Cultivated at the Cambo Estate: How's that for a title? And speaking of titles, I will admit that last week I actually googled what a title actually meant when it refers to a person. The peerage system? I had not a clue. Who can be a lord, lady, or a duke? And does it matter? Well, it suddenly did to this Canadian for I had a horrific episode on a staircase that was straight out of Downton, with Christin as blundering Daisy, hauling a hefty dripping flower arrangement down a grand oak staircase, branches obscuring my vision, camera bouncing off my boobs, and out of the drawing room comes the steward of the estate (which I believe means manager/future heir) who I'd not yet met, and all I see is the toe of a carmel leather brogue and hear, 'arr yew arllright there?'
Suffice to say I was more than alright at Cambo, but not in that moment. From somewhere within me a class-conscious beast reared up and I stuttered, lacking both manners and gumption, not knowing my place. I still don't really: Florist-in-residence, sure, but what is that exactly? Truth is, I pitched them on the idea. I kinda made it up.
You see, long have writers and artists been supported by creative residencies to develop new work. Cambo hosts visiting gardeners, so I thought floral design might fit, straddle that space between interiors and exteriors, bridge the domestic to the wild. The new steward Struan and his wife Frances have been creating spaces that do just that (he's a tree surgeon by trade I believe and she trained in tapestry)—building forest dwellings, hosting wedding parties, groovily placing steer skulls about the place—using the wonderful spaces of the estate, indoors and out.
Cambo also focuses on environmental education—one of my long-standing interests—so I thought it could be a good fit. I'd visited previously twice (my son attends a university nearby) and been entirely impressed by the gardens, the woodlands, and the estate as a whole.
And now looking back at the pictures, having made something new every day, having come to know new plants, stretched myself creatively to design historically, invented not only new designs and scouted locations around the estate daily, I'm pleased with my work. I was tired at the time, very much so. I realize that this work I'm doing requires I be three people in one: a sophisticated gardener, a designer, and a photographer. ( I don't count the writer but I should, I suppose). Having those three or four professions perform at optimum levels for five days straight was harder than I thought. Add travelling to a new place and general waverings between ecstasy and self-doubt…and I wonder now how it all came together as it did. But glory be: it did.
And frankly, EVERYONE at Cambo (Keri, Kay, Elliot, Fay, Frances, and Struan of the shoe who didn't seem to mind a titch that I dribbled down his stairs) couldn't have been nicer. So nice, in fact, they've invited me back to teach. Aye to that :)