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Inspiring Garden Design: Remembering A Glorious Private Garden Trip to England

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When Margot Shaw, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flower Magazine says,”…still the trip against which all others shall be measured,” you know it must be super special. She’s referring to May of 2015, when she and Charlotte Moss designed a trip to London and the English countryside for eighteen attendees. Both share an affection for Nancy Lancaster, interior designer and tastemaker extraordinaire (she introduced the “English country house style” to the world). Hence, the delicious six day itinerary was planned to touch the high points of Nancy’s life, works, interests, houses and gardens (think Colefax and Fowler and her home, Ditchley, in Oxfordshire).

What a delight to be reliving this trip…and Margot is joining us, in a sense, as she is providing some of the images, where noted (many of mine were lost when I upgraded to a new iPhone). These snippets will capture a week that was to prove, yet again, that Nancy Lancaster embraced the art of living well.

After a very early morning at the Chelsea Flower Show, we headed out to the countryside, pulling up to a breathtaking Cotswold-stone, 18th century Georgian manse that was Nancy’s home from 1933-1947 (and also provided a retreat for Winston Churchill during high bombing threats from the Germans during WWII).

As Charlotte observed “…part of Nancy’s genius was her ability to humanize rooms, so that they have a sense of welcoming grandeur.” On our chilly May day, a fire in the dramatic entry hall’s fireplace conveyed that message beautifully!

The next two days were a glorious blur of quintessential English house party details (in a home that does not often accept “paying guests”). From breakfast to tea, with cocktails at 7:00 in the White Drawing Room looking out on the Churchill Terrace (don’t you love the prepared-with-precision checkerboard canapés of caviar and smoked salmon?).

 And four-course dinners with paired wines, which on our last evening was served in the saloon, one of the prettiest rooms in which I’ve ever dined.

Photo Credit: Margot Shaw of Flower Magazine

 The combination of candlelight and late setting sun added a magical glow to the scene as we entered while the advancing twilight signaled the finale to a very festive evening.

Glorious landscapes were to be seen from every window at Ditchley.

But it was at Haseley (her third home) that Nancy Lancaster left an indelible garden mark, starting first with the photo-worthy and whimsical topiary garden, still kept immaculately manicured.

And then the laburnum tunnel (inspiration for Rosemary Verey many years later?) at the height of its glory in May!

While in a far off corner of the property, a water feature and spout added a witty touch to a stone wall.

But it was the pleasure of strolling around a very private home, with its so English garden details enchanting at every turn, that gifted me with memories I’ll forever cherish. The fact that it has honored Nancy’s design sensibilities makes it that much more relevant.

What a treat to share these images with you on a cold winter’s day! Hoping that you can now savor Margot’s opening words about the special nature of this trip. And did I mention the name we gave ourselves as we travelled those six days together? The Mossflowers.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

13 thoughts on “Inspiring Garden Design: Remembering A Glorious Private Garden Trip to England

  1. I am longing for Spring after reading this lovely post. Wishing for my own garden. Especially excited to see if my new love, “eremurus cleopatra” made it through the winter!

    1. Oh, do I love eremerus, but can’t seem to find a spot here where they are happy…
      I did some window-shopping last night and looked at the lanterns, yummy, but their scale isn’t right for my house/garden. B

  2. These beautiful photos are a tonic! The sight of all that luscious green and the wonderful roses are reassuring– this winter’s deep freeze will end!

    1. Yes, they are a tonic!! And as the snow is falling, we can be assured that spring (maybe early summer here) will bring the green. xB

  3. Kelmarsh Hall is also lovely. It’s the house she had before Ditchley. She always left her mark, and Kelmarsh today is remarkably as it was during her life there. Thanks for sharing this, Bettie. It looks like a marvelous and memorable trip.

    1. W actually visited Kelmarsh Hall also, but sadly I didn’t have any pictures left on my phone…I can remember that pink entry hall as though it were yesterday…xB

  4. My sister and I had a wonderful trip a lot like this one with Katherine Aster and Carolina Holmes. We did visit several of Nancy Lancaster’s homes but not Ditchley. How wonderful.

    1. What a coincidence! I was to have been on Katherine’s trip last May, but alas…and it appears as though we won’t be able to visit England this spring either. xB

  5. That sounds like an unforgettable trip Bettie! How extra wonderful it must have been to visit – it was wonderful enough just looking at the photos! 🙂 You’ve inspired me to learn more about Nancy Lancaster and her gorgeous style! Thanks for sharing it with us and bringing spring a little early!

    1. Barbara, you will adore reading up on Nancy Lancaster! After all, she’s the one who introduced the “English Country Life style” to the world (even though it had existed for years).
      It was indeed a trip of a lifetime…Happy Easter, Bettie

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