A Triple Portrait

I often get asked to lecture about gardens and landscapes in art, and although I like talking about pictures that people probably don’t know, I always like to include one that everybody thinks they know very well but actually probably don’t.

As you will probably have gathered it’s Gainsborough’s famous double portrait Mr & Mrs Andrews.  Despite its popularity I think there still a lot of things that viewers don’t always notice, and certainly the background story to the painting is usually something of a surprise.

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The Statue, the Square and the Slippery Baron

We think our public parks are suffering from neglect but even after years of austerity and poor maintenance they haven’t quite fallen into the same state of decay as the well-known public space being described here in a book named Gaslight and Daylight, published in 1859 by George Augustus Sala, a friend of  Charles Dickens and a contributor to his magazines.

“There was no grass, but there was a feculent, colourless vegetation like mildewed thatch upon a half-burnt cottage. There were no gravel-walks, but there were sinuous gravelly channels and patches, as if the cankerous earth had the mange. There were rank weeds heavy with soot. There were blighted shrubs like beggars’ staves or paralytic hop-poles…on their withered branches, strange fruits- battered hats of antediluvian shape, and oxidised saucepan lids… The surrounding railings, rusty, bent, and twisted as they were, were few and far between. The poor of the neighbourhood tore them out by night, to make pokers. In the centre, gloomy, grimy, rusty, was the Statue – more hideous (if such a thing may be) than the George the Fourth enormity in Trafalgar Square – more awful than the statue of the Commendatore in Don Giovanni.”

That’s a bit of a difference from this painting of the same place just a  few decades earlier! You might be surprised to find out where it was.

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Anne and Osbert’s Pleasure Garden


We all have our favourite gardening books, whether for the quality of  the illustrations, -usually the first thing one  notices when flicking through – the quality of the writing – which takes more time to appreciate or perhaps for the style and approach the author takes.  My favourite scores highly on all three counts, and I wasn’t surprised to find it was also a favourite of several other people when I ran a course about garden writing recently. Published in 1977 and in print ever since it’s The Pleasure Garden by Anne Scott-James and Osbert Lancaster, and if you haven’t read it I hope by the time you’ve finished this post you’ll rush out and buy it immediately.

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2019 on the blog

I’m amazed to think that the blog has now been running for 6 years,  and like all 6 year olds it’s still growing. This year there have been about 55,000 hits, made by about 26,000 visitors.   I’m also amazed that this is the 310th post which means I’ve probably written well over six hundred thousand words of wisdom.  Be warned that there almost as many more in the pipeline – some just a  title, others a series of notes or images, while a few are nearing completion.  Ideas are always welcome for other possibilities, especially if they are offbeat, slightly quirky or humorous.

As always, thank you  for the nice comments & for telling your friends about the blog. Remind them it’s easy to sign up just by going to the very bottom of any post and  adding their email address and it will appear, as if by magic, every Saturday morning in time for breakfast.

I couldn’t resist including this stereograph of the statue of “Auld Lang Syne,” Central Park New York

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Christmas with the Vicar and some Naked Ladies

Hippeastrum “Ferrari”

Scratching my head for something suitably seasonal, and having previously looked at poinsettia and mistletoe but reluctant to do the obvious like Christmas Trees, holly or ivy, it occurred to me that very little has been written about Naked Ladies…. in a horticultural sense at least!



As I’m sure you could tell from the pictures I’m not talking about the obvious but about amaryllis. Who hasn’t fallen for the voluptuous charms of those huge brightly coloured trumpets, either to brighten up their own windowsill or as safe and acceptable Christmas present for their mother-in-law, next-door neighbour or work colleague? Showy, long lasting and, even better, usually not very expensive. What’s not to like?

So why does the caption say Hippeastrum?   What’s it got to do with a Church of England vicar? And where are the naked ladies?


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