Monday, March 31, 2014

Early Spring at Sissinghurst

As self taught gardeners, Tom and I spend a great deal of time and effort designing, cultivating and nurturing our gardens. We've planted every single tree, shrub, perennial and bulb ourselves. We also do all the pruning, watering, weeding, etc., etc. Of course some plants just don't make it despite all the TLC - perhaps we ought to try benign neglect? That seems to always work on weeds!

Being recognized in Southern Living magazine is a tremendous honor for us. (Please refer to my previous post if you missed it.) And, we are very grateful for all of your kind comments about our gardens. Thank you :)

On the topic of gardens, those of you following me on INSTAGRAM know of our recent visit to Sissinghurst in England. Why a visit this early in the season? We were interested in studying the bones of this fabled garden. A well designed garden should be pleasing in all seasons. Plus, the early spring bulbs were in bloom - so, why not? It was quite pleasant to stroll through Sissinghurst without the crowds of people. This is an extremely popular destination during high season, so if you visit, join the queue just before opening. Enjoy!
In the 1930s Vita Sackville-West, poet and gardening writer, along with her husband Harold Nicolson, author and diplomat, started this garden.
 
From Sissinghurst Castle by Adam Nicolson:  

Sissinghurst is more than a garden. It is a garden in the ruin of a great Elizabethan house, set in the middle of its own woods, streams and farmland and with long views on all sides across the fields and meadows of the Kentish landscape.
Visitors are greeted in the Forecourt by heavenly hyacinths in 19th century bronze urns. BELOW: Notice how the pleached trees above the yew hedge create an outdoor room setting. Sissinghurst is famous for its garden rooms delineated by hedges, trees and walls.
The 16th century Elizabethan Tower is a good place to begin the tour - climb up to the top for stunning panoramic views! We didn't go up this time, but have done so in the past. (See photos from a previous trip at the end of this post.) Vita's workroom / office is located in the Tower so don't miss it.
The Top Courtyard with potted bulbs edging a fresh green lawn.
Raised stone troughs containing tiny Fritillaria Michailovskyi (above) and Muscari Cupido (below) bulbs - a clever way to elevate these mini treasures for enjoyment. I really like the top dressing of gravel. (Note to self: use on our potted herbs!)
A dazzlingly display of anemones, chinodoxias and scillas blanketing the Delos in March.
Drifts of daffodils carpeting the fields of the Orchard.
Ushering in spring are two of my favorites: camellias and hellebores. Both shade-loving evergreens bloom about the same time, although certain varieties of camellias flower in the fall.
An allee of pleached lime trees in the Lime Walk. Tom was especially interested in seeing how these trees were pruned. They look like sculptures! 
Leucojums (above) burst into bloom, while the elusive Snakeshead fritillaries (below) made a more subtle appearance.
All is neat and tidy in the Rose Garden. The box and yew hedges were perfectly clipped.
 Roses, clematis and other plants are trained on structures made from hazel branches - so organic!
A cheerful combination of yellow Mahonia and lavender-blue Pulmonaria flowers.
BELOW: I believe this Stachyurus Chinensis Celina shrub is quite rare. The pale yellow flowers look especially pretty and delicate in the early spring landscape.  
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Now some photos from a previous visit in late July. These were taken just a little past 11:00 AM soon after opening.
Two bird's-eye views from the Tower.
A shallow trough planter in summer.
Pure bliss in Sissinghurst's lengendary White Garden! I've drawn much inspiration from this glorious garden's plantings and color palette of whites, silvers, grays and greens.
The sun is finally making an appearance so I need to wrap it up here - much to do outside. Thanks for visiting :)
Loi
PS - Next post we journey to Paris!  

86 comments:

  1. Hi Loi, This post is the perfect way to start the week, so beautiful and inspiring. I love that you got to visit in early spring - a quieter time than the peak, but how lovely to see all the signs of early spring in such a gorgeous place. I'm very impressed that you've done all your garden work yourself. You and Tom are artists! No green thumbs here - as we type this our landscaper is out front turning what is now a mud pit into what we hope will be a beautiful new garden - I showed her your Southern Living photos and she was very inspired - it was the perfect way for us to communicate about what I love in a garden.

    Can't wait for Paris. Have a wonderful week!

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    1. Thanks so much, Jeanne. If your landscaper has questions on our plantings, feel free to have her email me.

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  2. I just came in from our gardens; somewhat disheartened by the aftermath of this harsh winter (zone 5b) as well as the damage done by rabbits.They even ate my Boston Ivy!
    This post came just in time to inspire me!
    I think, perhaps, I should visit these gardens in the dark of Winter in order to see how they protect it against the elements!
    I have long studied the work of Sir Roy Strong and aspire to see the Laskett before I die.
    I am grateful to people like you who are willing to share their experiences so that people like me can study these gardens until we are able to experience them for ourselves!

    xo

    Andie

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    1. Because it was such a severe winter with snow covering so much, food was scarce. Deer ventured further out of woodlands and even consumed plants they normally leave alone.

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  3. i love container gardening -it adds 'architecture' to the space.

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  4. Oh Loi I am living through you as you travel to beautiful gardens. I must admit that I think early spring at Sissinghurst is gorgeous! The naturalized daffodils, the lush green with pops of color. Your photography is outstanding…capturing the rustic, yet formal essence of this gorgeous setting.

    I need to get that issue of Southern Living Loi. Maybe I will look today!

    And lastly, you know I have followed you for quite a while, but I did not know that you did every bit of work yourselves. That makes me enjoy your world even a bit more! It motivates me to make my own setting truly my own.

    Cannot wait to see Paris through your eyes :)

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  5. Hello Loi, What an uplifting tour of Sissinghurst on a very gray and rainy day. I was especially taken with the Stachyurus Chinensis Celina. I would love to see more of the architectural interactions with the gardens, so will have to add this to my list of places for "next trip to England".
    --Jim

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    1. If you visit, I suggest touring Great Dixter (about 20 mins driving) as well. It's glorious!!

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  6. Hello Loi,

    Sissinghurst is indeed an iconic garden and, in our view, rightly deserves that title. It can and should be visited in all seasons, during each of which the garden has something of interest to offer and excite the visitor. In particular, it is the attention to detail, such as the tiny bulbs grown in raised containers and the high standard of maintenance which sets it apart from the mainstream. And, Sissinghurst is so much more than a plant collection, as you rightly state here. Its sense of design, the clarity of its structures, the use of closed and open spaces and the creative use of plant forms and colours are all extraordinary. It is a garden for us of never ending inspiration.

    And, as for your own garden. How wonderfully well you have reinterpreted the motifs of Sissinghurst and brought them up to date. Your eye for shape and space is so beautifully honed and the meticulous attention to every detail is amazing. You deserve to feel very proud of all that you have achieved and your place in the glossy magazines is totally deserved. Bravo!

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  7. What a feast for the eyes on a day that started out with more SNOW! The tour of Sissinghurst is amazing and so dreamy....takes me back to another era! Its like traveling back in time.......and your own gardens are total enchantment. The fact that the two of you have painstakingly done it all yourself is truly remarkable to and you are to be commended!! Bravo!

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  8. Stunning photos of one of my favorite places! Absolutely transporting, Loi! xoxo

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  9. Loi-
    What a marvelous garden! You are so fortunate to be able to travel as often as you do. I have truly enjoyed your instagram post, and I am in awe of these gorgeous flowers you are sharing!
    Teresa
    xoxo

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  10. I am in awe of this post, Loi! Bloody fantastic as the Brits would say! You and Tom are inspirational gardeners and wisely take your inspiration from the world's best gardens. My grandmother always loved Sissinghurst but we have not been. I feel as though I have just been there! I was scrolling so slowly so not to finish reading too quickly. Going back for another look as I do so often with your posts.

    I was so proud of you and Tom, seeing your gardens in Southern Living but disappointed that the images were not larger. Hopefully next time and you should also be featured in Garden & Gun as well as Veranda!

    Best wishes to you and I know you both are ready for spring!

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    1. Thanks, Cindy! Welcome back! Hope the new home design is going well.

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  11. Just stunning Loi and I am so impressed with your knowledge here.. This dove tails beautifully with your interior design aesthetic. The soft silvers and gray along with the pops of yellow (daffodils!) and love the camellias and hellebores! So much inspiration here! I need to make this trip some day. xxL

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  12. Dear Loi - you have given one of our great gardens your special touch, it could not have been better presented. Your designers eye has picked out the magical things in the garden that others would have missed.

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  13. Loi, this post has made me believe that after our long winter, spring really is just around the corner! Your images are beautiful and I will now add this to my places to visit the next time we are in the UK. And did you say Paris?!...you know how I feel about Paris, so I look forward to your next post, though this one will be hard to top!

    xo Kat

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  14. I am here in one of my favorite spots in Blogland....chez TOI! Loi, first of all, I cannot find a copy of the Southern Living mag where you are featured! None of the stores I've been too have it. I will go to Barnes and Noble!

    What a paradise. I don't know what I love more, English or French gardens. I love a formal French garden but give me an English structure with leaded windows and brick as such, and I'm torn. Such lush greenery here to brighten our slow Minnesota spring. Paris you say?OH? Well, I'll be trailing you as you share your French garden dreams! Enjoy my dear friend! Anita

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  15. Such a beautiful photo journal of that gorgeous space. I see how youve drawn inspiration from so many views. Those pleached lime trees are soooo interesting! What do they look like in full foliage? That is amazing. I love your account of it all. Take advantage of the sun, you can't get me inside on a day like this. Going for my second walk at 6pm, the sun is calling me!!!! xoxo Nancy

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    1. The lime trees are stunning with foliage. The entire allee looks like two long green boxes on stilts.

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  16. Gorgeous! I don't know if I'll ever be able to see it in person so I loved at least being able to go on a virtual tour! Your own gardens are amazing and I'm sure they'll be even more amazing with this new inspiration!

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  17. What stunning grounds...they really capture the essence of springtime!!

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  18. Hello Loi

    I can see why you wished to travel off season and have the Sissinghurst garden to yourselves. Spring, in my opinion, is the most exciting season for a garden. There is such promise and hope.
    Looking forward to Paris

    Helen xx

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  19. If I had known Loi, you and Tom could have popped in for afternoon tea with me! I live just down the road from Sissinghurst and often drop in for inspiration for our own garden, which we have designed and planted ourselves from scratch. It really is a very special place isn't it? I am so pleased you enjoyed your visit to Kent. Shall look forward to hearing about Paris next!

    Sophia x

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    1. Special, indeed! May I take a rain check for tea next time? :)

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  20. This brings back such amazing memories. Your tour is perfect. I really do love to see how the English garden. The gravel as dressing would look fantastic and definitely provide extra warmth to the plants.

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  21. Thank you for transporting us to gardens of Sissinghurst. Everything is so beautiful and elegantly well planned. Love all of the flowers.

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  22. I love living vicariously through you Loi! Captivating pictures that make me feel like I am actually in this magical place. Beautiful!! xx

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  23. Loi I am dreaming of a garden like yours. So far I have only purple pansies out and about, pretty as they are, they need some friends to join them!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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  24. Oh my…. now I really cannot wait to go! I made my air reservations yesterday so am all set for early September!!! Such a treat to see your images and now I will read everything I can find and (sort of) be prepared. But yes, early spring is very magical.

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  25. Loi,
    Thank you for taking us on a magical tour. I will wander through this post many times, looking for inspiration for my postage stamp garden.
    The tower and view ... Ever so enchanting. I'm looking forward to seeing the beauty you and Tom create at home from this visit. I am looking forward to your Paris post. John and I try to avoid high season too, much prefer to wander in leisure and avoid the crowds. I love your blog posts.
    Vera

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  26. What a gorgeous place to be...you must of been in heaven with all of those inspirations of beauty...

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  27. Hi Loi, Spelling binding. Thanks for showing the seasonal transformations.
    xoxo Mary

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  28. Thanks for sharing, Loi. Really beautiful and inspirational, as is your garden! Can't wait to see what you and Tom do in Maine.

    xx
    Beth

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  29. Stunning photos Loi! So beautiful! Thanks for sharing!
    Hugs,
    Vesna

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  30. Gorgeous! (in a sing-song voice!) I can't believe you taught yourself how to garden. You are amazing. Love the structure of those gardens. Ahhh, to have such land! xoxo, K

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  31. What a wonderful way to start out my day! I love gardens and flowers so I was so happy to see this post. I also saw several plants that I have never seen before. I love to learn from you. You are a wonderful teacher and so kind to give us great information and images,
    xo Kathysue

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  32. Loi,
    Such inspiration. The climate in England seems to make everything, including the moss covered stone, beautiful. I'm looking forward to visiting Paris through your upcoming post.
    I'm really impressed you and Tom do all of your work. I spend hours each week in my garden but leaving the hedge trimming to my gardener.
    xo,
    Karen

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  33. LOI,
    In the second to last photo what are the tall white flowers?Do you know?
    GORGEOUS garden……I NEED to GO have never been and since my name is ELIZABETH I think I should!Your photos are STUNNING……..I so enjoyed the tour!

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    1. I believe those are Veronicastrum Virginicum Alba. Hope you can visit soon!!

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  34. Aahhh...a scintillating sense of SPRING!!! franki

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  35. Everything about this garden is magnificent- so glad you shared with those of us not on instagram! I bet it's difficult to take it all in on a single visit.
    Wait, and re: instagram..... what else am I missing out on Loi! Can't wait to see your post on Paris!
    Sarah

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! And please join Instagram so we can enjoy photos of your fabulous homes!!!

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  36. What a beautiful post, Loi, and how we're waiting for spring to finally arrive. Today is the first day we're feeling the warmer temps and we're eager to get into our gardens. But then again, we're such black thumbs that perhaps it's best to leave the gardening to those who have the magic touch... like you and Tom!
    xxoo
    C + C

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  37. When I was in London 3 weeks ago the city was blooming and I wanted to stay and enjoy it, rather then come home to a cold barren start to Spring here! Love all the images!!

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  38. Breathtaking! We cultivate weeds!!!!
    You and Tom live in BEAUTY!

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  39. ahhhh, england in spring, yes the crowds are minuscule in comparison, the freshness in the awakening and have you noticed the ever present cooing of doves?
    i detected elements of sissinghurst in your gardens loi, to great effect. as you said, a perfect time to study the gardens bones, less the floral distractions
    cheers my friend!
    debra

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  40. Loi,
    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful trip photos. The gardens are so inspiring and beautiful!
    Cheers for a happy spring!
    Keri

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  41. Thanks for sharing such enchanting photos. Just breathtaking!

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  42. I like the views from the tower — it gives one such a good sense of the room divisions.

    (I wish my work room was in a tower like that!)

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  43. What a splendid life you guys have, and I adore that you share your visits to places like this beautiful garden.
    Big hug, Loi !!

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  44. Oh Loi, spring at Sissinghurst is just so magnificently magical, isn't it? Your photos are breathtakingly beautiful as you managed to capture all of the property's splendour of the season, freezing it for us to fascinate over, as we dream about its delightful appeal. Thanks so much for this most inspirational presentation and looking forward to the perfect allure of Paris!

    xo
    Poppy
    P.S.: Thank you so much for your sweet words over at Poppy View; such a pleasure to have you visit!

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  45. Olá,
    estou apaixonada por esta casa e pelo seu maravilhoso jardim. Que casa belíssima.Um castelo. Amei. Você e Tom são ótimo jardineiros, adoro o jardim de vocês. Me deste inspiração, a pouco sai a procura de flores para plantar nos vasos de barro. Amei esses vasos floridos. Obrigada. Hoje seu post foi uma inspiração para mim.
    Bjos tenha uma ótima semana.

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  46. Thanks for tour Loi. The entire property is gorgeous from top to bottom. The patina on the bricks, the moss on the stones, even the faded wooden doors. I loved it all. I bet you went home with tons of inspiration. :)

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  47. What a feast for the eyes! This spot of heaven was completely unknown to me, so thank you for sharing it here--when we get around to visiting England, I will be sure to add it to the list of spots to see!

    I especially love the way the tiny bulbs like muscari are elevated in stone planters. I'll have to keep that in mind for future planting!

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  48. OK, Loi, you've added another bullet to my bucket list. :) What a wonderful place! I especially love the white gardens, too. Here in semi-arid parts of Texas, I have had much success with Artemesia Wormwood, which is a lovely blue gray green color with leaves resembling parsley. The mound gets to be about 3 feet in diameter, and it has survived 3 years of severe drought with little water from me, either. Russian sage is nice for your blue garden, and it is virtually carefree as well. Salvia Veronica is another survivor, which blooms twice here, with beautiful deep blue blooms. Unlike your garden, these plants are the only thing that survive in spite of my neglect!

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    1. Thanks for all the plants recommendations, Revi!! Cheers, L

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  49. Absolutely stunning! I am adding Sissinghurst to my bucket list. I'm now following you on Instagram, and I cannot wait to follow you in Paris!

    XOXO,
    The Glam Pad

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  50. Garden enthusiast or not, this place is enchanting Loi!!! Thank you for taking us along, your pictures look fantastic as always dear!

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  51. what a fragrant post blooming with charm. what an incredible interest you two share. your cool factor just went through the roof hearing that you are self-taught. wow. let's get to gettin on that next paris post!

    peace.

    michele

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  52. Loi, Will you adopt me or set up a travel tour?
    I just love how all that you love comes from a place of appreciation, wonder and awe.
    "Self-taught" is one part but then the other is just dedication to coaxing projects to grow and to survive the test of time and seasons.
    Happy weekend dear friend. You always inspire me in so many ways. If you had a dollar for all the comments here you would be very wealthy.
    Do you have intentions of writing a book? I would love to hear more about your childhood and your formative years.
    pve

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  53. LOVE IT !!! Simply love it! Yes, a garden should be pleasing all year round. I always found it exiting in spring, exiting to discover new shoots.
    Again - love this post, love to see a Mahonia which we had here as well (did not liked our lime soil and living now happily in my brothers garden in Germany), and the Fritillaria - oh my! Ours have been a feast for the snails!
    When I saw the troughs, the Hellebores - could be "en miniature" here at our place.....
    Again - a beautiful Spring post "down to earth"!
    Best wishes for a very good time in Paris,
    xKarin


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  54. Hello Loi! I just love this post! Very inspirational! This place is peaceful, beautiful, magical and very unique.
    I can't wait to see beautiful Paris through your eyes! Have an incredible trip.
    Margaret

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  55. ...sissinghurst is indeed glorious...however the garden that i dream of seeing is at their home in seven oaks/ kent...long barn...it was there that the nicholsons began to garden...and the vision that would become sissinghurst was born... yet sadly that garden is open very rarely i understand....blessings laney

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  56. How enchanting Loi and Paris next! wow! I want your life. please? :] Anyway, I'm following you on Instagram now. I just got on there a few weeks ago, so don't have much yet. however, I just posted some nature photos on there yesterday. A lovely little nosegay of crocuses at a new client and the Vine growing up the street sign on VINE ST. and in my cheeky style, I just had to get in the piles of BLACK snow which will probably be here until June. lol. xoxo, Laurel

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  57. I loved seeing Sissinghurst in the spring. The pots look so simple but so beautiful. Sarah x

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  58. I am just so envious. How wonderful to have the opportunity to see this fabulous garden at multiple times of the year. I can't believe how great it looks this early in the season. I am completely charmed by the stone troughs of bulbs. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  59. Felicidades teneis una sensibilidad especial para los jardines.

    Me encantan las fotografías, son geniales. Ha estado un regalo el visitar tu bloc, te invito visitar el mio y disfrutes de la fiesta nipona del Hanami, si te gusta espero que si no eres seguidora te hagas ahora.
    Elracodeldetall.blogspot.com

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  60. I'm ashamed to say I have never been to Sissinghurst, despite having been in close proximity so many times. Shame on me. After seeing your version of it I now don't feel I need to, thank you for casting your expert eye over it for me :-). I particularly like the "espalier" trees. That must have taken some effort over the years.
    Wonderful Loi.
    Di
    X

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  61. My dear Loi, how lovely to see your visit this morning.

    I will be back, but I can see that my blog is the the place to share my "poetry" experiments. I will be back after I figure out from what angle I must come. My maudlin poetry has put off some people, and the last thing I want to do is lose friends/followers. Your photos here are just what I need for a day out in my yard, to dream and put some things out to start my spring!

    Many hugs to you, dear and kind friend! Anita

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  62. Hello there, this is my first time to visit your beautiful blog...attracted by your title 'Sissinghurst'

    Where do I begin to tell you of the inspiration and heaven that this quintessential garden has brought to me since childhood...as an English girl I first heard of Sissinghurst from my grandmother, an exceptionally gifted lady, who made our beautiful home and garden....and once I began to visit and read of this iconic place, that is truly what made me into a "gardener" Thank you for your truly lovely photographs and words about this most special garden......you have absolutely made my day
    Sally

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    1. Welcome and thank you, Sally. I hope you'll visit again. Cheers!

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  63. Another beautifully executed post Loi. I love Sissinghurst , I knew it would be a favourite of yours. Such a great idea to visit in the March.

    I find Winter and Spring gardens just as interesting as any flamboyant summer offering and not merely for early floriferous awakenings but also to see a gardens structural framework, to see it being worked and to smell the open soil, there's nothing quite like it!

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  64. Hi Loi!!!

    Love that you traveled to study this garden. I think we can all learn from history and what others have created. How fun to see it with it's Spring blooms. I know that whatever you adapt to your own space will be nothing but an enhancement to your already lauded garden!!!

    Enjoy the sun today!
    xoxo Elizabeth

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  65. My first visit to Sissinghurst nearly 30 years ago inspired every gardening endeavor for decades. And my latest visit to this incredible place confirmed that this is what gardening is all about! Thank you for the peak off-season. What a great time to see the bones!

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  66. Loi,
    I have been to Sissinghurst several times, but never this early in Spring. It is beautiful and reinforces the importance of structure in the garden. Looking forward to Paris!

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  67. Hi Loi, I don't know how I missed this post. What a treat. Sissinghurst is on my bucket list. I love that you toured early in the season to see the bones, as you say. Your expertise is impressive and your interest is inspiring. I wish we could grow half of what you do and I wouldn't be so disillusioned with gardening. Haha. I love hellebores as well - we saw them in bloom in when we took a trip to the coast - Victoria - last month. I'd actually never seen them in person. They are lovely and I didn't know they are shade plants. I also love the fritillaria!! I never knew what these upside down baby tulips were called. ;)
    And you're right about the tiny plants in the tall troughs - what a marvellous idea to elevate a little leafy creature.
    Beautiful post. Can't wait to hear about Paris.
    With love, Terri

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  68. Hi Loi,
    Just stopping by this fine spring afternoon for a return in a bit more inspiration.
    I adore the stone planter and stone sink planter so wish they were mine. You have the best in all things inspiring.

    Xoxo
    Dore

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  69. Loi I always thought you had a professional gardner do your yard. I am so impressed to know it is all Tom and your efforts. May be you both should think of giving a master gardening class to people like me who have not so green thumbs or brown thumbs :)
    The Sissinghurst garden is truly breathtaking.
    Best wishes.

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  70. Loi, what a beautiful way to start the day. Gardening is the most satisfying effort. You definitely inspired me as I was planning and planting a new bed this spring. I am travelling now, and I can't stop wondering how it's doing.... and thinking of things to add when I get home. I love the snakehead fratillera's, what a great idea to raise them up, they are such intricate blooms. Looking forward to going to Paris with you.

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  71. Loi thanks for the virtual tour...it was great fun and a bright spot for me today!

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  72. Hello Loi - I have really missed your Blog.
    I've just spent a merry afternoon catching up. Everything looks amazing, the highlights being the peeks inside your wonderful home and garden.
    Hope you have a lovely afternoon,
    Lizx

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  73. WOW! Your garden makes my heart skip a beat! We recently moved and I decided that we should have a white garden. I currently have boxwood, bluebeard spirea, woodland phlox, shasta daisies, russian sage and white tulips. I added blue as my third color in my white garden.

    Thanks for the inspiration...Christine in NC

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  74. WOW what a FAB post....I feel the spring time mood right noooww haha :) I hope you had a great week so far.

    Check out my new post....Colorful bedroom inspiration :)

    I wish you a sunny weekend :)

    LOVE Maria at inredningsvis - inredning it's, Swedish for decor :)

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  75. I just about spit out my coffee when I read that you do everything for your garden......holy smokes! That is some hard work and I am truly impressed! There is nothing prettier than your work:)

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Many thanks for your visit! If you have a question, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. Loi