James Ivory’s 1992 film, “Howards End,” was adapted from E.M. Foster’s eponymous 1910 novel–often cited as his masterpiece–dealing with class, property, love and friendship in turn-of-the (last)-century England.
Although I only vaguely recall the details of the story, I (think that I) precisely remember the profusion of flowering plants and the hem of Vanessa Redgrave’s extravagant dressing gown sweeping behind her through a field of bluebells in the dim early morning light.
And at Howards End, everything–wisteria, roses–bloomed simultaneously and seemingly perpetually, in gorgeous, glorious defiance of nature: my ideal garden. In reality, I had an old wisteria that was a capricious bloomer, flowering some years, balking others, but relentlessly wrapping its tendrils around everything, trying to remove the railing from the deck and the shingles from the house. Other flowering plants succumbed to Japanese beetles, the omnivorous deer and too much/too little rain, heat, sun.
But this year my flowering trees, shrubs, perennials have been living up to expectations. And in this post, they bloom simultaneously.
I had shot James Ivory and his producer/life partner Ismail Merchant in my studio for the Village Voice which led to an invitation to photograph them (and their screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and composer Richard Robbins) at their elegant 1805 Federal house in Claverack (in New York’s Hudson Vallery). I wasn’t surprised (and was quite pleased) that their design sensibility for living echoed the art direction of their films.