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Norah Lindsay at Kelmarsh

Last weekend I was up at Kelmarsh in Northamptonshire for their second Home & Garden book day. It was a chance to meet some lovely people and to see for the first time, the glorious gardens which were in part created by one of my favourite 'gardening women', Norah Lindsay. Unfortunately I was so carried away by the rose garden that I pressed video instead of picture on my camera for most of my shots but one managed to get through.

You might not think so from this picture (I love the camel-like humps of topiary) but Lindsay did not go in for a 'tidy' style of gardening and was happy to let seedlings grow much to the disapproval of her sister who preferred gardens that were 'a blaze of colour, very bright and rather formal' as was the fashion in Edwardian times. She was paid a retainer by her clients and later lived from grand house to grand house surviving on their hospitality.

One such client was Nancy Tree who later became Nancy Lancaster, the influential interior designer from Colefax & Fowler. I can see why she loved Kelmarsh so. The house and garden nestles in rolling landscape having been perfectly placed by its 18c designer, James Gibbs.

Lancaster's final garden at Haseley Court nr Oxford was another design masterpiece which I have never forgotten visiting shortly before her death in 1994 aged 97. 'Gardening,' she used to say, 'is best done on your stomach, weeding with your teeth.' Despite always living the life of a grand lady, Nancy Lancaster remained a hands-on gardener to the end.

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