A lot can happen in a week…

Since I last blogged, we have handed over the keys to our Kensington flat; settled into our new, teeny-tiny, but gorgeous, Chelsea flat; bought 10% of a four acre garden; been up to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, visiting four gardens associated with Shakespeare’s family; and even snuck into a world-class garden I’d not yet seen, on the road trip to Warwickshire. Back in London, we’ve been to see Madam Butterfly at the Royal Opera House and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, just a stone’s throw from our new place. It’s been a pretty busy, pretty fun and pretty successful week all round.

The view I now wake up to each morning in central London: I feel one hundred fold more relaxed in this big city now I see trees from each and every window; it makes such an enormous difference to me

The stand out for me though, was the casual – or not so casual – buying of ‘10% of a four acre garden’. I’m not trying to test your maths skills, it’s just that the other 90% won’t follow until June. But it will also follow with a house in tow and I’m over-the-moon excited.

Cowslips (Primula veris) are a true joy of English springs: in the orchard at Anne Hathaway’s house (also top picture), where Shakespeare met his wife

We’ve been attempting to buy a house for 18 months and have offered on six places in total. We even saw our new four acre garden in early January and it’s taken this long to secure it. I definitely can’t recommend the English house-buying system.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace: I studied just down the road at the University of Warwick for three years but had never been into Shakespeare’s garden until now

But secure it we have and now I have the very exciting task of designing both house and garden. We sold most of our furniture in Sydney, thinking we’d have a very small place in London, but as we’ve thought through how we want to live here, we’ve ended up going for London shoebox and country space. Two very different properties but two properties with very green, green views, which I have realised is key to a happy, calming life for me. The end result is that we now have all the interiors as well as the exteriors to play with in Oxfordshire. I’m going to have to get my budgeting hat on, but what an enormously fun proposition!

Shakespeare’s New Place: a newly created garden on the site where Shakespeare lived for most of his life

With five false starts, I’ve not dared to start planning the new garden as yet, but having exchanged contracts yesterday afternoon, my head is racing in all sorts of directions. It was love at first sight for me and the garden, even on a very cold, frosty, January morning. It’s a very simple space, mostly grass and mature trees, but the light, the atmosphere, the blank canvas upon which we can make our own, unique place, just filled my heart with joy.

Looking out from the house into my soon-to-be garden, on a cold, frosty, January day…how my heart raced

We have a little stream, a woodland, beautiful stone walls, a pond and a little orchard. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. I’m somewhat intimidated by the thought of four whole acres – was I ever really on top of my ten by ten metre Sydney garden? – but my excitement, the scale of potential and the fact that a ride-on-mower comes with the property (along with a very excited husband-rider) means that any worries seem to fade into insignificance.

Little pockets of joy in Anne Hathaway’s garden, with moss-covered logs; twinkling, dappled shade; and a pop of daffodil colour – my eyes are now attuned to the detail of the English countryside

Rousham was the world-class garden we visited on the way to Stratford this weekend. Of the top eight gardens you named as having a strong sense of place in my recent Masters’ survey, I had previously visited seven. Rousham was the eighth, and of all the regions in the world, how fortunate that it happened to be just down the road (purely in the interest of academic pursuit, you realise).

A traditional Tudor knot garden recreated at Shakespeare’s New Place

I’d heard about it from others: in books, magazines and from friends. But in my mind it was quite a masculine garden, full of hedges and engineering. I’ve nothing against these things, but my preference is for a bit of prettiness at least in part, so it had never quite got to the top of my list.

Rousham House and Garden…little did I know what effect this place would have on me

It turned out I couldn’t be more wrong. Those 824 of you who kindly filled in my survey were absolutely right about its sense of place. I’ll write Rousham up as a separate post, but the timing of a visit to an atmospheric country property, full of unbelievably inspiring pockets of loveliness everywhere you turned, could not have been more rewarding for me.

I love the old, lumpy-bumpy yew hedge at Shakespeare’s New Place

I do hope you’ll join me on a journey of discovery and learning, as Paul and I develop our little slice of the English countryside. And surely, there is more need than ever, for plenty of garden visiting to ensure those creative juices are fully flowing.

I’m not sure I could be more excited right now.

Cherry trees and tulips were definitely all the thing in Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend: here at Hall’s Croft, where Shakespeare’s daughter once lived

32 thoughts on “A lot can happen in a week…

  1. Suzanne says:

    Oh Janna, how exciting. I am truely delighted for you and Paul but OMG four acres. We struggle at times with 1.25 but of course your environment makes any comparisons irrelevant. Congratulations…absolutely fabulous. Now I need to go back and read this post properly! 🙂

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you for being so excited for me! My memories of English gardening are that you break a bit off your mother’s plant, stick it in the boot of the car for a few days, poke it into the ground when you remember and the next time you look, you have a huge mound of flowers. I do hope this is reality!

  2. Kim Woods Rabbidge says:

    How exciting Janna!
    Something makes me think you may not have too much time for garden visiting though – your own may beckon you from dawn till dusk, and through the seasons. Bliss.
    Looking forward to following your journey.

  3. Laurel says:

    A TRULY exciting piece of news , and I am SO envious. !!!
    We have Been trying to convince ourselves for over a year now that , against all known sensible conditions, it really would be okay to move from our 800 sq m suburbia in Brisbane to a 2-5 acre allotment on beautiful Tamborine Mountain , with it’s 40metres deep red topsoil, gorgeous turn of true seasons, and bucket loads of rain every year….bEFORE we get too old to enjoy developing and revelling in a new ( or even old) garden!!
    Our hearts can justify it at every turn , but as we are basically out 7 days per week , and work an hour and a half away, we just can’t quite bite the bullet and convince our heads that it’s not the dumbest thing we have ever thought of , as we grow into our 60’s and likely will need, if nothing else, increasing medical care .

    So for the moment, it’s vicarious experiences for us , as we continue to battle clay , and mealy bugs, and water bills, and lack of space to put in anything that needs full sun!
    I will follow your adventures with the greatest of green – tinged interest .

    • jannaschreier says:

      You are so kind to show your excitement! I’m not sure if it makes you feel better, worse, or no different at all, but we dreamed of a country garden for at least six years before actually making it happen. When we lived in Canberra we looked at properties in Gundaroo and Crookwell, in Sydney we eyed up the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands, but we never quite managed to figure out how we could make it work, however much we wanted it to. The reality is that it’s only really possible now because we are lucky enough to have a bed in London for when we can’t get back home, but I realise how fortunate we are to have that.
      Hopefully when the time is right, you will make it work for you too; many people only start a garden when they retire, so don’t let age put you off too much. I absolutely adore Tamborine Mountain so I completely understand the pull of the place. Thinking back, even a year ago I was still quite ‘scared’ of the idea of having over an acre, whereas now, it feels so entirely the natural thing to do. I do hope you arrive at that point too, where excitement completely overtakes nervousness. Life is too short for commuting three hours seven days a week but it’s also too short for not following your heart sometimes. Do let me know if you decide to bite the bullet!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you, Kate! I do feel that I have to be really careful not to make the garden worse by gardening it! It is lovely right now and I think it needs a light touch in many places.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you, Pat. I can’t believe I haven’t been to Rousham before, now I have been there. We won’t be living too far away so I can imagine I may have many return visits throughout the seasons.

    • jannaschreier says:

      You are so kind, Marian! I’m going to have to be patient as we may need/want to do a little bit of building work on the house, so that will have to happen before builders trample newly planted beds! There is a bit of maintenance to do but I also need to figure out if we ‘need’ a lovely garden room like yours, or similar. So much to think about!

  4. Steven Wells says:

    Oh Janna … how absolutely wonderful. I am so happy to hear that your garden (and house) dreams have finally eventuated. Oh the joy of having land and the excitement of all the opportunities! I’m thinking that you’re just itching for June to arrive!! Congratulations. So, when is your first working bee in the garden planned for?!!! 🙂

    • jannaschreier says:

      Do you know, one of the first things I thought about was that I will eventually get to plan out Steven’s corner! Do you have a preference for which one it is?! I think the working bee is an extremely good idea, by the way, which weekend are you over in this direction?!

      • Steven Wells says:

        Ahhh Steven’s corner! Well I have no preferences and would rather you decide on that seeing that it is your garden. No expectations from me, just excitement that you now have a location to enjoy playing with! Oh, and let me just check my diary about the working bee options … 🙂

    • jannaschreier says:

      Yes, it does feel more manageable because I can slowly turn lawn into plantings – it doesn’t all need working on day one. Let’s hope for not too many hidden horrors!

  5. Adriana Fraser says:

    How exciting, wonderful, unexpected and yes I too am a little envious – I still miss the 2 acre garden I carved out of a felled pine forest on an 11 acre property. Yours at least looks civilised! It has the bones in place and hopefully great soil. We are struggling now with exactly the same thoughts as Laurel – do we buy a few acres when we sell this 1 acre garden or do we take the sensible road and stick to the manageable acre? I hope we will be seeing posts on your garden as it develops and your house renovations. At first I thought you had bought a garden without the house! We are staying in Oxfordshire in early – mid July for a week – mYbe we could catch up then. This is so very exciting for you and Paul, Janna!!!!!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you, Adriana. It is so exciting. It does look much easier than a felled pine forest sounds, although as Diana points out, you don’t really know until you get there. I did see deer in the woodland so that will be one thing I need to get my head around.
      What a dilemma for you! But I guess you’ll look at a full range of properties and you’ll know when the right one comes up. There are always so many factors you are trying to balance and tick off and I think once the right house comes along many of them go out of the window and you just work with whatever comes with it. Either way, you will create yet another gorgeous oasis!
      And July sounds wonderful. That’s also super exciting!

  6. Louise says:

    Congratulations to you both 🍾🥂! I can hear your excitement in your blog 😃 How lucky you are to be able to have this dream come true. I agree, life is short and can change so suddenly…..don’t waste a second. I am so looking forward to viewing and reading about the garden (and house) evolving. So many ideas I’m sure whirling around in your head. Good luck with it all. I also must have similar sorts of living spaces with greenery visible from windows. Oh……and what an amazingly wonderful week you just had full of diverse rich experiences!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you, Louise, you understand my passion! I really need to focus on my dissertation first, garden (and house) second, but I want to do it all tomorrow. I wasn’t blessed with patience! It’s lovely to be busy with so many great projects though and also really taking advantage of all that London has to offer culturally. So much to fit in to these short lives of ours!

    • jannaschreier says:

      I wake up so happy every day! From another window I can even see the trees in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, where a certain, fairly well-known, flower show takes place. Roll on May!

  7. germac4 says:

    Wonderful news Janna, and the perfect compromise to have something small in the city. Like you, I could cope with a city if I could look out on greenery, and it will be snug and warm in winter when you are not needed in your lovely garden/estate! I’m thrilled for you, and look forward to many posts on your garden and all other garden visits.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you so much, Gerrie! It does seem silly that greenery can make so much difference, but for me, there is no question it does. We’re also south (i.e. warm!) facing, so as well as being very light, the flat is a beautiful temperature even now, with no heating on (although we have plenty of large windows to open and aircon if we need it – something that is very rare here). I just feel so lucky to have found it – I think it’s the best flat in London! Thank you for sharing my excitement – you are very sweet!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks, Jessica. When we were weighing up this house and one other, flatness was a major deciding point. The other garden was steeper than yours and I kept hearing your voice in the back of my head!

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