Monday, September 14, 2009

A Bloomsbury Bouquet - Inspired by Vanessa Bell

Interior with Table by Vanessa Bell

January 16, 2012 How time flies.... When I began blogging in 2009, the Sussex homes of the Bloomsbury Group were high on the list of places I yearned to visit. Monk's House and Charleston Farmhouse did not disappoint when at last I toured the buildings and the gardens.

 You can link to features from my first visit in 2010 on Alice's Garden Travel Buzz.
In 2011 I returned once again to Sussex! There's so much to see, and such an atmosphere to soak up that I wish it were possible to visit yearly. The original blog appears below...

Spring by Vanessa Bell

Roses and Tile by Vanessa Bell

Virginia and Vanessa Stephens

Whether designing our gardens, or creating art in other media, 
inspiration can arrive unexpectedly. 
I've been savoring the new novel by Susan Sellers, Vanessa & Virginia, a fictional rendering of the relationship between the brilliant writer, Virginia Woolf, and her sister, Vanessa Bell.

One day I'm hoping to visit Lewes in East Sussex, where the Stephens sisters lived with their husbands: Virginia and Leonard Woolf at Monk's House (now a National Trust property), and Vanessa and Clive Bell at their country place, Charleston House
I must be satisfied for now with the lush imagery of Seller's prose, which has me enthralled.
 My mind's eye... awash with floral bouquets in color harmonies I imagine Vanessa might have painted. 

Link to Charleston - An Artists Home and Garden


  1. Alice, this is lovely! What a great idea to pick a painting and compose a garden picture inspired by that painting. Vanessa and Virginia and all their Bloomsbury cohorts would definitely concur. I've gotta get that book.

  2. If you're hoping to go on a Virginia and Vanessa pilgrimage, check out the fabric designs of Vanessa's granddaughter, Cressida, who produces the most gorgeous Bloomsbury-style prints on anything from scarves and lampshades to cards and neckties at her studio in Hackney, east London. You can see them (and buy) at She's lovely too!

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  4. what fun!!! especially love the photo of the sisters!!

  5. A romantic display of Zinnias ... in art. ~bangchik

  6. That book must be fascinating. I love reading about the Bloomsbury circle. Your bouquet is a lovely recreation of the painting.

  7. Thank you for this creative and erudite tribute to the sisters!

  8. Alice, I have a confession. I have tagged you in on of those MeMe things. I think you recently participated in one yourself but I still shamelessly inserted you into my list of favored bloggers. To me, it was an opportunity to express how I am so impressed by your blog and your contributions. So sue me. ;-) It isn't every day one gets a chance to heap praise on others, so I figured I'd give you a shout out. Your stunning and richly detailed prize awaits you there. Ask for Groucho.

  9. Love this post! Your zinnia bouquet is stunning ... the colors, abundance... just begging to be painted. The blue vase and yellow tray add to the composition. I often visit a local museum to eye one of Vanessa's paintings... a landscape... thank you for inspiring me to seek out more of her work. Virginia has long been a mentor... though I try to steer away from the tragic aspects of her life... but in some respects that is what made her so great... how she was able to co-exist - for so long - with her illness and shine as a writer and brilliant thinker. I am calling my library this AM! Thank You!

  10. Lorene, Thanks for the compliment! Let me know what you think of the book. Maybe we can form an online book club ;-)
    Victoria, Kind of you pass along Cressida's (great name!) web site- I'll check it out!
    Janet, Glad you enjoyed the photo as much as I did!
    Bangchik...Tatyana, My first year growing these zinnias and I highly recommend them. As you can see, they make a great bouquet!
    Mary Delle, See above - an excellent choice for an online book club, perhaps?
    DP, Glad you liked it!
    Steve...Steve, you charmer! I'm heading over to your blog to pick up my prize. Praise is a great way to start the day!!
    Carol, I'd be most interested to know the name of the museum where you see VB's landscape. I, too, think of Virginia as a mentor. I reread
    'The Waves' and still feel swept away (!!) by the writing. I wonder if there is such a thing as an online book club....... Alice

  11. Alice, thanks for visiting my blog and likewise, I'm delighted to discover yours. And what a surprise to meet Virginia and Vanessa here. I turn often to Virginia's diaries - I've been reading and re-reading them since I was 18, and find something new in them for every stage of my life. Her descriptions of the South Downs have always spoken to me, and now I find that the making of the garden at Monk's House is coming to the fore. Like you I would love to visit the house one day.

  12. I'd recommend Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland, if any of you are over in England. The town also has a magnificent castle which has featured in the Harry Potter movies.

  13. I did make an unforgettable pilgrimage to Charleston House several years ago. Your arrangement really captures the feel of the gardens and the art of Vanessa Bell.

  14. Love the tie-in to Bloomsbury. V. Bell's paintings and decoration are fabulous. I think I've read way too much about Bloomsbury and couldn't get into Seller's book. I tried, but it seemed too contrived to me.

  15. Hi Alice, I was just looking through your posts on Alice's Garden... loved seeing V.'s paintings again and read your reply to my comment... Smith College has a V. landscape. I would imagine there is every sort of club online. I too love rereading Virginia's works and her life story. A friend of mine has her desk... it has been cut down from a standing desk. L. also has one of the most expansive libraries of women's literary works in the country. Carol