In Regent’s Park, London, there are several flower beds planted in the shape of Union Jacks. I’m not sure how long ago they were sown, but the result is ‘painting by flowers’ – in an abundance of red, white and purple/blue pansies. These flags laid out in soil are just one sample of the budding life and colour throughout the park. Each step reveals something else: blues and oranges tumbling by the fountains; or shady corners full of chrysanthemums (and the occasional entwined couple). I’ve felt extremely lucky to pass by these scenes on a daily basis for the past few weeks as I’ve walked to and from my internship at Vogue.
Regent’s Park is serene. Perhaps I feel it more because my home turf is so rural, but I love the green pockets strung throughout the city. Such spots feel hidden from the busy pavements and intensity of moving through London, providing breathing space and thinking time. It offers a separation between ‘work’ and ‘home life’ – with plenty of benches: perfect for the quick gobbling of a chapter or two of a book.
Today as I was wandering back, the smell of geraniums reminded me of an event I’d almost forgotten. When I was younger there were one or two village ceremonies, such as ‘Well Dressing’ at midsummer. Once a year, the well in the next hamlet along (more of a stone stump than functional resource) became gaudy with petals and leaves. I was given licence to wander around our garden, grabbing at mum’s harebells and linaria. She was just behind, stopping me from complete decimation. The stalks were snipped and wrapped in tin foil to form a posy. Later I joined the procession of other children to place this small bouquet in a gap between the stones, before we all ran around.
Writing out that recollection makes it feel almost as though it belongs fifty years in the past. I’m not sure the tradition even exists some ten years later. It shows the rather magical quality of flowers though, particularly in childhood. Whether in creating rose water with crushed petals or making daisy chains on the lawn, flowers are bound up in all sorts of games and activities. I adored Cicely Mary Barker’s ‘Flower Fairies’ books when younger. From the Almond Blossom fairy resplendent in pink, to the Canterbury Bell fairy with a rather fetching hat, these were creations that fed my imagination. I made ‘fairy houses’ in the bushes in the garden: with shells for beds, lined with moss, and wine cork seats. These miniature houses were carpeted in reeds and decorated with Gerberas. They were elaborate – with balconies, hammocks, and even a swimming pool in one. A friend and I had a special club devoted to fairy activities – sending letters about sightings of small footprints in the soil, or posting each other stickers, sequins and anything glittery.
Inevitably – perhaps sadly – such beliefs fade as we grow up. The curiosity and capacity for wonder doesn’t have to though. I’m still taken by David Ellwand’s magnificent photography and designs in the book ‘Fairie-ality’ (despite the spelling suggesting something medieval) and love the idea of Floriography: the language of flowers. And besides, you don’t have to be a fairy to wear something flowery – just look at the popularity of Liberty’s floral prints and Erdem’s delicate designs. And I really must advocate the joys of ‘swimming’ in a field of yellow in a silk dress – much like I did here for a shoot with the ever-gorgeous, ever-talented photographer and friend Flo. These flowers had already faded by the time I left for London, but I’m glad that I’ve had the sights of Regent’s Park to keep me going in the meantime.
The dress was a birthday present from the wonderful woman who I - rather appropriately in this instance - refer to as my fairy godmother.