Queen Of Punk To Devoted Gardener
She's tamed her wild Eighties hair and make-up,
but her current role touring in a stage production as Calamity Jane still
uses up plenty of energy. Toyah Willcox reveals her favourite way to relax
"When I'm out there tending my garden I feel utterly
wrapped up in it - I think gardening can be quite obsessional. I may not
know all the Latin names and I don't find designing easy, but none of that
matters. As long as you get on and have a go, you soon learn through your
mistakes - that's the fun of it.
I always tackle a problem straight on, and if
I really don't know how to do something, I look it up in a book. I'm very
practical and I've developed a strong idea of what I like and don't like,
which is the most important place to start. I'm a great one for tying in
and cutting back. I don't know whether it's because I'm small (I'm 5ft)
but I never want to feel overwhelmed by plants, especially the common garden
shrubs. I like to see everything in its place, so I make sure the plants
know who's in control!
The garden at our house on the River Avon in Worcestershire
is blissful. It was landscaped and planted before we bought the house,
so it's well established and I hardly want to change a thing. I first spotted
the For Sale sign last year when I was out boating with my dad. I phoned
my husband (guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson) in great excitement
and told him we had to go and have a look. When we walked in, I burst into
tears and Robert went really quiet because we both knew it was perfect.
The garden has five 'rooms' and the first is just
behind the house - a stone terrace enclosed by yew hedging. Living alfresco
is important to me and this is the perfect place to do it. We have a big
table where we lunch with friends or sit around reading the papers. We
both travel a lot and work hard - Robert's been working on a new album
in America and I'm either presenting, singing, writing, or acting. I've
been touring in Calamity Jane this year, so we both value the time we have
together to relax and reflect, or to paint or read.
Next comes a circular pool garden bordered by
roses and tulips (luckily mostly yellow, my favourite flower colour) and
edged by curved box hedging. On a summer's day, this part of the garden
is os hot and voluptuous it feels like a Sicilian courtyard. There are
one or two stone benches, so it's a good place to sit quietly when you
have niggles or worries. It's important to get outside and see how nature
deals with things. It helps to put everything into context.
This and all the neighbouring gardens were originally
orchards that ran down to the River Avon and we still have a small section
of orchard with two rows of cherry trees. They're so perfectly spaced I
find it quite surreal. Here, as elsewhere in the garden, we've put in sculptures
by Althea Wynne, who's become a friend. I'm very good at finding artists
and I love the idea of commissioning someone to make a piece for a specific
Beyond the orchard are two large lawned areas,
bordered with shrubs and perennials and divided by a classical ironwork
pergola. Our gardener John comes twice a week and keeps everything immaculate,
which makes a big difference to me as I'm in London a lot when I'm working
so wouldn't have the time to look after this garden on my own - but in
my tiny London garden I do everything myself.
I can see us living here for years, having summer
parties where friends can lose themselves in the garden, play boules or
croquet or take a boat trip down the river. Each part of the garden has
its own mood and sounds - it's wonderful to escape into.
For me, a garden is spiritual: there's nothing
more moving than seeing a favourite plant flowering - it's like a new beginning.
Consciously tending a plant and wanting its life cycle to be as healthy
as possible is a very respectful thing to do. A garden can be a huge emotional
and spiritual investment but if you get it right it gives you a lifelong
Toyah's Favourite Plants:
• Forget -me-nots
Toyah's Mantras For The Garden:
• Visit as many gardens as possible to glean ideas
you can adapt for your own garden. Use the National Gardens Scheme Yellow
Book (£5) to see what's open in your area.
• Keep a sense of scale and don't allow large
plants to take over and swamp the space.
• Make sure the edges of your lawn are well kept.
They'll make everything else look neat even if it isn't.
• Introduce some moving water with a fountain
- the sound is very relaxing.
• Design your garden according to the amount of
time you want to spend tending it. That way it will always be a joy and
never a chore.
LEFT: As you look back to the house, built around 1750, you can see
how the long garden is divided up into rooms, each with its own character.
TOP LEFT: A backdrop of wisteria and yellow
roses clothe the 15ft walls that surround and shelter the garden.
BOTTOM LEFT: It's good to escape to a quiet
seat when you have worries - this iron pergola is an elegant haven.
RIGHT: Bold yellow-green Euphoria characias zings out of the border
- yellow is a favourite flower colour.
TOP RIGHT: Specially commissioned sculptures
by artist and friend Althea Wynne are dotted around, bringing with them
a distinctive sense of personality.
BOTTOM RIGHT: The beautiful symmetry of
the cherry trees echoes the garden's history as an orchard and frames the