Reading and Relaxing

It is a bit of a Christmas tradition here at the farmhouse that we give each other books to read over the holidays. This week I have enjoyed lazing around reading about gardens in the Australian countryside and the latest biography on the most famous fashion icon of last century.

I have the movie starring Audrey Tatou and read many books on Chanel before but the new biography, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life

by former British Voguette Justine Picardie, leads your further inside her life than any other that has come before. You do get the sense that Picardie really immersed herself in the research for the book, even visiting the convent in a remote French village where Chanel grew up and seeking out her closest confidentes. She even wrote some of the book in Chanel’s private quarters on the Rue Cambon. Have a look at Justine Picardie talk about researching the book here and falling under the spell of the legend here.

My daughter usually gives me the latest inspirational garden book. This year I pointed her in the direction of landscape designer Myles Baldwin’s Rural Australian Gardens, a journal of this accomplished gardener’s travels from the tropics to the alpine regions of Australia to find the best and most unusual gardens.

It is his enthusiastic, chatty and candid commentary on other designers’ gardens which I find quite refreshing. He visits minimalist David Katon’s Southern Highlands garden but one suspects it’s manicured perfection is not his bag.

The beauty of interior designer Stuart Rattle’s decorative garden in Musk, one of my own favourites, obviously took him by surprise. You really see how non-professional gardeners like Stuart Rattle and his partner become bewitched by their gardens and how they become a real labour of love. (No doubt it helps having a friend like internationally celebrated garden designer, Paul Bangay up the road.)

Baldwin presents gardens owned by real country Australians who are passionate gardeners, exactly as they are – rambling, quirky and honest. I like the fact that some of the gardens he chose are not too perfect as many of them them survive in pretty harsh landscapes.