Journeying to a Sub-Tropical Hideaway in the Second Episode of Great Gardens
Situated on the island of Tresco, 28 miles off the coast of Land’s End in the Isles of Scilly, England, you will find the enchanting private oasis of Abbey Garden. Captured for NOWNESS by photographer and filmmaker Howard Sooley, the unlikely oasis boasts a collection of 20,000 plants from over 80 countries, including Argentina, Burma and New Zealand. Created in the early 19th century by Augustus Smith within the grounds of the home he designed and built, the 17-acre garden still remains in the family, today owned by Robert Dorrien-Smith. “It even features sheep-eating plants,” says Alasdair Moore, former head gardener and now editor of the island’s very own Tresco Times. The pleasing idiosyncrasies of the enclave don’t stop there––Dorrien-Smith is the landlord of Tresco’s 150 inhabitants, all of whom work for him. And because Augustus Smith took on the long lease for the scillies from the Duchy of Cornwall, Dorrien-Smith is himself technically Prince Charles’s tenant.
A Private Tour of the Quintessentially English Estate in the First of Our Weekly Series
High on the list of garden pilgrimages is Great Dixter, the passion project of the late “imperial wizard” of English horticulture, Christopher Lloyd. The audacious gardener and celebrated writer’s Edwyn Lutyens-designed manor house, open to the public for nearly six decades, launches the first episode of NOWNESS’s weekly Great Gardens series, here captured by photographer and filmmaker Howard Sooley. “Christo was like Paddington Bear with teeth,” reflects Sooley, who first visited Great Dixter in 1989 through friend, co-gardener and filmmaker Derek Jarman. Located in England’s East Sussex countryside, the semi-formal grounds, now under the stewardship of head gardener Fergus Garrett, are an exercise in planned imperfection, with imaginatively topiaried yew hedges and Yorkstone paving providing the framework for the seasonally changing tapestry of vibrant colors, bold form and spirited texture. The garden is in constant flux and “the planting schemes are different every year”, says Garrett, who is at pains to emphasize that Great Dixter has a purpose even beyond the noble aim of giving pleasure to its countless visitors. “We could quite easily run the place on just three gardeners,” he explains. “But then we wouldn’t be able to teach. We are here to pass on knowledge, and people sometimes forget that.”–Lee C. Wallick
Costume Designer Jo Katsaras Brings the Vibrant Style of 1960s Nigeria to the Big Screen
“I stumbled across 6,000 1960s pieces that had never been worn and still had their price tags about 18 months before I landed the script,” notes Jo Katsaras, the Emmy-nominated costume designer responsible for the richly-hued wardrobe seen in today’s clip, taken from the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun. “I bought the entire lot, trusting that this was not an accidental find.” Presented with a starry leading cast, including a pixie-haired Thandie Newton, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, fresh from the success of 12 Years a Slave, Katsaras’s ensembles play an integral role in director Biyi Bandele's story of socio-political turmoil in 1960s Nigeria (first told in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning 2007 novel of the same name). “Thandie’s style developed with her journey, circumstances and life choices,” says the South Africa-based costumier, who brought a discerning eye to a wardrobe as epic in scale as the tale, which ranges from the glamorous echelons of Lagos high society to the bedraggled ravages of civil war. “Creating a character for me is about taking everything into account: social status, personality, location, education, moral fiber and, of course, political and cultural influences,” adds Katsaras, whose other credits include HBO’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Mary and Martha. “A costume shouldn’t look like a costume, it should look like something that is part of someone’s wardrobe.”