Friday, August 28, 2009

The Garden of Vreeland


We fell for our house the moment we saw it. We knew that with love and labor we could turn it into our very own little manor house in the city. The backyard, however, was unprepossessing. A key selling point of many houses in Los Angeles is a city view; we didn't have one. On the contrary, our yard was completely boxed in. We had sky, but no skyscrapers. To a lot of potential buyers, that would have been a dealbreaker. (In fact, it had been on the market for a while with no takers.) The lack of a vista didn't bother me, however; the ever-present sight of a rumbling, grumbling city from my windows has always set me slightly on edge. I thrill to its charms from the rim of a champagne flute at the Tower Bar, but at home I'm much happier pretending that I live in the middle of the countryside. 

Why else do you think I read books like this? (It's great, by the way.)

So, faced with an exceptional house and completely ordinary back garden, what were we to do? The Divine Italian was temporarily stumped. So I did what I always do in uncertain times: I turned to Diana Vreeland. 
(Photograph by Bernard Gotfryd)

She's one of the mentors I carry around with me in my head. (Some of the others -- Cecil Beaton, Vita Sackville-West, Beverley Nichols, Vanessa Bell -- you're familiar with if you read this blog.) Well, I started thinking about the fact that this incredible fashion superstar was born with a profile slightly reminiscent of an Easter Island statue, but instead of trying to work around it, she owned it. She wore minimal makeup, a severe hair style and a commanding gaze. Everything was designed to draw the eye to the face, not away from it. She celebrated her look to such an extent that she became an iconic example of elegance and style. 

And presto, there was my epiphany.

What we needed to do was transform our garden's weakest point into its greatest strength. So what if we had no view? What we needed to do was really have no view. We needed to completely erase the outside world from our entire backyard and turn it into our very own secret refuge. 

(Highly recommend, by the way.)

It would need to be a mini-garden of enchantment, surrounded by huge hedges to guarantee absolute privacy, filled with climbing vines, flowers, follies and more. It would need to incorporate our "cocktail" pool (so-called because you're never more than a stroke away from one), our future summer house, and have enough green grass left over for games of badminton or croquet. It would need to be part Frances Hodgson Burnett, part Sissinghurst and part Lewis Carroll.  

It would take time. 
It would take money. 
We would do it in phases. 
  
The trees arrived yesterday.

23 comments:

pve design said...

Those lucky trees.
Vreeland is smiling down upon you, I am certain.
pve

Gigi said...

Brilliant. Vreeland is the perfect inspiration, and any garden that's a blend of Burnett, Carroll, and the garden at Sissinghurst sounds like heaven to me. Looking forward to seeing what happens as you continue with it!

I just returned from a few weeks in England and just blogged about my first visit to Charleston. What a dream to finally get to roam those grounds.

Laura [What I Like] said...

What a fabulous analogy...I always adore it when people really own their "flaws", and Ms. Vreeland most certainly did it best. Now if only the current generation could get on board with it...I do long for some Romanesque noses on women sometimes. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the effects of your secret garden-esque transformation!

Jane said...

Yes! A secret garden is much better than high garden with view. No overlooking buildings is really such an advantage. Don't plant those trees too close together, remember they will grow and spread xox good luck with the magic garden.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I can't wait to see the finished product :-) Homes always take time!

pavlova said...

I have long been a fan of Diana Vreeland! Your trees are fantastic...awaiting the finished "secret garden"....

Kate said...

Do tell: What is the name of said trees?

Daily Classic said...

Genius! You are doing a great job passing on your inspiration! thanks!

Maggie's garden said...

Looking forward to photos of the finished secret garden. You have a lovely home and I do so enjoy your Bloomsbury life.
Cheers!

Tod Abrams said...

Ah, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN! Congrats on the new tress - can't wait to pull my shuttlecock from their lofty limbs.

Angie Muresan said...

Oh, a secret garden in which to enjoy the beauty of nature and the company of one's thoughts. Sounds so divine...

Have an enchanting weekend!
Angie

Prairie Girl Studio said...

nod nod nod ... i truly had a case of the nods as i read your posting ... agreeing with every word and envisioning every thought ... i believe you are about to embark on a most sensational secret garden ... all your own ... it will take time, but it will unfold as it should and grow on you more than you can imagine ...
two green thumbs up!
prairiegirl

Trainer Steve said...

Great blog, Lisa!

Jen West Design said...

Love it. As DV once said...

"The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it."

two hippos said...

What a wonderful and inspiring way to design a garden!

sinnlighet said...

Oh my…..so nice nice nice blog & lovely pic's!

Agneta from Sweden

deanna said...

I've never met anybody else who's read the Nan Fairbrother book! I loved it--and I love the trees.

Denise said...

Incredibly smart to start with privacy screen planting. The best gardens on the Garden Conservancy tour this spring had learned this simple fact as well. Best of luck with your "hortus conclusus." Can't wait to go pottery shopping for plants with your blog!

A Super Dilettante said...

Must order "The Walled Garden". I need something to inspire me to go out and tidy up the moor at the back garden. Beverley Nichols said that he saw his garden as a piece of musical composition. I wonder what he had to say about my garden if he saw it. I'd like to think of it as "JANACEK: Along an Overgrown Path". So far, it never stops raining. The garden is wet and the weeds are everywhere. Oh well, the hope of going out into the garden with my straw hat to do some gardening is diminishing rapidly. I have some plants inside my flat. I talk to them and play classical music. Scarlatti and Bach are two of their most favourite composers. Your plants look so healthy.

Tara Dillard said...

A landscape can be put in in a day. A garden takes a lifetime.

Can't wait to see how your interior and landscape flow into a Vanishing Threshold. It's already begun.

How lucky your house was, to attract you. And we get to watch the relationship grow. Lucky us.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

Heather Taylor said...

this is mega-uber-inspirational! love the vreeland!

Denise WyllieOHagan said...

We are artists who paint gardens and make films. We are looking for lovely work find us on the web if you want to work with us

Sildenafil said...

If I had a big garden in my house, I would like so much to do something like this with it! it would look beautiful and it would be the favorite place to be on my whole house

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