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Twitch upon the Thread

An English Country Garden

My Rose Garden (roses by David Austin)

A love of hats and gardens have long gone together.  Both are
quintessentially English art forms. At Upton Cressett where I have my
millinery studio, I often find that a walk around the garden, looking
at the delectable and subtle range of petal sizes and pinks in my rose
garden for example often give give me inspiration that I take into my
studio. The only snag is that this year, our garden is so very late.

My Rose Garden (roses from David Austin)

My Rose Garden (roses from David Austin)

Because the garden at Upton Cressett has hardly started this year,
much of my millinery inspiration this year has came from a wonderful
day at The Chelsea Flower Show. How leading garden designers were able
to produce gardens full of perfectly formed flowers at the Chelsea
Flower Show this year remains a mystery. I can only assume that the
designers rely on flowers grown in hot-houses.

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show

But what would we do without The Chelsea Flower Show, which is the
curtain raiser on the English summer season? The truth is that just as
Royal Ascot has become as mainstream as Wimbledon thanks to the
rolling BBC coverage, so the Chelsea Flower Show has become the Ascot
Week of flower festivals. The Queen has herself been a fixture at the
opening of Chelsea almost every year since 1952. The Chelsea Flower
Show’s popularity on television has long since meant the death of the
old-fashioned flower shows at Westminster halls like the Royal
Horticultural Society.

Back then there was no glitzy Monday night ‘private view’ when
hedgies, bankers and corporate CEOs entertain their to clients against
the backdrop of various show gardens. In the 1950s and 1960s, as Alan
Titchmarsh described the other day ‘city bankers and stockbrokers
would nip out in their pinstripes during the lunch hour to rub
shoulders with grand ladies from the shires…all of whom would return
with carrier-bags full of orchids, second-hand gardening books and
other horticultural treasures that would be carried home on the train
that evening to the stately acres in Essex and Kent, Surrey and
Sussex, Berks and Bucks. It was a kind of ritual’.

The Chelsea Flower Show’s correct title is ‘The Great Spring Show’:
and that is what it has become. Other than Royal Ascot, where the
lawns of the Royal Enclosure are a sea of extravagant hats, nothing
can quite match it. The week long show is a beautiful and fabulous
dramatic stage set whose star ‘live’ performers are not so much the
garden designers themselves – other than a few big celebrity names
like Luciano Giubbilei who won last year for the Laurent Perrier
Garden – but rather the BBC’s own garden TV presenters, especially
Alan Titchmarsh himself.

I made my own live ITV television debut as a ‘celebrity’ milliner on
the Alan Titchmarsh show. The invitation from the shows producers came
after I was profiled in YOU magazine in an interview by Charlotte
Methven who visited me in my studio in Shropshire. I was particularly
loved with the photographs taken of Thimble, my beloved pug who loves
nothing more than sitting for most of the day under my desk in my
studio, or lying by the wood-burning fire on my ‘Pug Rug’ that I was
given as a wedding present.

I was thinking of asking if I could walk onto the stage at the TV
studio in London’s South Bank with Thimble wearing a special bespoke
hat but I thought I should focus on getting my own TV debut out of the
way. ‘No animals’ is an old rule of TV showbiz and I am sure Thimble
would disgraced herself so it was probably just as well.

Although the show was live, there was a rehearsal in the morning so I
knew what questions were coming. I had been asked to make a special
hat for the show and chose a pink, foward-sitting pill-box hat
decorated with some English garden roses that I was hoping would
appeal to Alan.

Back Stage at the Alan Titchmarsh Show

Back Stage at the Alan Titchmarsh Show

The show went really well and I really enjoyed myself. I dont know
what the audience figures for the daytime TV show are – live daily at
3pm – but I know there were at least two viewers in North Norfolk as
my mother was watching along with my brother’s girlfriend. One
observation on my TV debut. When Alan greeted me from his stage seat,
I thought he was wearing a deaf-aid. It was when I stood a bit closer
as we walked around the set inspecting various of hats of mine ‘with a
story’ that I realised it was a sound headpiece enabling his producer
to send him instructions.

On set at The Alan Titchmarsh Show talking Hats

On set at The Alan Titchmarsh Show talking Hats

To see the clip from my TV debut on the Alan Titchmarsh Show, see here:




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