For the final part of this mini series about the plant styling project at Newton House, I wanted to share some photographs of the finished design, and also share some details about the parallel installation I created in the conservatory to tie in with the 2018 theme set by the National Trust; the power of women. The photograph below shows the view from the seat at the back of the room.
I love the sculptural shadows that bounce onto the wall in the photo above; which were created by the palm and cocos nucifera – it added a dynamism and energy to the space that contributed to the feeling of being somewhere tropical. I chose to use terracotta potting primarily for cost reasons, but also aestheically I liked how they tied in with the colouration of the beautiful Victorian tiled floor. The photograph below shows the warmth the terracotta hues add to the room to create an inviting colour palette. Playing on the idea of symmetry which was extremely prevalent in the formal gardens of the time, I wanted to reference this by using the space under the windows to create a symmetrical display of alocasia amazonica and sanseveria, centred by a zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘raven’. From the seating bench, these plants would all be in the viewers eye line. By then looking out of the windows and taking in the external view, the symmetry of the formal gardens are reflected back into the interior space, creating an illusion of reciprocity; a dance between internal and external, traditional landscape design and exotic interior planting.
Small details which I think worked particularly well were using the base of other plants as a tier for adding more foliage – above is a golden pothos and philodendron brasil nestled amongst the base of the dracaena marginata.
Two stages: before and mid process
The power of women project
This year, the National Trust shines a light on women’s histories to celebrate the anniversary of female suffrage in 2018.
A number of National Trust places have direct links to women and men who were involved in the suffrage movement, both for and against. We continue to see the footprints of this intensely personal political argument in the places and collections cared for by the National Trust across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A century after the 1918 Representation of the People Act, the National Trust is joining the many other museums, cultural organisations, media and Parliament to tell these stories and to celebrate this important moment in our nation’s history.
Excerpt from National Trust Internal Press Release
In addition to bringing this Victorian conservatory back to life with new plantings, I invited the visitors of Newton House to meet ‘the guests’. Victorian women of substance who all made an impact in their chosen professions, often against the odds in the patriarchal society of the times. All were innovators and role models in their fields, and their contributions to the worlds of science and culture still reverberate today. I installed portraits of these women in postcard form within the plants, for their stories to be discovered.
The guests of the conservatory:
Ada Lovelace 1815- 1852: The daughter of Lord Byron, Ada was a mathematician and writer and is now considered as the first computer programmer. Working with Charles Babbage on his ‘analytical engine’, the genesis of the computer, she was the first to notice the potential of the ‘computer’ beyond calculation. Ada is credited with writing the first algorithm.
Harriet Martineau 1802 – 1876: was a social theorist and is considered to be the first female sociologist. Harriet wrote from a distinctly feminine perspective and unusually for a woman of the period managed to earn enough from her writings to support herself. A political activist who campaigned for women’s education, her books steadily outsold the books of Charles Dickens.
Elizabeth Eastlake 1809 – 1893: was an author, historian and critic, and a major figure in the Victorian art world. She was an early writer and thinker about photography demonstrating a thorough understanding of the new art form. She was also the first woman to write regularly for the London Quarterly Review. Elizabeth is now considered to have been a scholarly and perceptive critic and a pioneer of female journalism.
Clementina Hawarden 1822 – 1865: was an important figure in C19th photography, building an important body of work largely from photographing her adolescent daughters. A close friend of Lewis Carroll many of her photographs contain large mirrors that the girls peer into. Today her portraits are considered to hold a silent critique of the role of women in Victorian society, marking her out as an early feminist.
Gertrude Jekyll 1843 – 1932: was a prominent garden designer and artist. As a horticulturist, she created over 400 gardens around the world and wrote over 1000 gardening articles. Largely associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, Gertrude was a keen advocate of colour theory in garden design and took inspiration from the paintings of JMW Turner.
Marianne North 1830 – 1890: was a prolific and adventurous biologist and botanical artist who travelled the world in search of her subject matter. Her aim was to paint the flora of distant lands and she did so with almost scientific accuracy. Her intrepid adventures resulted in a huge variety of botanical paintings many of which are still on exhibition in a purpose-built gallery at Kew Gardens.
Elizabeth (Johnstone) Hall 1840s: Elizabeth was one of the famous Newhaven fishwives who carried the fish that their men had caught up to Edinburgh in baskets to be sold. Famed for their beauty and their banter, Elizabeth was captured in the photographs of Scottish pioneer photographers, Hill and Adamson. German philosopher Walter Benjamin on seeing her image admitted that he was compelled to know her name.
Amy Levy 1861 – 1889: was an essayist, poet and novelist and the first Jewish woman to be a student at Cambridge University. An early feminist, Amy wrote about the struggles of life as a woman in Victorian England and her poem Xantippe was written in the voice of Socrates’ wife. When she died tragically early, Oscar Wilde wrote an obituary in which he praised her poetic gifts.
Agnes Marshall 1855 – 1905: was a culinary pioneer and cookery writer sometimes credited with the invention of the ice-cream cone. Known as the Queen of Ices, in 1885 Agnes gained a patent for an ice-cream machine that could freeze a pint of ice-cream in 5 minutes. As well as writing 4 popular cook books she also established a cookery school in London and published a magazine called The Table.
Beatrice (last name unknown) Late summer-time 1857, mid-week late in the afternoon. Beatrice sits in the conservatory and stares out to the garden, smiling she continues with her writings. Oh, if you were only here now my darling to share this beautiful summer day and with the garden so full of flowers. The trees are full with leaves and everything is so bright and green.
(Beatrice is a fictional ingénue invented by west-Wales artist Sarah Tierney. She is a time traveller and is present at many important historical events. As such Beatrice is an every-woman for Victorian times.)
I hope you enjoyed following along with my plant styling project, there will be some more photos and videos from the work saved in my Instagram Stories highlights under ‘website II’.
Thanks for reading,