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The Queen of Simple - Guest post with Jane Cumberbatch

Sophie Hitchens Friday 03rd July 2020  

Stylist, author and owner of the beautiful Palace Road, Jane Cumberbatch has pioneered a genuine and down-to-earth approach to many aspects of interior design, cooking and home styling. Named ‘Queen of Simple’ Jane has sold over 450,000 books full of ideas on ways to make the most from the pure, uncomplicated and beautiful pleasures in our homes. 

With a background boasting work with Habitat, Marks and Spencer, Laura Ashley and publications including House & Garden and Elle Decoration, Jane has been a strong influence in the world of home styling. In her own world, one of her favourite pastimes is spending time in her beautiful garden filled with vegetables, herbs and scented roses. At a time when many of us have been spending longer in our own backyards, we caught up with Jane for ways to inspire us in our own gardening endeavours. 

Your ethos of Pure Style is to make the most of what is around you and finding beauty in everyday simplicity. How have you seen this manifest through garden life in lockdown?

When lockdown began my feelings of panic and anxiety were calmed when I focused on practicalities, what needed to be done in the garden, together with the knowledge that I was lucky to be able to go outside freely, as the first two weeks were spent in self isolation. It was soothing to simply watch the clumps of narcissi shoot up and flower under the budding apple tree and to experience heightened birdsong against the silence which came with the grounding of planes and little traffic. There is a sense of nature carrying on despite everything and why the garden and its beautiful and simple pleasures have always been a touchstone for me whenever there have been upheavals in my life. 

What has more time in your own outdoor space in the past few months meant for your garden?

The garden has never been quite so nurtured and appreciated!  Luckily I had ordered a load of manure just before lockdown and had also had the gravel paths renewed… so the framework was in good shape. Normally I’d be rushing around getting the house ready for shoots – doing a big spring clean - and wouldn’t have been able to  plan for the herbs and vegetables which I could now plant knowing that we were in for the long haul and not going anywhere soon.  On Easter Monday I rushed off to the only hardware shop open for miles, and managed to buy seed compost,  and a fistful of seedpackets along of course with hand sanitiser.  There’s been so much more time for doing garden tasks like sweeping down the paths, taking out the worst of the weeds… although I am quite a weed lover, and tidying up the roses as they start to straggle.

We have been so lucky with a more than an average amount of sun this spring. What has this meant for your beautiful garden?

It’s almost as if the beautiful weather has been sent to defy Covid 19…. I don’t think things in the garden would have been quite so magical and ethereal with out the seemingly endless days of warmth and sunshine. The absence of storms, downpours, and frost have meant that the tulips stayed up right, the apple blossom was prolific, staying on the tree for longer and the roses have remained blousy and perfectly formed. It’s as if the sense of suspended animation that we’ve all been in for so long has spread in the most delightful way to nature as well. 

Having spent more time in the garden than usual this spring what are you looking forward to seeing as the fruits of your labour over the coming months?

I think the garden will continue to look more coherent and cared for. My constant presence will I hope put snail and slug destruction down to a minimal threat level , since I won’t be going away and missing potential disaster, such as the plague of caterpillars that destroyed the box hedging over a couple of days two years ago, whilst I was on the aprerol spritz in Italy .. A wistful thought by the way, but actually I love being here just as much!

Edibles feature heavily in your own garden. Which herbs and vegetables will be making their way from garden to kitchen for you this year?

Rosemary, marjoram, bay, oregano and mint are my constant  garden staples… for the way they look – the beautiful yellow of golden marjoram, the bright spearmint green of mint -  and also supply me with taste and flavour throughout the year.  I’m now watching over the newly planted, lettuces, radishes, basil and rocket, together with a kitchen garden of runner beans trailing up the hazel stick wigwam in  the four corners of the herb and flower plot. I’m looking forward to making bowls of garlicky alioli to eat with a summer supper of grilled fish, garden beans and salad leaves! … like being away on holiday without having to go anywhere at all! 

With many people discovering, rediscovering or developing their garden skills this year, what tips can you share about making the most of a growing garden passion?

I think the most important thing is to dive in and have a go and not worry about making mistakes because that’s the way you learn. Gardening books can be really useful… I recommend Brilliant and Wild: A garden from scratch in a year by Lucy Bellamy and The Apprehensive Gardener: Managing garden plants by Griselda Kerr – both by Pimpernel Press. 

Your book ‘Pure Style Home & Garden’ offers lots of practical and stylish ideas for furnishing and living in your outdoor spaces. What easy ideas can people use to live simply in their own garden spaces?

I think that outdoor living should be practical, relaxed and portable: folding chairs, tables, rugs and throws that can be taken inside with the threat of rain are very useful.  The other thing is not to be too precious … I love natural textures, anything weathered and beaten up, like old zinc baths for containers, a vintage deckchair and garden seating or a junk table washed own with a pale green water based paint for example. Give the nightime garden more atmosphere with jars of tealights and pots of white nicotiana.  These elegant annuals impart the most delicious scent as dusk falls. 

What is your parting style tip for a pure and elegant garden?

A balance between order and the sprawling beauty of nature is my idea of the perfect garden!

Thank you to Jane x

Follow Jane on Instagram: @janecumberbatch

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