Kate Opens New ‘Back to Nature’ Garden at Wisley

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And so we have it: the Duchess of Cambridge’s first engagement of the autumn season! Today’s appearance was unannounced, but only a half “surprise” given that the event itself was promoted and royal reporters/watchers speculated last week that we were likely to see HRH attend. I’ll be interested to see if this trend of unannounced engagements continues.

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Today builds on Kate’s successful “Back to Nature” garden, which she debuted at the Chelsea Flower Show in May. This fixture will be permanent in Wisley and, designed by Kate herself, is meant to foster children’s and families’ engagement in the local community.

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Kate delivered a speech of which royal reporter Rebecca English shared a clip. Her remarks included:

“As a parent, I have learnt just how important it is to foster our children’s development, in all areas, not just physical, as soon as they are born. We build the blocks, the foundations, for future success and happiness later in their lives. These relationships, however, stretch far beyond the crucial one that a parent or carer has with its child.

“Like in the animal kingdom, whether a pod, a pack, or a pride, the interactions we have with the broader community – be it with our grandparent, teachers or neighbours – play a crucial role in the growth and learning of our young.

“There is a well-known proverb – that it takes a village to raise a child – everyone here represents an integral part of that very village. By coming together, having fun, learning and experiencing new things, we can all impart life-long benefits on our children. […]

“I hope it will enable thousands of children to discover and explore the natural world around them. I am not as green fingered as many of you here, but I was passionate about creating a garden that inspired children and adults alike to get back to nature and reap the positive mental and physical health benefits that it can bring.

“The gardens were, I suppose, a manifestation of some of the work I have been focusing on around how best we can support our children in the earliest years. The physical benefits of being outdoors and in nature are well documented. More recently, however, I have learnt that these often safe and supportive environments can also bring significant benefits to the cognitive, social and emotional development of our children too.

“The experiences we gain during our earliest years influence who we become as people. They influence how we interact in school, in work and in society and, ultimately how we bring up our own children. Whether it is planting, exploring, digging, creating, or playing; quality time spent outside provides children with the perfect environment to form those positive relationships with the people in their lives and the world around them.”

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There was a funny interaction between Kate and a small child wearing tiger face paint in attendance. She asked him if he was a tiger and he responded, no, it’s face paint. Gotta love how literal kids can be!

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On the fashion front, Kate debuted a new floral Emilia Wickstead dress. At first glance I loved this, then as I looked closer I wanted to love this. The floral print is definitely bold and I know may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I actually really love these vintage florals. There’s something vaguely 19th century about it, but they can also be hard to pull off without drawing comparisons to curtains and slipcovers 😉 Personally I like this print; I think it works, however it’s the belt and pockets on the bodice that lose me here.

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As you can tell in some of the photos, the fabric is very delicate and summery, but what could have been a very sweet, feminine dress feels at odds with utilitarian pockets and large belt. It’s almost two different vibes clashing with one another, though this is a common element in Wickstead’s designs. It reminds me a bit of the white Wickstead dress Kate wore in Mumbai in 2016 (below), however that look worked better for me given that the fabric was thicker and more structured.

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So, I’ll call this a half-win in my book. As many of you may have noticed last week when the Cambridges dropped Princess Charlotte off for her first day of school, Kate’s gotten a bit of a haircut. It’s definitely shorter then when we last saw HRH at August’s regatta, but many commented that it also appears lighter. I actually don’t know that Kate has colored it that dramatically – she’s been sporting this honey-er shade for a while now, but I do think it was more visible against her tan and with the straighter blowout.

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It’s unclear at this point when we’ll see Kate again, but I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, keep an eye out on Thursday for the Duchess of Sussex’s Smart Works engagement marking her return from mat leave. And it’s hard to believe, but we’re less than two weeks out from the Africa tour!

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