Thursday, 20 March 2014

Holey Clogs, the Garden Museum and a Day Out with Matthew Biggs

One Mothering Sunday not many moons ago, my children asked me what I would like to do to celebrate my special day. “You can do anything,” they said and my eyes lit up as images of me clad in a maternal swooshing skirt and skipping hand in hand with my beloved brood of smiling, plant-loving children through swathes
of daffs passed joyfully through my idealistic mind “...except visit a garden.
I clattered inelegantly back to earth and landed with an ungraceful thud.

The girls skipping through the daffs (yes, they were bribed)
I reminisce dewy-eyed on the good old days, when all I had to do was suggest a trip to a beach which just happened to be in close proximity to a garden I wanted to see and they would clamber unwittingly into the car, trailing their buckets and spades behind them. Over the years they have grown wise to my pathetic ploys and I am subjected to trial by teenager if I so much as utter the words “day out”.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' in the farmhouse garden
The wiser the children grow; the more creative I must become. Days out with dual interests work well, so long as my hidden horticultural agenda remains undiscovered. Many zoos have superb gardens; and do you think I would have driven my offspring all the way to Legoland had I not harboured a burning desire to ogle the landscaping? So you can imagine my excitement on hearing about an exhibition exploring the relationship between fashion and garden design at the Garden Museum in London. All I had to do was conceal any reference to gardens and I would have my day out. 

Bergenia 'Silberlicht' in the farmhouse garden
It is a fascinating exhibition, spanning centuries of design from the use of botanically accurate images of flowers on clothing during the 1600s to Valentino’s spring/summer 2013 couture collection. Apart from the jaw-droppingly beautiful clothes, I particularly enjoyed a collection of paintings featuring gardeners at work. Gardeners were once such a source of pride that they were painted. Imagine! I would certainly need some new clothes if I were to be captured on canvas doing my mulching. 

My least holey clogs after years of mulching
This leads me to one of the questions raised by the exhibition. "How did people dress to garden, or to visit gardens?" The 18th century landscape movement may have given rise to a new style of dressing, which eventually developed into the outdoor clothing we see in glossy magazines, but I am not altogether convinced that this stylish ideal holds much relevance for real gardeners with brittle nails and that half moon sun strip around the midriff which never seems to fade. In any case, we know what we wear to garden these days, as we have already chewed over the issue of gardening clothes here:
Crocus tommasinianus proving its value to wildlife
 in the farmhouse garden
When it comes to visiting gardens, twenty-first century style choices can be astonishingly diverse and bewilderingly unpredictable. For example, there was a time when I might visit a garden sporting beach clothes accessorised by sand, seaside buckets and spades. These days however, I might dress as if I were on the verge of accompanying my teenage children to a music festival, but got lost en route and found myself visiting a garden. Ahem.

P.S.  Update on the children... After the initial horror of finding themselves duped yet again into a garden-based day out, they relaxed and enjoyed the exhibition. The level of forgiveness will be assessed on Mothering Sunday later this month. You never know, they might be reading this and decide (completely without any hinting from me at all) to treat me to a day out with Matthew Biggs. 

Information about the Fashion and Gardens Exhibition can be found on The Garden Museum website: