The Whites of Spring

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

I’m not someone who loathes winter. I love the way it strips everything away and reveals the bones of the landscape. I love frosty mornings and the how the cold and wet drives us inside to create cosy days and evenings in our homes.

But the way I feel about Spring is something else. Spring literally fills me up. I can look out of my window at the greener grass and the trees in bud and the borders filling up with fat tulips and, no matter what else is going on in my life, I feel an enormous surge of joy and hope.

March and April are the months in the garden where almost anything is possible. Incredible when you look at these pictures to think that, less than a month ago, things were buried under two inches of snow.

Now everything is clarity and freshness. A surge of growth and green. Incredible the speed Spring races away!  I want it to slow down. I want to have time to take in the froth of wild Cherry blossom in the hedgerows around the house. I want to enjoy the white Narcissus Thalia nodding in the grass beneath the newly planted Crab apples. I want to catch the bridal sprays of  Exochorda x macrantha and the fleeting, star-like Amelanchier flowers.

You might have noticed that all of the flowers I’ve named are white. I might welcome the cheery, yolk yellow of early Narcissus in the pots around my front door in early March (golly, do I need that after the browns and greys of Winter!), but for the rest of Spring, I want white. White flowers have a perfect clearness, a lovely transparency against the rush of Spring green. They also have a simplicity and purity. Like a palette cleanser before the pinks, purples and blues of early Summer.

When we bought the house, the garden was full of blousy, yellow trumpet daffodils (my theory is that it was an economy bag planted that year to make the garden more appealing to potential buyers!). Over the years, I’ve slowly dug them up, created new borders and planted them with my favourite Cyclamineus Narcissus (delicate, windblown petals that are…white). The mishmash of yellow and purple crocus under the Copper Beech are now outnumbered by my white Species Crocus. And the boundaries dotted with my favourite Crab apple, Evereste. The all-White palette only lasts about a month, but I think it’s that transience that makes it more magical.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

Mousling looking out at a rather chilly April day. I don’t mind cold Springs. Spring flowers – particularly blossom – are so delicate that they can last less than a week. Cold days keep them going for longer. More time to look and enjoy!

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

It’s not easy to find a good white Crocus. I tend to like Species Crocus because they are smaller and more delicate than the border varieties. This is Crocus Chrysanthus, Snow Bunting – ivory flowers with a lovely, golden throat. That is one happy bee! Spring flowers, like Crocus, are essential for bees emerging from their winter hibernation.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

The crocus under the Copper Beech. My mistake was to plant them in clumps rather than individually. What’s happened now is that they’ve multiplied and the clumps look like blobs of clotted cream on the lawn. Not a bad thing – but not the effect I had wanted…!

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

The Yew borders, by the Boot Room door, are the newest part of the garden and replaced a gnarly Ivy hedge and ugly, tarmacked drive. I think they are probably my most successful Spring planting scheme. Thousands of Snowdrops come first….

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

….followed by Narcissus Jenny (windblown, creamy petals, completely divine) and then the nodding, shimmering white heads of Narcissus Thalia. Win! Win! Win!

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

White Narcissus from the cutting garden. I’ve experimented a bit with what works here. Narcissus Actea – with its orange-red centre – is late-flowering and a winner. Narcissus Pueblo has pretty little creamy heads and is great for cutting with a good vase life. Narcissus Silver Chimes – lots of white heads – is a headache, despite being recommended by the likes of Sarah Raven. The heads are so heavy that the stems collapse and your flowers end up being enjoyed by the slugs. And the bulbs often don’t come up at all. One to avoid, even if it looks pretty here.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

This is the view, through my baby Victoria Plum tree towards the house. I planted six fruit trees when we moved here, and now, rather grandly perhaps, call this part of the garden, ‘the orchard’.  Because life is too short, I ordered well established standards with good, five foot stems (harder to find than you think!). Every year, I will them to grow and grow. I can’t wait till this part of the garden is more mature and a froth of blossom in May.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

Narcissus Jenny is followed by Narcissus Thalia on the bank of the Orchard.  So easy to put in (under three young Crab apples) and always absolutely beautiful from every angle. Particularly, on a blush-skied Spring evening

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

I wish I had a Magnolia! My village is full of seriously impressive Magnolias at this time of year. I inherited a very sad Magnolia, planted painfully close to a boundary wall. Within two years, it had succumbed to Honey Fungus. I haven’t dared to plant another, so this picture is me stalking my neighbour’s very fabulous tree (so beautiful against their equally fabulous Yew hedge).

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

And this is my stylish France-living friend, Sharon Santoni’s, heavenly, Magnolia-filled garden in Spring. I love how she has created what is essentially a tumble-y, English country garden around her beautiful French house.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

A beautiful late Spring white for walls, fences and buildings is Clematis Montana Wilsonii. I have planted two and they have romped away, covering my garden walls with their star-like, Almond-scented flowers.

 

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My one Cherry tree – and it’s a good one! Prunus Ukon has extraordinary blossom which is a pale, pistachio green that fades to white over the week it is in flower. It’s set the Spring colour scheme for the borders around the dining terrace, which are filled with dwarf Narcissus Jack Snipe followed by deliciously scented Narcissus Cheerfulness, which mirrors the Cherry’s pom-pom flowers.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countrside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

When the evenings are clear, the light through the Prunus Ukon is….well, you can see what I mean…

 

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And then at twilight, white flowers really come in to their own. Here, blossom and Narcissus Geranium looking luminous around the dining terrace on a warm April evening.

 

 

Bed Time Story

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

I love a beautifully made bed. I also love unmaking it and curling up for eight hours under a cloud of goose down and crisp white bed linen. And the crisp linen part of that is crucial. Don’t talk to me about ‘easy-care’. My bed linen doesn’t have to be easy; but it does have to be Egyptian cotton, a high-ish thread count, and, ideally, a cool and airy Percale (more on this later).

Where did I develop my bed linen high standards? I used to have a job where I travelled a lot and was lucky enough to stay in some pretty snazzy hotels. I slept in real linen, cotton Sateen, high thread count Percale, and, once, a silk mix (great for the skin and hair, I hear). I got to understand the difference between good linen and not-so-good linen. I became an expert on pillow fillings and duvet types (it’s Hungarian Goose Down all the way for me).

I learned that, where bed linen is concerned, you usually get what you pay for. And, like buying good shoes or handbags, when you spend a little more, you will have something that makes you happier and, importantly, last longer. Decades in the case of very good linen.  I got clever about where I bought my linen from.  I looked for brands that made their linen in Europe (where there is a tradition of great linen making) and used ultra-thin, long yarns (this is far more important than thread counts for softness and quality). I bought in the sales when I couldn’t afford full price.

I know the brands I love (Frette and The White Company’s  Savoy and Linen ranges) and I pretty much stick with them. But I’m open to change, which might be why, when my very stylish friend, Charlotte, sent me a box full of beautifully wrapped Draper London linen last week, I was very excited.  I hadn’t heard of Draper London, which launched last year, but I had heard of its big sister, Josephine Home (who provide seriously upscale bed linen for the Mandarin Oriental and Soho House hotels). The brilliant idea behind Draper, is to create superior bed linen with all their luxury know-how about yarns, thread counts and European craftsmanship, but sell it at entry level prices. Pretty genius, I’d say.

We’ve been road-testing our sheets for a week and, so far, they’ve proved a winner with me….the girls…and, of course, the cats.

So that you can up your bed linen game, too, I’ve arranged a 20% discount off the Draper London Collection. Simply type in ELFCAT when you checkout at www.draperlondon.com to access the discount until 15 April 2018. Terms and Conditions apply (see their website). 

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

The cats have very refined taste in linen. When I put on good bed linen, like the Draper London Hero Set, here, they like to ‘help’. This means hiding under the sheets (to check the weight….)

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

….and kneading the duvet covers with their outsize paws to check the softness.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

Draper London is a light and airy Percale in 300 thread count Egyptian cotton which they think is a ‘perfect all-rounder’. Poff, agrees…..

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

I love a well-made bed, but I don’t have hours to spend fluffing and tweaking in the morning. My best bed-making routine: put a quilt or coverlet over the duvet (folding a good foot or so of duvet over the pillow end of the quilt). The quilt covers any wrinkly bed linen and everything looks neater instantly. I then put square ‘continental’ pillows up against our sleeping pillows – again hiding any creased pillowcases. They are outsize and plump, so look particularly inviting. Confession: I carry my own pillow with me when I travel (I hear that the Queen Mother did the same). It’s a way of ensuring that, wherever I’m staying, I’ll have a pillow with the plumpness I need to sleep properly.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

We are big sleepers in this house. I have a teen who will sleep 12+ hours if I let her. And three cats who are probably asleep 23 out of every 24 hours.  I am in awe of the cats’ sleeping regime. Think about the all cell repair and mental sorting that they get done. No wonder they are always so beautiful and chilled.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

Good linen will age beautifully and keep getting better with time. But spending a little time on their care will help. Following Draper London’s advice, I wash mine at 60 degrees and always leave a bit of space in the drum so that the water can circulate properly through the fabric.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

Great sheets are greater when they’re crisply ironed. Ideally, iron them while they are still very slightly damp and store them in a linen cupboard, airing cupboard or drawer. Here is my linen cupboard (one of my favourite pieces of furniture in the house). I push lavender bags in between my sheets to make them smell even fresher.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

Let’s talk about thread count. Actually, let’s not, because it seems it’s all a big marketing ploy to make us think that thread count equals quality. What you need to look for when you shop for sheets is the quality of the fibre (look for ultra-fine and long) and where it’s made (ideally Europe, where they’ve been weaving high quality fabric for centuries).

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

What’s the difference between cotton Percale and cotton Sateen? Percale, my favourite, is crisp, matte and cool like a good man’s shirt. Sateen is sensuous and super-soft.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

I’m a big believer that good bed linen promotes good sleep. But, if that’s not enough – often the case with my youngest daugher, Bo – we try mindfulness apps. And Epsom Salts baths laced with a couple of drops of Lavender essential oil.

 

Charlotte-Anne Fidler, Lifestyle, Countryside, English country, Country house, English Houses, English Home, Gardens, Flowers, Cutting, Gardens, Nature, English, gardens, Roses, Rose garden, Sweet peas, Spring bulbs, Spring gardens, Spring planting, Summer planting, Summer gardens, White, Blooms, Home design, Interior design, Interiors, White interiors, House beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Maine Coons, Cats, Motherhood

A bit of pre-bed quiet time with Poff helps, too.

 

Remember to type in ELFCAT when you checkout at www.draperlondon.com to access the 20% discount until 15 April 2018. Terms and Conditions apply (see their website).