Today we'll complete the chapter on Nature, which means we're almost finished our book study of Jane Brocket's "The Gentle Art of Domesticity".
There's a very 'spring' aspect to this chapter which is exactly where we are in the seasons here in Australia right now, but even if you're embracing autumn in your part of the world, the love for plants and gardening which Jane embellishes to great delight in her writing will be sure to put a smile of beauty upon every heart.
So let's start reading...
COME TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS WITH ME
“Tulips are by far my favourite flower…when I am in dire need of colour, variety and loveliness after the winter. I am deeply impressed that one single curvaceous bulb can produce a flower that may be upright, stately, elegant or refined, or floppy, frilly, frivolous and flamboyant, or small, delicate and natural looking, or tall, strong and with what could pass for an artist’s hand painted stripes and markings.” (page 240)
Jane observes that the tulip’s archetypal flower shape – the kind of flower children draw – has a simplicity and form which allows the grower and the viewer to focus on colours. Red tulips are her personal favourite but it must be the best red and in her garden each year she plants ‘Jan Reus’ for its simple magnificence and a red which has a rich, warm, velvety garnet colour much like a fine red wine.
Some of her other favourite tulips to grow are –
Ivory Floradale, Menton, Apricot Beauty, Burgundy, Mariette, Black Hero, Menton and Zurel.
Picking her tulips in the early morning while the flowers are still closed, she fills vases and places her blooms along a windowsill where once the day warms the tulips gradually open in all their beauty.
JOY OF LILAC TIME
“I think of lilac as a supremely domestic plant.” (page 245)
Across England Jane observes the ordinariness of lilac blooming by the front gate, over fences and walls, growing without fuss or bother, their predictability each May adding to the seasonal delights of a domestic year.
Once cut, branches of clustered lilac flowers have a short life in the vase but Jane does find these ‘lilac pauses’ rather lovely.
With regards to lilac in art – “Lilac makes a great subject for a frothy flower painting. It is particularly popular with artists in Russia, where lilac is an early, welcome sign of the summer after a long, cold winter. Huge luxuriant arrangements of lilac sit on tables next to samovars and teacups and create soft, pastel still lives that are suffused with the sense of spring.” (page 245)
Bringing a love of lilac into her crafting, Jane has built a little stash of lilac fabrics, beads, yarns, threads and ribbons, but admits the soft colour needs a strong companion such as dark green, sky blue, golden yellow, deep plum or vibrant lime.
Walt Whitman in one of his poems describes lilac being paired with dark green heart shaped leaves, and this inspired Jane’s fabric choice when she made the Teenage Quilt, an homage to her own youthful attempts at decorating her bedroom in purple and green.
YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A NATURAL WOMAN
The gloominess of grey-weather weeks prompt Jane to seek out colour and to display it splashed around her home in an attempt to banish the clouds. Something which always lifts her mood is the humble lemon.
“Lemons are one of nature’s greatest pick-me-ups. They are naturally bright and juicy, smell wonderful and add a much-needed zest to life.” (page 248)
A family favourite, she shared her recipe for a Natural Lemon Cake.
“It can be eaten by a family of five in a nanosecond. Or the squeeze of a lemon.” (page 248)
(I personally love a good lemon drizzle cake. What's your favourite lemon treat?)
THE DAHLIAS OF BROCKET HALL
“The dahlia is slowly coming back into fashion as a somewhat ironic, kitsch floral statement, but I fell in love with it long before the arbiters of taste declared that it was fine to have huge, neon, frilly, pompom, decorative, spiky and clashing dahlias in smart gardens.” (page 250)
I really love that Jane grows dahlias to match her toenail polish because I'm rather obsessed with painting my own toenails and have done so since my mid-teens. My nana would never leave the house without a touch of lipstick and pair of earrings, and though I inherited her earring gene I've never cared for lipstick...but painted toenails? Oh yes, I'm with Jane.
“This is the kind of garden we need at Brocket Hall, with dahlias to match every shade of nail varnish I own.” (page 250)
A SLAVE TO THE SPRINGTIME PASSION FOR THE EARTH
“Putting in the Seed, written in 1916, is a typically lucid and deceptively light poem by Robert Frost in which he describes his delight in sowing peas and he calls himself a ‘slave to the springtime passion for the earth’ that makes him forget to come in for dinner. I can’t write poetry but I do have an inkling of this passion.” (page 252)
As springtime draws near Jane finds her own internal gardener clock foraging through seed catalogues and packets, then planting all sorts of seeds, both sensible and not so sensible.
She purchases her seeds from the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley in Surrey because they carry such a wide variety of commercial and specialist brands. Trying not to get carried away by the promises on the back of each pack, or the pest-free touched-up vivid colours on the front, she attempts to stay with tried and true nasturtiums, love-in-a-mist, sunflowers, morning glories, marigolds and cornflowers, but does tend to add in a few ‘new and improved’ strains and colours.
But it is the vegetable seeds which truly seduce her gardener heart, especially the packs from Italy which carry instructions in five languages and when lined up together in rows remind her of a glorious vegetable quilt.
Our final chapter is "Travel" and I'm going to attempt to share that study in one post so we can finish off this year's study mid-November before lives are absorbed with end of year things.
All going to plan I'll have it up on the blog Tuesday, November 12th.
All the previous study posts can be found here if you've missed any. You don't need the book to do the study so perhaps have a peek at a few and glean some lovely domestic inspiration.
* What is it about your own garden that you love?
* Are there particular seeds you plant each year?
* Do you prefer growing flowers, vegetables or a mix of both?
You may have noticed I've given my blog and logo a fresh makeover.
Because there are new things coming soon and they are a reflection of the renewal which has taken place within my spirit, mind, thoughts, creativity, plans and outlook this past year.
And I can't wait to share more with you about that, but it can wait for another day.
God bless you, keep you safe, give you strength, and surprise you with His grace,