Garden Inspiration (Full of Bees)

When your country has been turned upside down, nobody knows what the future holds, there is enough political infighting on all sides to last several lifetimes, and the summer refuses to arrive, what is a girl to do?

Visit a garden and wallow in the simple beauty of a gloriously planted space of course.

The Cotswolds are absolutely laden with lovely gardens and houses to visit, and I plan to visit each and every one; Asthall Manor, near Burford, seemed a great place to start. There has been a house on that site since 1272 but the core of the house you see today was built in 1620. The reason it is currently open to visitors is the stone sculpture exhibition , “on form 16“, which is organised, curated and hosted by the manor’s current owner, Rosie Pearson. I over-heard one of the gardeners explaining that there are 3 types of visitors to Asthall: those who want to see the garden and admire the house; those who are interested mainly in the sculpture, which is dotted around the extensive grounds, the neighbouring church and churchyard plus a couple of the rooms inside, and then you have people who are interested in the Mitford family, who lived in the manor between 1919 and 1926.

Asthall Manor on form 16

For me, it is always the garden, and this one is utterly gorgeous. Designed in 1998 by Julian and Isabel Bannerman (who also designed the gardens at Highgrove) it is a Grade II listed Historic Garden, and is a wonderful mix of scented, pastel borders, a sloping parterre, wild meadows, woodland and water (including a hidden lake and a glorious natural swimming pond).

swimming pond at Asthall Manor

sempervivum at Asthall

Is it just me or does it seem to be a particularly good year for roses? The roses at Asthall were quite something to behold, draped all over the ancient walls and house, gently scenting the air. I spied a number of gorgeous Astrantia and Achillea which I have noted and will need to try to source for my new garden which will be planted next spring. And the entire 6 acres were a pollinators dream. The place was a-buzz, despite the unseasonal chill in the air.

Astrantia Asthall Manor

roses at Asthall Manor

My photos don’t do it justice ~ if you can, go and visit. There is a nice little pop-up cafe in the walled garden and you get a lovely catalogue for the entry price of £10.

on form 16 catalogue

In the meantime I am having to deal with the possibility that we have Box blight at Bee HQ. A truly horrendous thought. I have also just heard on the weather forecast that there may be a ground frost tonight in parts of the UK. In July.

The world seems to have tilted on its axis. Hold tight and buckle up folks.

Annie Bee x

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Ai Weiwei @ The Royal Academy

I was very privileged to go to a private viewing of the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the RA in London a few days ago. I have never been to see a major exhibition without another hundred or so other people crammed into the space trying to get a good look at the art, so it was amazing to be able to wander about with only a handful of others and take my time learning about this extraordinary man and his art.

I make no claim to being knowledgeable about art, so won’t attempt to write down my thoughts on the exhibition. The Royal Academy say this though

With typical boldness, the chosen works explore a multitude of challenging themes, drawing on his own experience to comment on creative freedom, censorship and human rights, as well as examining contemporary Chinese art and society.

I took some snaps on my iphone to whet your appetite and I highly recommend a visit. The Royal Academy itself is a thing of great beauty and whenever I visit places like that in London, I am reminded how extremely lucky I am to live where I do, with such history and architecture and culture available to me.

I was walking down Piccadilly once in my early 30s, going to a business meeting and I bumped into my parents ~ it was a surprise to the 3 of us and I was reminded of it on Saturday. A lovely memory and a lovely evening out with Mr Bee.

Ai Weiwei entrance to the exhibition

Ai Weiwei stools

Ai Weiwei porcelain crabs

Ai Weiwei Coca Cola vaseAi Weiwei vases

Ai Weiwei in prison

Ai Weiwei chandelier

The most powerful piece, in my view, is his memorial to the 5000 children who died in the Sichuan earthquake. I could not do it justice with my little camera, but I urge you to go and see it.

This description from the Royal Academy website explains it beautifully, but you need to see it to understand its power:

The largest gallery at the RA will houseStraight, Ai Weiwei’s poignant response to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. Poorly built schools in the Sichuan province – held up by steel rods which twisted and mangled in the quake – were devastated, leaving thousands of students dead. These rods (which Ai had labourers straighten by hand) make up the 90-ton floor-based sculpture, that is laid out in broken undulations recalling fault lines.

A couple of the little signs in the Royal Academy itself also took my eye:

No Smoking sign @ RASign @ RAsign @ RA

Info on the exhibition can be found here.

Annie Bee x

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The Beauty of Paper


I stayed in a hotel in Oxford a year or so ago and most of the art on the walls was paper related, but not in ways you would first imagine. My favourite piece was an exquisite dress made from a vintage map. Sadly I lost the photo I took when swapping to a new mobile phone (showing my age – that wouldn’t happen to a young person!) but here are some other photos which I find very inspiring and beautiful.

two paper dresses

paper dress art

paper dress art

Paper art can be traced back to Japan where it originated over a thousand years ago. Although the vast majority of art is ON paper, if you look for it you can find plenty of examples of  book carving, origami and paper sculpture.

Book sculpture

Book sculpture

paper bee

Paper airplanes were an endlessly fascinating homemade toy for my brother and I as pre-schoolers. We made so many he had a box outside his bedroom where he tried to sell them for 5c each. (I was not buying!). Kids now probably have an ipad to play with, but this was 1960s New Zealand. The only thing I have made recently is this book note-holder which lives by my front door. The notes, which I leave out strategically as and when I need to, say things like,

 ~ Do NOT forget your mobile

~ Out running. Back in an hour

~ I am teaching: please empty the dishwasher

Annie Bee's book art

There are more photos on my pinterest page.

Which is your favourite? Do you make things using paper?

Have a super weekend

Annie Bee x

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