Interior Designer to the stars, Bunny Williams, and her gardener Joe.
USA - Bali
My garden and I once appeared in a BBC documentary called “Around the World in 80 Gardens” hosted by Monty Don. He loved the Villa Bebek and made it the show’s finale. The affable Don has since retired but it is my chore to have to visit those perfect corners of the planet that make the spirit — soar ─ those leafy bits ─ with punishing regularity. I don’t usually write about it in this column — it’s my reporting on the parts in between the gardening that more entertain the casual reader, I have always thought, but this month I am going to bang on.
My August Globe-trotting Garden excursion started in Connecticut, where all the rich people wear pastel colours in Summer and pretend they are in Europe. It’s called New England but it’s more like New Age New Republicans, with dental for significant other.
The doyenne of New England is Bunny Williams ─ a sassy designer with exquisite taste, indoors and out. In her house ─ and in her garden for that matter ─ one is never more than six feet from a well-stocked drinks’ tray, in the true Confederate spirit. The piece de resistance of her home is a log cabin-inspired Greek temple pool house perched high on a hillside above the 18th century home.
As a friend of Bunny’s best West Coast buddy Nancy Powers I was received with great warmth by this remarkable designer. Bunny and her one gardener (plus a secret stash of weekend Guatamalans one imagines) have created an impressive series of ‘landscape solutions’, not the least of which being a magical, bracken-infested secret forest walk with spring fed water fall.
This would be something easy to achieve in the Cibodas area south of Jakarta (Sundanese gardeners please take note).
From temperate Connecticut I fled to Florida in search of spicy food.
My Balinese Commando gardeners are in Collier Country creating an Asian Garden for the Naples Botanical Garden.
The adjacent Brazilian Garden — by Miami Superstar designer Raymond Jungles ─ completed early this year, an homage to the great landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx.
The Balinese ─ never ones to miss a commercial opportunity ─ are already offering the local matrons “Eat Pray Love” Satay, Massage and Touch up services on the ‘modernista’ benches.
I loved Raymonds’ Brazilian tour de force ─ with its giant plants and bold planting schemes ─ but was enchanted also by the Cracker Garden, created by the Garden’s C.E.O. Brian Holley and his staff of horticultural wizards. In this garden commonplace Cracker objects ─ such as waffle irons and Kool-aid vats ─ are used in a whimsical way as artworks, to enhance an otherwise delightfully artful, natural garden.
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The Moghul Garden in a Hyderabad house designed by my Wijaya Landscape.
After Miami, I travelled back to Indonesia via India where another team of Balinese are fashioning Majapahit-style split gates made from the local ‘roman’ bricks. The Delhi-wallahs believe that all of India’s ‘Hindu Gardens’ were destroyed by the Mughals so my boys and I are doing whatever we can to put the Hindu (Javanese) back into Horticulture there.
The Hindu-Balinese love all the Indian workers the way all the Javanese love the Saudi tour guides (for Indonesia’ Moslems. Saudi Arabia is a sort of Promised Land). Interesting enough, the Balinese say that the Indians are “world champions at promising”, whatever that means.
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Next I visited Ahmedabad for a dinner with Umang Hutheesing scion of one of Gujarat’s leading families who is just back from a successful showing of his royal costume collection at the Yves St Laurent Foundation. In his salon I find the common ancestor of all the uncomfortable, grotesquely-carved furniture one finds from Jepara to Gianyar: it is a British East Indies Company lounge set gifted to Umang’s grandfather by the then Viceroy of India.
After dinner I discover the art deco ancestor cane chair that inspired Philip Stark’s veranda chairs at the fabulous Cuban-fueled Delano Hotel in South Beach, Miami; it is a revelation of sorts.
In the 1920s, it was Umang’s grandfather who invited the legendary French architect Le Corbusier to Ahmedabad to do some buildings for the Textile Mills Association (the association which funded much of India’s quest for Independence).
Gujarat has a long history of textile trade with Indonesia (see past diaries on strangerinparadise.com) : in fact most of Indonesia’s ikat cloth is descended from the Gujarati patola cloth. Solonese princesses still flutter selendang scarf versions of it during bedoyo dances, as do the Balinese Baris warrior dancers. The Balinese ‘patola‘ — a double–ikat cloth called geringsing — is still laid on the pillow during tooth-filling ceremonies.
Mr. Sukoco (left) and Sri von Bueren at Nicky and Rekha von Bueren’s wedding reception. |
Gay icon the Hon. Harry Fane, formerly of Garuda Park, Canggu, (“If you are a friend of a friend, go away”) now the official face of Wijaya Words.
In the garden we talk also of the fabulous ‘Singing Von Buerens’ — the Bangkok, Bali and Bombay-based family jewelry designer — at present kicking up their heels in a series of white tie and sarong functions along the shores of Seminyak, Bali.
I whip out my phone snaps of Nicky von Bueren’s garden wedding reception in Bali earlier in the month : the global Gujurati counters with a laptop load of Paris mega celebrities of his own ─ Deneuve, Lagerfeld, De La Fressange.
I sink deeper into my ornately-carved sofa.
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Back in Bali I am invited to lunch at the Uma Hotel in Sanggingan, Ubud, with its wonderful lush gardens designed by Trevor Hillier. I recently wrote an entire chapter on Ubud Gardens for the coming Indonesian-language edition of “Tropical Garden Design” and this hotel garden is one of the finest ─ with its interplay of ferns and palms and water bodies.
The food is great too and the rooms charmingly eclectic and comfortable.
The owner, Christina Ong, is also responsible for London’s Halken and Bangkok’s stylish Metropolitan Hotel.