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I love flowers, sowing more and more annuals and bi-annuals every year. Being inspired by my voluntary work at the Groen Gemaal (Green Weir) in the Sarphatipark in Amsterdam, around the corner of the vibrant Albert Cuyp market. But it all started with my mum’s green fingers, which led me to enjoy gardens, plants, flowers and nature in general for as long as I can remember. Close friends know this, of course, and sometimes they surprise me with a wonderful gift. An Irish friend of mine has just returned from a weekend in Liverpool, during which she made a trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see Ai Weiwei's ‘Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads’. 
This green museum is celebrating ‘forty years of art without walls’ and is located 7 miles outside of Wakefield and 20 miles south of Leeds in West Yorkshire. It showcases, among others, works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, two of my favourite sculptors. Tip: When staying in Cornwall you should not miss the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives by the way. I totally recommend it! 

Jane Austen’s garden
Back to the flowers. You never guess what my friend found for me in the museum shop of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park! A ‘Jane Austen Flowers Growbar’. How cool is that?! It contains the seeds of corn flowers, Sweet Williams and mignonette, and a bar of eco-friendly coconut fibres which expands when you water it. You can sow the seeds on your windowsill between March and June. I have actually visited Jane Austen’s garden in Chawton, Hampshire, in 2016. Jane Austen lived there with her sister Cassandra. In their country cottage Jane's genius flourished and wrote all her novels, including Pride and Prejudice. It is now a museum, so you can visit both the house and the garden. 

I visited this endearing place with Dutch photographer and garden writer Modeste Herwig, while making an article about Hampshire gardens for Belgium and French magazine Eden. Of course, Jane’s garden has changed a lot since her passing on July 18th 1817, at the young age of 41. It used to be bigger and included an orchard and a large vegetable patch which Jane’s mother tended. The rest of the garden was most likely a traditional English cottage style garden, which would have boasted corn flowers and Sweet Williams. The mignonette, also included in the growbar gift, did not ring a bell with me at first. Googling the Latin name, I know that this Reseda odorata is an excellent plant for bees, but I have never seen it growing anywhere, let alone sown it. This annual has sweetly scented flowers. Jane loved it enough to write to her sister about its progress in their garden. It also provides lovely cut flowers.

The Jane Austen Flowers growbar is made by The Gluttonous Gardener, which creates many more fun presents for flower and garden lovers. I might give the William Morris growbar a try too. 

PS Browsing through the web shop of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I spotted a hilarious pair of David Hockney socks, which reminds me I still have to book tickets to the David Hockney exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum, here in Amsterdam. Did you hear good old Hockney got stuck in the lift of the fancy Conservatorium Hotel when he was in Amsterdam for the opening of the exhibition?
I will keep you posted about the exhibition 'Hockney - Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature', on till May 26th 2019.

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