The crescendo of autumnal colours that gave the southwest London town of Richmond its merlot and marigold glow would have abated by now. During our serotinal visit, nature’s character was more vivacious, proudly putting on a colour show at every possible moment. The flowers bloomed with vigour while the branches and roots stretched limitlessly. But as Mother Nature runs her course, eventually laying a wintry blanket over her inhabitants and their Christmas baubles, Richmond, set against the beautiful River Thames, embraces her seasonal whims with grace.
Located a convenient 30 minutes from the capital, it is unsurprising that many celebrities have chosen the quaint (but posh) countryside to settle down. Morning jogs along the river and evening strolls through the deer park seem like a dream. One could almost hear David Attenborough’s voice narrating the scene. There is a likelihood of this happening by the way — the iconic broadcaster lives a stone’s throw from Richmond Park. If luck is on your side, one might also chance upon Mad Max’s Tom Hardy, though we doubt the now-split Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, FYI) will visit their £10 million (RM54.27 million) mansion anytime soon.
However, if a lasting love story is what you are looking for, allow us to direct your attention to another English manor: Petersham House. Francesco and Gael Boglione, an Italian businessman and an Australian former model, were yearning for a quieter life with their four children. At a casual get-together in Richmond, their friend (and English superstar) Mick Jagger mentioned a place down the road that was up for sale. The couple purchased the rundown 17th-century Queen Anne estate in 1997 and completely renovated it, introducing touches from their distinct cultures into their new home. When the neighbouring Petersham Nurseries was put on the market 13 years later, the Bogliones decided to buy it too.
Francesco recalled initially not knowing what to do with the place, but he was inspired by his expeditions to India in his youth, where he bought and resold unusual furniture, paintings, sculptures and decorations. Coupled with Gael’s elegant style and aptitude for drawing beauty from the natural and humble, the nursery reopened with a new spirit. Over the years, the pair steadily nurtured the space in tandem and created a sanctuary reflective of their values, love of food and personal collections.
A sublime slowness settles quietly into the psyche as one passes through the garden gate. Visitors are greeted with rows and rows of seasonal flora, which skirt the farm-to-table restaurant — a Green Michelin Star recipient for two consecutive years — glass tea house and an emporium of artisanal tableware, garden sundries, antiques and eclectic paraphernalia. It has evolved to become one of London’s most tasteful destinations, where epicures brush shoulders with horticulturists. City slickers return in part to glean the healing powers of the gestating garden as well as the ease that comes with listening to the sound of water trickling from the fountain or observing the resident feline padding across the wooden floorboards and flower beds, all while enjoying a spot of tea.
The philosophy at Petersham is slow, positive, thoughtful and sustainable. Ethics meet aesthetics in all aspects and the ethos is maintained by the second Boglione generation, who are slowly receiving the reins. Eldest daughter and managing director Lara started an offshoot in Covent Garden, home to a delicatessen, restaurant and bar, and established a cellar with her husband to procure Italian wines. Second daughter Anna manages The Gut, which hosts wellness retreats and events at Petersham House and around the world. Son Harry opened Haye Farm in East Devon to bring the very best organic ingredients directly to the kitchens. And the emporium is helmed by youngest daughter Ruby, who also runs Petersham Platform, a space for discussing sustainability, gastronomy and agriculture.
Oh, to be surrounded by nature and beautiful things made by human hands. These days, quiet moments are rare luxuries. But one can always find it at Petersham, a place that accentuates the living part of life and frames it with the most exquisite blooms.
This article first appeared in issue No. 106, Winter 2022 of Haven.