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After much too long with no blog while busy earning moolah (the Haus ain’t free, kids) I’m back and ready to ramble. A day like today – and this beautiful weekend – makes me miss the garden, before this long grey process of putting it to bed, I mean. Luckily, I spent much of this year taking pictures of gardens in Paris and London – wildy different styles, all perfectly done by people whose lives I seriously envy. Think about it: what if you were paid to create beauty all day long? No hustling for new corporate clients, no writing the CEO’s speeches, no “promotional work”… just me and my trusty shovel. (I shall name him… Diggory!) Cue flashback…

If this picture doesn’t inspire you to go to London next May, nothing will. Regent’s Park – surrounded by urban bustle and noise, full of families playing soc- errrr, football – passed by women in certifiably crazy hats and young lovers on a Saturday afternoon. Of course, since what seemed like the entire city was under construction for the Olympics, which still will not be over by next May, perhaps 2013 is the year for you. If you love the Olympics, well then, go with God – and when you need a break from the crazy, remember Regent’s Park is so close… and has the most amazing roses I’ve ever seen.

The location is key – it’s really obscenely central – the kind of thing that can only happen when you have a monarchy parceling out land. While the park is much bigger than what I show here, it’s still only a short walk back to civilization from any point. This insanely perfect day, we were walking along the Inner Circle when we found this Ultimate Rose Garden – in a section of Park known as Queen Mary’s. I’m guessing Mary loved her some roses, y’all. It was intense. And it seemed half of London was out to enjoy every bit of it.

There is no envy quite like picnic envy. Picnic envy is the almost obsessive feeling that we should have known we would find something wonderful; why-oh-why didn’t we pack a picnic? Idiots. This affliction has haunted me in little abandoned stone churches in Ireland, consumed me in Italian campos, driven me to distraction in the south of France (because in Paris, a picnic is just a corner-cafe away, regardless of season). But right smack dab in the middle of London? Well, played, Brits. Well played, indeed.

All that was lacking was a wandering gypsy-jazz band or string quartet – something to keep eavesdropping impossible (such a plus in countries where we don’t speak the language, and really don’t want to know about a stranger’s latest hospital stay). Of course, in that event, I’d still be there – El Spousador had a hell of a time getting me out of this place; one more element of perfection and I’d be living like an animal in their tiny, picturesque “forest” by now. It took all his might, the promise of a bottle of wine on the patio of a beautiful Indian restaurant, and a rather serious sunburn to tempt me away. (Yes, I know – I went to London and got the worst sunburn of my adult life. Tell me about it…)

I have always had a “thing” for roses, but as of this exact moment following a little dirt path off the main walk in Regent’s Park, I realized I’ve just been spinning my wheels on this planet, horticulturally speaking. Immediately upon returning home, I scampered to the nearest garden center to buy two hybrid tea-rose bushes. I plan to someday cover simple arbors in the backyard with as many as I can possibly fit/afford… but that’s so far away now. Now it’s getting colder, and all I have are these pictures from last May… and a whole pack of plant catalogs I’ve already started memorizing.

Before you bring me back to earth, I know: Chicago’s climate is not even close to London’s… I’m still a novice… the two roses I do have got off to a rough start, suddenly came roaring back! and then very promptly had the buds knocked off by recent cyclonic wind. But I will not quit! No matter how many innocent plants have to die...

But even I, with my obscene optimism, know it will be a long time before I’m growing anything as pristinely, abundantly perfect as even the lowliest example here. It’s tended by the Royal Parks, which is something so Alice-In-Wonderland that I can’t stop giggling at the image – do they dress like playing cards? Can I write a novel where murders are solved by a crusty old gardener, and resist the urge to name him Royal Parks? I can’t! I must! Thanks a lot, England!

Here’s hoping that for every grey, dreary Monday between now and when Chicago’s gardens wake up, we all have at least one beautiful, warm, sunny memory to get us through to Spring again. Hope you enjoyed this one… and if you have any suggestions for more gardens to see while traveling, DON’T. BE. SHY. I’m already dreaming…