds (mainly filled in summer with my favourite Roses, Agapanthus and White Hydrangea) and paths are lined with boxwood hedging, and terraces and lawns are punctuated with Box or Portuguese Laurel topiary balls.  

Some of you who have followed this blog for some time, or who follow my instagram @sophiahomelifestyle will know that this has proved a little compulsive for me?  Some girls like shoes (actually I love those too!) and some have an obsession with topiary...oh well, there are worse addictions in life I suppose!





This sheltered seating area overlooking the 'kitchen lawn' is flanked by Yew hedging which in time will be gradually clipped in to large square topiary blocks...




View back to the 'kitchen deck'...an almost mature Portuguese Laurel hedge providing interest and more importantly a wind break, around the seated deck area.  Portuguese Laurel topiary balls add interest to the flat lawn...




Wearing the remains of their autumn foliage, these pleached Hornbeams should be really quite good this year.  Starting just five years ago as whispy young saplings, they will form a beautiful bold green block with a 'window view' of the landscape beyond this summer.





This old boy (near 16!)  has seen a few snow falls in his time...





But for 'Miss Delilah', it was all rather exciting!




I adore 'Silver Birch' and these are just a few from a little copse of some forty or so trees that we have planted at a distance at the back of our main lawn, just before you reach the paddock.  Their beautiful white bark standing out strikingly against the grey winter landscape.

I think it's only fair to put in a disclaimer at this stage and say I have had nothing to do with all this heavy planting!  Although I like to think I put in my fair share of work in the garden, in the form of design input, planting of bulbs and flowers and my beloved kitchen garden) all credit goes to 'Mr. W' who has back breakingly landscaped 2.5 acres of land from scratch that started out as a few boggy fields and a car park.  No mean feat!









The old abandoned chicken house from a few years ago...how I miss not having chickens...but not the devastating carnage that we so often had when Mr. Fox came round, especially at this hungry time of year.  Maybe again one day, when we get round to building them a fortified home!




No ice on the pond today.  Future plans on the ever growing 'garden list' are to work on this area and try to create something special.  I'm thinking beautiful pond plants around the edge, a small deck jetty and summerhouse and maybe even a duck house in the middle?   What do you think?








Our majestic Oak...so lucky to have inherited this beautiful tree on this land.  Underplanted with hundreds of Daffodils which excitingly are just poking their heads through, should be a sea of yellow in no time at all. Nine Yew plants have also recently been planted in a circle around its perimeter, with the intention to gradually topiarise these in to striking flat topped 'barrels'. It may take a few years...patience is a virtue in gardening isn't it?  Not my forte!





Always lovely to find Snowdrops in the garden...




Dreaming of warmer days, entertaining friends and family, when we can all be outside on the deck in the sunshine....




...but for now, I shall enjoy sitting inside in the warmth, planning our next projects.  
Now where's that topiary book?

***
Wishing you a lovely day...

Sophia xxx

Thursday, 1 February 2018

AUSTRALIA HIGHLIGHTS....




Good morning!

Regular followers of my Instagram will know that I recently returned home from two fantastic weeks in Australia.  A work trip for 'Mr. W' and a chance for me to join him and keep him company....well, it would have been rude not to don't you think?!

I have been fortunate to visit a number of times before, and each time I discover more and it is hard not to absolutely fall in love with this amazing destination, with its beautiful weather and amazing lifestyle!  I personally love Europe and I would miss the seasons, but I can also so appreciate why so many emigrate out here!
  



After that incredibly long flight, which went surprisingly quickly with plenty of films and sleep, our first stop was beautiful Brisbane.  

Starting the first day with the worst jet lag, a walk in the gorgeous Botanical gardens seemed a good idea in an attempt to energise and feel vaguely normal.  Having left England post Christmas in the rain, it was a shock to be walking around in 37 degrees and humidity!





A combination of the jet lag, and spending time with our hosts out there, led to a lack of photo taking, so sadly I am unable to share more shots of this great city, and our amazing trip the next day up the coast to Noosa.  A great experience and such beautiful scenery!

Next we took a flight to Sydney, where temperatures were thankfully cooler, after we had just missed their 47 degree heatwave the previous weekend!






We stayed at the fabulous The Establishment Hotel , conveniently located behind circular quay in George Street in the CBD.  A very cool warehouse conversion, with an eclectic, industrial design concept.




Huge bedrooms and bathrooms with many thoughtful touches. This one picture does not do it justice!  Part of the Merivale group, who own a number of fabulous restaurants around Sydney.  I would highly recommend staying here!




Breakfasts here especially were the best!  






I just had to photograph these two so I could be reminded of the ingredients for when I returned home.  Above is avocado, burrata, tomato and chilli with coriander.  Below is the most delicious omlet with snow crab, chilli, roasted sweetcorn, coriander and lime.  Perfect healthy and very satisfying breakfasts for a days of exploring and walking miles!




A favourite shopping destination of mine in the CBD is the Royal Victoria Arcade.




Beautiful Australian brands not seen here at home and plenty of lovely coffee stops!








As well as enjoying all the usual iconic landmarks, I always like to explore less obvious areas, away from the usual tourist trail.





On my last trip to Sydney, I discovered beautiful Balmain Beach, an easy 20 minute cab ride from Circular Quay.  A lovely small sandy beach in the suburb of Mosman, popular with families, I was keen in particular to return to one of my favourite low key and stylish cafés The Boathouse.












Gorgeous interiors....




...and healthy café style food and great coffee. This converted former boat house is a relaxed and super cool find!

Sadly they were SO busy the day we visited, that we couldn't get a table, but I just had to share one or two photos.  Do visit if you get the chance!








However, our disappointment turned out to be the opportunity to discover another fantastic find across the road, with The Public Dining Room 

A beautiful light and contemporary restaurant overlooking the ocean, that served the best seafood.  No photos of the interiors this time, but had to snap these super fresh and delicious dishes....


Kingfish Sashimi....




Ocean trout sashimi...





Prawns with polenta and gherkins ....





Seared scallops with a wasabi, cauliflower puré...

As avid foodies, we loved this lunch and again would so highly recommend a visit!  To be honest, I think it would be very hard to find a bad meal in Sydney.  I could probably write an entire long blog post alone, on fantastic restaurants we visited.
  The food scene generally in Australia is second to none!








Walking off lunch and enjoying the beautiful sunshine at Balmain beach...a perfect Saturday afternoon.




A visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens is an absolute must when visiting Sydney.  Opened in 1816, the garden is the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historic botanical institutions in the world.  Adjacent to the CBD and the Sydney Opera House, it spreads out over 74 acres.







With the weekend to ourselves and no work meetings, we were keen to explore a new area not visited before this trip and decided to head out to beautiful iconic Bondi beach!




A surfer's and swimmer's dream....




We had been recommended the stunning 7km coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee....





Wow!  We could see why!



Taking in stunning views of beaches, cliffs, bays and rock pools. 







Passing the famous Waverley Cemetery...



Plenty of spots along the two hour route to stop and cool off from the 37 degree heat that day and the reward of a great lunch at Coogee Pavilion





Sad to leave Sydney after five fantastic days but excited to move on to our third and final stop of Melbourne.  I love this city, and there is definitely more of an English/european feel to it.





Before heading in to the city, we drove the two hours out from the airport along the beautiful Mornington Peninsular to Portsea, where we joined dear friends at their fabulous beachside home.  Oh to wake to this beautiful view each morning!




They kindly took us to lunch at the beautiful Pt. Leo Estate winery....









Along with 50 acres of vines in the most glorious setting, a fantastic restaurant housed in a stunning architect designed building, and delicious wines, it is also surrounded by a beautiful sculpture park.




We wished we had had more time to explore this beautiful area, renowned for its stunning coastline, vineyards and wonderful local food.  The city was next on our agenda, but we hope to return!





We arrived in Melbourne to a serious heatwave...  47 degrees is quite a challenge!





With great shopping and fantastic coffee shops to explore, I wasn't going to let the heat get to me though!  




Melbourne is well known for its hive of bustling 'Laneways'.  With lovely boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafés.

A favourite was the beautiful Block Arcade,  built in 1891.



The Hopetoun Tea Rooms originates from that time and today finds visitors queuing outside to enjoy its historic surroundings and of course, delicious tea and cakes.





The prettiest florist 'Pollen' in Little Collins Street is another must visit.





 Finally, the highlight of our trip to Melbourne had to be being taken to The Melbourne Open!

Djokovic v Monofils



The perfect end to an amazing trip!

***
Do any of you have any great Australian must sees and recommendations?  I would love to hear!

Sophia xx