les halles olive stall

Things other than landscapes have taken my eye recently. Day to day occurrences and visual flashes add to the experience of all I’ve come to value about life here in the Gard. The senses seem to be heightened – food, of course, looks as appetising as it can be even before the pleasure of the tasting . . . .

les halles fruits

. . . Les Halles in Nîmes, the central covered market, offers not just stalls but also one of the best places to eat –  Halles Auberge - busy, well priced  and positioned where the ongoing life of the market can be viewed over a plate of coquillages. Pieds et paquets and Agrillade St.Gilloise are also on offer.

huitres

halles auberge

Just opposite les Halles is a marvel. A shop like shops used to be when I was young – a long time ago. Appetising from the outside and even more so once inside . . .

droguerie

pigments 1

pigments 2

pigments 3

. . . all the pigments that anyone  could wish for. Rich, appetising and electrifying colours can be seen in Claude Viallat’s work in the permanent exhibition at the Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain – plus a powerful piece from Gerhard Richter which sucked me into the detail of the application of paint.

viallat

richter

arenes

Near the Arènes, hoardings screen a building site that will eventually become the Musée de la Romanité, meanwhile this stencil on the hoarding seems to evokes the sadness of the bull fighter – the arena is the stage. The fear of the performance or the possible outcome or just Spanish melancholia – I know nothing of this. What I do know and like are the swatches of silk as shown the Musée du Vieux Nîmes where the history of denim ( yes, it came from those associated with Nîmes) is well explained. Swatches of colourful cottons caught my eye nearby on daily visits to the Bar des Beaux Arts in Place des Herbes for a noissette.

soies

cottons

villaret

Maison Villaret has delightful window displays that entreat you to enter, admire and taste what’s on offer. The small pile of marzipan crocodiles shouldn’t be disturbed but maybe the tower of crystallised fruits can be.  . . . .

villaret 2

camion2

. . and to finish off a couple of camion – swiftly disappearing from the roads now. I felt Gilbert, artisan peintre, would be totally trustworthy and execute his work with integrity – great marketing. And in Uzès, another more modest vehicle that sat well with the surroundings and colour wise reminded me of the vernacular.

camion 1

olive tree

Per solatz revelhar,

Que s’es trop enformitz,     

E per pretz, qu’es faiditz

Acolhir e tornar,   

Me cudei trebalhar’                    

‘To wake delight once more

That’s been too long asleep,

And worth that’s exiled deep

To gather and restore:

These thoughts I’ve laboured for’   Guiraut de Bornelh

finding the sea

January 5, 2014

A short bus ride to the south of Nimes lie the Étangs which form part of the only commune in the Gard to have frontage to the sea – where the beaches spread out from the small port of le Grau du Roi. In this landscape, reed covered marshes interlock with large cultivated areas as well as the stretches of salt pans that produce thousands of tonnes of salt a day at harvest time.

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Following a storm surge from the Rhone in 17C, a wide channel was formed, eventually made into a canal, creating a direct link to Aigues -Mortes to the north. In the port eclectic buildings line the south facing side of the channel  . . .

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1.4

. . .  a flashy intervention seems to have happened on the apex of the hôtel above but the old lighthouse retains a modest charm. Across the bay to the west sits la Grande-Motte with the show off architecture by Jean Balladur. He drew inspiration from the  pre-Columbian pyramids of Teotihuacan – Mexico – and modern architecture in Brazil, especially in the works of architect Oscar Niemeyer. Quite like it from a distance – but only as such. Within, it felt like a retirement complex in Florida.

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Elements within the port and the beaches offer up close quarter delights in the sharp light of a winter’s day  . . .

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. . and as the cirrus clouds waft overhead, their cumuli cousins await over the horizon. Ernest Hemingway liked this place enough to write some of The Garden of Eden here. I liked it too.  Au revoir et à bientôt.

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“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Ernest Hemingway  The Garden of Eden.

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”

dimanche après-midi

December 29, 2013

maison carre

Eyes up within the portico of the Maison Carrée  in Nimes – the stepped entrance, fluted columns and the compact nature of the portico – encourage the upward gesture. At this festive time however, action and noise compete to steer the glance across to the ice rink installed as a gay, colourful and interactive lower platform between the old and the new –  in an architectural sense. The new is the Carrée d’Art de Foster which becomes a fitting background to the leisure requirements of the Nimoise today .. . . . .

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carre d'art

. . wandering around to the Boulevard Victor Hugo, late afternoon sun arrives on the  facade and the light pushes the foreground elements – branches and street decorations  – into strong definition.

boulevard victor hugo

quai de la fontaine

Turning left to wander along the Quai de la Fontaine on the way to the Jardins, the beauty of the plane trees  arching discreetly to their opposite partner frames the sedate but apposite water feature .. .

jardins de la fontaine

. .  the usual activities are happening on the ground. And the usual effects are happening on the vertical elements . . .

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jardins de la fontaine 3

jardins de la fontaine 4

. . . in the park, families engage in their own festive enjoyment and the permanent inhabitants oversee all.

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jardins de la fontaine 6

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The Jardins de la Fontaine were the first public gardens constructed in France,  50 years after Versailles built by the King for himself. The town is justly proud of this great garden and it is well used by all generations. As so often the case in France, the scale remains superb – the pattern and the form still have an integrity – with proportions that many designers nowadays can only dream about.

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jardins de la fontaine 9

Wandering back by the Arènes, starlings provide the performance skywards. A murmuration  – exquisite formations    – float with exact organisation forwards and backwards across the sky gathering before coming home to roost . . . .

murmuration 1

murmuration 2

murmuration 3

. .  at the junction of Rue de l’Ecluse (home/roost) and Avenue Carnot stands a palm. Phillippe Starck has created an installation  – Abribus –  inspired by an ancient Roman symbol which is found on both the coin and on the shield of the city, and features the two symbols of the city, the crocodile and palm tree. The marble design is a small line of solid cubes that reach the tree and are the tail and neck, and a large bucket, supported by its four vertices showing the animal’s body. As the light falls and decorative lighting comes to the fore. A strange and succesful installation  that typifies ‘ the seen and the unseen’. That typifies The Little Prince.

abribus1

abribus 2

“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery  The Little Prince 

a Christmas present to myself

December 26, 2013

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Walking in a landscape with trees is one of my most favourite things. A suggestion that we might get out from family Xmas indoors stuff was grabbed at. We needed to go to a landscape that would be user friendly for the youngest member of the family and his special Xmas present, so we came to the Barrage de Bimont which along with the smaller Barrage Zola holds most of the water for the town of Aix. The main path weaves its way easily through the rocky surroundings. Blustery wind and threatening clouds moved around us – along with other families, runners and singletons . . . .

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. . . .  this is a pine and holm oak landscape with a few cedars sprinkling the edge of the pathway network making up the tall structure – cistus and lentiscus the prevalent second storey. Careful management of the twiggy planting gives the ground plane a presence, filters the wind and also provides beautiful visual effects – the trunks of the holm oaks carefully cleaned to show the character of the plant.

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Heavy rain on the gentle slopes had left ‘fun’ elements . . . and he only needed a push on the odd occasion – such energy, resilience and joie de vivre.

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I couldn’t have wished for a better outing – like a pig in muck.

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Back in town, festive activities are of course totally human based – some want to exercise for leisure and some need to entertain for a few coins; some require churches to reflect and worship in. I simply put myself back within the barrage landscape. Won’t forget it and lots of love, T, C + H..

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In a house which becomes a home,

one hands down and another takes up

the heritage of mind and heart,

laughter and tears, musings and deeds.

Love, like a carefully loaded ship,

crosses the gulf between the generations.

Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies

of our passage: when we wed, when we die,

and when we are blessed with a child;

When we depart and when we return;

When we plant and when we harvest.

Let us bring up our children. It is not

the place of some official to hand to them

their heritage.

If others impart to our children our knowledge

and ideals, they will lose all of us that is

wordless and full of wonder.

Let us build memories in our children,

lest they drag out joyless lives,

lest they allow treasures to be lost because

they have not been given the keys.

We live, not by things, but by the meanings

of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
 from generation to generation.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation.

pines

To the west of Aix-en-Provence, is a site that forms part of ‘Sur les Pas de Cézanne‘, if you are a tourist but is also a splendid place if you are a resident. I was very taken with this well built welcoming  wall but someone else, quite small, charged off to see what happened beyond the far gate. The gate was quite lovely and well designed – everything was looking very promising until we hit the visitor’s centre . . .

wall 1

wall

gates

entrance

. . . peering into the entrance through bars, we discovered that unfortunately we’d missed the only slot of the day for a guided tour. This happens at  9.45am but only on certain days. So I am grateful to Louisa Jones + photographer Clive Nichols for these scans below taken  from Mediterranean Landscape Design – a wonderful book – of the scheme. Philippe Daliau (ALEP Agency) has created fine and sensitive interventions within the exposed stone providing a walk over differing surfaces with differing treatments – timber, metal -where views are encapsulated and framed by angled mass of the rock – some hewn and some natural.

quarry 1

quarry 2

Wandering through just part of the 7 hectare site that provided stone for the building of Aix (up to the end of 18C), we came across individual stone landscapes. In a certain way, it’s like a lost world but then in another, it’s seems well used. Rock climbing at a novice scale, mountain bikes carefully controlled, joggers, picque niques and large family get togethers and 4 legs all jostling together in a merry fashion.

rock face

Scrub oak, arbutus, pistacia lentiscus and pine form the major structural planting with some cistus, rosemary, euphorbia and rambling lonicera in the sunny patches  . . .

pines 2

upwards

mont ste victoire

. . framed views of Mont Sainte – Victoire and the barrage Zola taken while we lounged around on a rocky outcrop – an indulgent pastime for a Saturday morning and why not?

mont ste victoire + barrage

And moving on we find a built structure, not a cabanon that Cézanne might have used during his time drawing and painting here . . .

structure

. .  but a building that encouraged interaction and it had with a great view. Can’t take my eyes off the landscape.

view south

The Irish lady can say, that to-day is every day. Caesar can say that
every day is to-day and they say that every day is as they say.
In this way we have a place to stay and he was not met because
he was settled to stay. When I said settled I meant settled to stay.
When I said settled to stay I meant settled to stay Saturday. In this
way a mouth is a mouth. In this way if in as a mouth if in as a
mouth where, if in as a mouth where and there. Believe they have
water too. Believe they have that water too and blue when you see
blue, is all blue precious too, is all that that is precious too is all
that and they meant to absolve you. In this way Cézanne nearly did
nearly in this way. Cézanne nearly did nearly did and nearly did.
And was I surprised. Was I very surprised. Was I surprised. I was
surprised and in that patient, are you patient when you find bees.
Bees in a garden make a specialty of honey and so does honey. Honey
and prayer. Honey and there. There where the grass can grow nearly
four times yearly.  G Stein  Cézanne

pagoda

July 6, 2013

across lake 2

The term ‘pagoda’ is quite often misused, and surprisingly often misused by those in the garden profession. Many times I have heard contractors define a timber structure as a pagoda when it should be termed pergola. There again pergolas are often confused with arbours . . .  but enough now on terminology. This tiered structure  ‘La Pagode de Chanteloupe’ was built as a folly within a large 18C country estate on the Loire. The gardens were laid out in patterned formality to include the necessaries – vegetable, decorative, copses + groves – by the architect Louis-Denis Le Camus for a Duke.

entrance

These gates and railings appear to be original, even though most of the infrastructure of the  estate was destroyed in the revolution.  Visible features today are the pagoda with semi circular basin, Petit Pavilion (concierge house) + 2 other pavilions in Louis XVI style – markers for the estate entrance. Until recently the long avenue of limes afforded a view from the small parking area by the road,  but now the first sighting is well and truly screened with hoardings – a shame – and the visitor is taken on a orchestrated route through ticket office, new Chinese garden and an area containing many traditional and rare children’s toys and games before being allowed through the gates and onto the shingle surround. The simplicity of this open shingle space in front of the structure is quite attractive not only visually . . .

beach

. . but also for those who want to play instead of absorbing factual info – 44m high, 7 storeys and each ring with 16 columns – with the main function of the pagoda being to follow the routes and actions of the hunting parties within the woods and forests of that era. The ladies, I imagine, were not invited to ascend and view – staircase is far too narrow for wide skirts!

view up 1

. . .

view up

from inside

The banister rail on the ground floor is cast iron  . . . . . .

staircase 1

balcony 3rd floor

bannister

. .  and mahogany on the higher levels. Looking through to what were the original garden areas – now fields –  it’s relatively easy to imagine the scale of the gardened grounds.

to garden

once garden

Below shows a proposed ground plan showing the château outlined in red and the central axis to the water features with the pagoda (largish dot) to the right. Also a bird’s-eye view showing the formality and precision of the garden layout.

plan_du_domaine__du_chateau_et_des_jardins_reguliers

Le_chateau_de_Chanteloup_Van_Blarenberghe

stair well

Peering down from the highest landing  . . .

ceiling dome

. . . and up to the domed ceiling. Ah, the craftsmanship of the past. Mr Swatton could do it but not many others nowadays.

garden items

There are just a few signs of garden features – just enough to feel the character and ambience.

‘A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,’

across lake landscape

across lake

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Je veux, pour composer chastement mes églogues,
Coucher auprès du ciel, comme les astrologues,
Et, voisin des clochers écouter en rêvant
Leurs hymnes solennels emportés par le vent.
Les deux mains au menton, du haut de ma mansarde,
Je verrai l’atelier qui chante et qui bavarde;
Les tuyaux, les clochers, ces mâts de la cité,
Et les grands ciels qui font rêver d’éternité.

II est doux, à travers les brumes, de voir naître
L’étoile dans l’azur, la lampe à la fenêtre
Les fleuves de charbon monter au firmament
Et la lune verser son pâle enchantement.
Je verrai les printemps, les étés, les automnes;
Et quand viendra l’hiver aux neiges monotones,
Je fermerai partout portières et volets
Pour bâtir dans la nuit mes féeriques palais.
Alors je rêverai des horizons bleuâtres,
Des jardins, des jets d’eau pleurant dans les albâtres,
Des baisers, des oiseaux chantant soir et matin,
Et tout ce que l’Idylle a de plus enfantin.
L’Emeute, tempêtant vainement à ma vitre,
Ne fera pas lever mon front de mon pupitre;
Car je serai plongé dans cette volupté
D’évoquer le Printemps avec ma volonté,
De tirer un soleil de mon coeur, et de faire
De mes pensers brûlants une tiède atmosphère. Charles Baudelaire Paysage

More chasteness to my eclogues it would give,
Sky-high, like old astrologers to live,
A neighbour of the belfries: and to hear
Their solemn hymns along the winds career.
High in my attic, chin in hand, I’d swing
And watch the workshops as they roar and sing,
The city’s masts — each steeple, tower, and flue —
And skies that bring eternity to view.

Sweet, through the mist, to see illumed again
Stars through the azure, lamps behind the pane,
Rivers of carbon irrigate the sky,
And the pale moon pour magic from on high.
I’d watch three seasons passing by, and then
When winter came with dreary snows, I’d pen
Myself between closed shutters, bolts, and doors,
And build my fairy palaces indoors.

A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,
And all the Idyll holds of childhood’s spring.
The riots, brawling past my window-pane,
From off my desk would not divert my brain.
Because I would be plunged in pleasure still,
Conjuring up the Springtime with my will,
And forcing sunshine from my heart to form,
Of burning thoughts, an atmosphere that’s warm.

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

around the chateau

June 27, 2013

suzuki archipel 1

In the Domaine de Chaumont – sur – Loire, there is an annual international garden festival which I ‘ve visited about 6 times since it opened 20 odd years ago; mainly to see the show gardens. Since the beginnings, other areas of the park have been developed to offer visitor facilities and to contribute to the big idea of making Chaumont a Centre for Art and Nature devoted to the “relationship between nature and culture, artistic creation and the impact of landscape, our heritage and contemporary art” – from the brochure. This year, I found it difficult to respond to and enjoy most of the show gardens (post to follow), but what I did enjoy was the selective siting of installations within other parts of the parkland as well as the creation of another landscape for more permanent conceptual gardens – the Prés du Goualoup. L’archipel (top image) designed by Shodo Suzuki  is here and is . . .

suzuki

. . . a development of his original Zen garden from early years of the festival (above). One comment was that the recent creation looked a little like a golf course. Land form is always difficult to integrate into large areas of flat grassland and maybe the strong principles behind this form of garden were sitting uneasily within this landscape – certainly with spreads of pretty wild flowers. I did find it calming however, which is important.

suzuki archipel 4

wild flower edge + kawamata

The installation by Rainer Gross – Toi(t) à terre  – visible from the Loire and offering views of the river from the parkland. This blackened wood form appears to  have gently rolled down and settled itself in a discarded manner against one of the park trees . Great scale  . . . . .

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. . . and the partner, Toi(t) en perspective, hangs from the giant trees. Shapes inspired by the conical chateux towers, specifically Amboise, just along the Loire.

rainer gross blackened wood  2

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Patrick Dougherty designed these airy forms which looked like willow and indeed parts appeared to be sprouting. Tactile, curious and fun.

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nash charred wood

More serious work from David Nash – static, monumental, confident and not inviting – which isn’t a criticism just an observation. The cedars however, are monumental as well as retaining their graceful habit and character.

cedrus

stables

Within the renovated stables complex – stupendous 19th C indulgence – sits Spirale Végétale. Patrick Blanc created a green wall  here many years ago – once seen never forgotten – where the workings were visible and so helpful to all who marvelled. He’s back again with this giant curving leaf form open to the sky. Many times copied but always falling short – his planting is his mark and my pix are poor!

patrick blanc 1

patrick blanc 2

corten seats

By the Hayloft Gallery, one of the old farm buildings, a touch of contemporary amongst a wealth of quite beautifully renovated traditional elements.  Corten steel to give you a rusty, grid pattern on your backside and uncomfortable to boot. So, the implication is not to perch.

mixes

hopper

By the greenhouse, wiggley -woggley lines of box domes which are rather charming especially as they sit in the angular built environment – an image used in a previous post.

lines of box

6 stables

kongjian 1

Le Jardin de Yu Kongjian – Carré et Rond – re sited permanently in the new Goualoup area offers a curving boardwalk over water in an eyes down sort of way. More interesting in an eyes up way though is Nuage Permanent by Nakaya. The inside of a cloud within the birch grove. An imagined imagery controlled superbly.

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nakaya 2

Aujourd’hui l’espace est splendide!
Sans mors, sans éperons, sans bride,
Partons à cheval sur le vin
Pour un ciel féerique et divin!

Comme deux anges que torture
Une implacable calenture
Dans le bleu cristal du matin
Suivons le mirage lointain!

Mollement balancés sur l’aile
Du tourbillon intelligent,
Dans un délire parallèle,

Ma soeur, côte à côte nageant,
Nous fuirons sans repos ni trêves
Vers le paradis de mes rêves! Charles Baudelaire  Le Vin des amants

Oh, what a splendour fills all space!
Without bit, spur, or rein to race,
Let’s gallop on the steeds of wine
To heavens magic and divine!

Now like two angels off the track,
Whom wild relentless fevers rack,
On through the morning’s crystal blue
The swift mirages we’ll pursue.

Now softly poised upon the wings
That a sagacious cyclone brings,
In parallel delirium twinned,

While side by side we surf the wind,
We’ll never cease from such extremes,
To seek the Eden of our dreams!  trans. Roy Campbell

1 door

In a village in Normandy, faded French Navy paintwork and glorious mixed tones of iris – I really don’t care about the chain link fence as the tones of the flags are so rich and complimentary. Cayeux irises maybe . . .

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4 iris

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. . . and they’re in a garden in Rue de la Messe. Beautiful calligraphy on the road sign – it’s France, of course. Further south on the Loire, more constrained planting here by the donkey stables in the Domaine of the Château de Chaumont-sue-Loire. The box balls sit in corten circles lining the well raked path network.

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And nearby in Blois, box and other evergreen shrubs are planted and clipped to form green pillows on the sloping bank between road and château.

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In the small park opposite, the planting is older, maybe early 1900’s, but thoughtful in the composition of shape and form. The tree planting in France always causes me to catch my breath in wonderment . . .

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. .  on the higher level are the Jardins des Lice with combinations of plant forms spread below the avenue of limes. This is the only part of the three parts of the Les Jardins du Château de Blois which remains incomplete but what is here is well maintained.

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The completed parts designed by Gilles Clément contain Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux. Below is the Jardins des simples viewed from the terrace above  – one of my favourite town parks – a gem of the contemporary treatment of traditional elements. Simple structure, cherries, crab apples, box + yew and decorative infill planting with classical limestone. So simple, yet so effective – it’s all in the detail.

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Another are that sits midway between Jardin des lices and Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux is the Terrasse des fleurs royales with the squares of iris – the flower of  Franςois I – at the end of the flowering season now but still effective with the papery brown flags en masse.

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Perfect planting of philadelphus to shoulder the gated entrance. And the view from Clos des simples zodiacaux to the established and mature trees below and, even more faded French Navy, showing me once again that style, finish and detailing are second nature here.

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finalblois

finaldoor

Viens-tu du ciel profond ou sors-tu de l’abîme,
O Beauté? ton regard, infernal et divin,
Verse confusément le bienfait et le crime,
Et l’on peut pour cela te comparer au vin.

Tu contiens dans ton oeil le couchant et l’aurore;
Tu répands des parfums comme un soir orageux;
Tes baisers sont un philtre et ta bouche une amphore
Qui font le héros lâche et l’enfant courageux.

Sors-tu du gouffre noir ou descends-tu des astres?
Le Destin charmé suit tes jupons comme un chien;
Tu sèmes au hasard la joie et les désastres,
Et tu gouvernes tout et ne réponds de rien.

Tu marches sur des morts, Beauté, dont tu te moques;
De tes bijoux l’Horreur n’est pas le moins charmant,
Et le Meurtre, parmi tes plus chères breloques,
Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement.

L’éphémère ébloui vole vers toi, chandelle,
Crépite, flambe et dit: Bénissons ce flambeau!
L’amoureux pantelant incliné sur sa belle
A l’air d’un moribond caressant son tombeau.

Que tu viennes du ciel ou de l’enfer, qu’importe,
Ô Beauté! monstre énorme, effrayant, ingénu!
Si ton oeil, ton souris, ton pied, m’ouvrent la porte
D’un Infini que j’aime et n’ai jamais connu?

De Satan ou de Dieu, qu’importe? Ange ou Sirène,
Qu’importe, si tu rends, — fée aux yeux de velours,
Rythme, parfum, lueur, ô mon unique reine! —
L’univers moins hideux et les instants moins lourds?

Do you come from Heaven or rise from the abyss,
Beauty? Your gaze, divine and infernal,
Pours out confusedly benevolence and crime,
And one may for that, compare you to wine.

You contain in your eyes the sunset and the dawn;
You scatter perfumes like a stormy night;
Your kisses are a philtre, your mouth an amphora,
Which make the hero weak and the child courageous.

Do you come from the stars or rise from the black pit?
Destiny, bewitched, follows your skirts like a dog;
You sow at random joy and disaster,
And you govern all things but answer for nothing.

You walk upon corpses which you mock, O Beauty!
Of your jewels Horror is not the least charming,
And Murder, among your dearest trinkets,
Dances amorously upon your proud belly.

The dazzled moth flies toward you, O candle!
Crepitates, flames and says: ‘Blessed be this flambeau!’
The panting lover bending o’er his fair one
Looks like a dying man caressing his own tomb,

Whether you come from heaven or from hell, who cares,
O Beauty! Huge, fearful, ingenuous monster!
If your regard, your smile, your foot, open for me
An Infinite I love but have not ever known?

From God or Satan, who cares? Angel or Siren,
Who cares, if you make, — fay with the velvet eyes,
Rhythm, perfume, glimmer; my one and only queen!
The world less hideous, the minutes less leaden?   Charles Baudelaire   Hymn to Beauty

Chelsea foray

May 23, 2013

1bulbs

Rather shocked to see that I haven’t been to Chelsea for 3 years. Years ago, it was an event to look forward to – the development of show gardens, sound second hand book stalls where work by Sylvia Crowe and Nan Fairbrother could be found, the design tent (my home for many years) and mostly the delight of Beth Chatto’s stand in the Grand Marquee. Now, Twitter, Facebook et al tells us exactly what we’ll find so the sense of discovery doesn’t exist. The sun used to shine too, on the odd occasion. Yesterday, the place was packed. We shuffled around trying to poke a nose over shoulders of crowds that appeared to be looking at exhibits but of course were gawping at the TV celebs busy filming. Due to the heavy cloud and the bitter cold, I made straight for the flowers  . . .  inside . . . .

2 bulbs

. . classy stand created by Avon Bulbs. Deep maroon Tulipa ‘Paul Scherer’, white fringed Tulipa ‘Daytona’, Allium ‘White Empress’ and Anthericum liliago major stood serene. Hard to miss is Sue from Crug Farm Plants – colourful gear and great jewellery  – manning the display of foliage rich specimens. Many are grown from seed collected from annual plant hunting expeditions. Show stopper here is Disporum longistyllum with black and green stems standing proud.

3 crug

4 west malling

As sculptural, but to be pitied, a large excavated tree on the East Malling Research Stand with all roots exposed. Folks edged around it nervously and were supposed to wonder at how ‘scientific knowledge can be focused on rootstocks and growing techniques, through to the modern application of genetic studies to advance fruit culture’. Boffins can be brutal! To the other extreme, opulence and pure decoration from the Far East but quite hideous . . .

5 eastern

. .  stonking lupins and touches of ethereal beauty  – geum, verbascum and ladybird poppies – created by Rosy Hardy

6 lupins

7 hardys1

The light’s quite strange inside the Grand Marquee and I’m nowhere in terms of photography which is a frustrating combination. Below is the evidence, oh dear. Beautiful and imaginative display of cascading amaryllis badly captured. This stand by the Dutch firm of  Warmenhoven showing their fabulous bulbs upwards and downwards ticked all the boxes for me and, amazingly enough,  for the RHS, and we hardly ever agree.

8 amaryllis

9 amaryllis

11 amaryllis

Well, outside I shivered but this lady carried off her outing with great aplomb and I did see a few hats and remembered Jane accordingly.

12 lady

13 nordfell

A few of the show gardens warrant some exposure here. Ulf Nordfell designed this for Laurent-Perrier. Simple, clean and classical. Sleek, calm and contemporary. Exquisite use of crafted materials – soft and sublime planting – all excellent. However, I much preferred his  Linnaeus Garden of 2007. And someone has just asked Why? Well, the narrative in that garden was strong, clear and compelling – that’s my answer.

14 nordfell

15 nordfell

Unfortunately for Ulf, he was partnered alongside this great spectacle seen below . . .

16 CB-H

. .  Christopher Bradley – Hole designed this  . . . he can do the narrative so well. And he courageously filled the space with plants and let us rest our elbows on green oak balustrade so we could breath it all in and, of course, admire his skill and that of the contractor.

16.1 CB-H

The inspiration cane from the English countryside  – field patterns and native plants with some Japanese overtones and a little Mien Ruys too perhaps?  But I didn’t mention that to him – next time perhaps . . .

17 CB-H

. .  the profiles of green oak and charred oak that wrap 2 sides of the garden have caused a stir.

18 CB-H

And something that caused another stir is The Trailfinders Australian Garden. On the rock bank and filled with glorious plants like Brachtrichon rupestris sourced from a nursery in Sicily. The chaps on the stand were thrilled with their Best in Show – such enthusiasm rubbed off all around.

19 trailfinders

20 trailfinders

21 nasties

The product stands at the show have their share of hideous rubbish  . . . a strange dichotomy . . . well designed ( mostly!!) show gardens and quite lovely plants on the nursery stands and pure crap on the product stalls. This ghastliness above loomed over the small ‘Fresh’ gardens where designers are asked to be brave and challenge preconceptions. Some achieved this and some didn’t quite. I liked this  – Digital Capabilities – where the concept of engagement of technology and physical space was explored by Harfleet and Harfleet. The degree of Twitter activity manipulated the movement of screens.

22 digital capabilities

23 after the fire

And this garden ‘After the Fire’ was also popular especially with me. After last summer’s spell in Languedoc and Provence enjoying the garrigue landscape, this little landscape connected completely. Regeneration of plant life following forest fires  . . . seed collected by Kelways and nurtured to provide some of the planting. Huddled amongst the burnt stems are members of the Mediterranean Garden Society from Greece and France

24 after the fire

25 recycled

Always interesting to see and learn how recycled materials can be used effectively as on The Wasteland but I didn’t understand the planting especially the siting of 3 blowsy pink rhodos! Echoes of the past.

26 recycled

But I did understand this stand of Sneeboer garden tools. Best thing to finish off with and good to see you again James  Aldridge!

27 tools

The following were not allowed in the house:

A lone glove, dropped.

The new moon’s crescent glimpsed in the mirror.

The sky-spars of an open umbrella.

There was also the rubic of May

and its blossoms. Granny barred the door

against hawthorn and the sloe,

even the rowan with its friendly acrid smell of underwear,

so that Bride the white goddess

could not dance herself in from the moor,

or too much beauty break and enter

her winter store of darkness.  Alison Fell  5 May

glimpse

Some very enjoyable hours are spent researching enclosed gardens nowadays. For one researcher it is directly connected to an imminent installation, so the aesthetic;  and for the other, it is connected more and more to the 360 degree view of the plot being worked by the gardener, so the practical. A glimpse into one of the cloistered green areas at Val de Bénédiction Chartreuse in Villeneuve les Avignon offers up the expected box framed parterre – a warm berceau – a  14 C  space lined by cloisters but now the 21 C view that visitors expect. This is the church cloister bounded by chapter room, sacristan’s cell, shaving room and the church housing the mausoleum of Pope Innocent VI. It may have been an area for cultivating herbs . . . . a  ‘focal point’ – vase has been placed as part of the experience that is de rigueur now.

hortus

The feature look a a little out of place in the new setting but it’s a good reproduction of 17 C decorative finial from the entrance gate and posts. Pomegranates, melons and acanthus adorn the vase. This may be a copy of  the original by Franςois Des Royers, a local architect, sculptor and stone mason, who was invited to add similar touches. The monasatery grew richer, more influential and beautiful over the centuries until the Revolution.

niche

Long corridors offer up a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Any decoration is subdued but appropriate. Following a carving up into lots of the library and works of art including frescoes and the bad damage to the building during the Revolution,  the Inspector of Historical Monuments, Prosper Mérimée started the process of repair.

arch doorway

ceiling

support

The priest’s cells form a linear terrace on the right side of this cloister – Cemetery Cloister. The cells had a mezzanine sleeping area looking out onto a private walled garden, and across the Chemin des Chartreux to the Fort St – André,  high on the hill overlooking the new town, the Rhône and the old Avignon.

corridor with rooms

monks houses

The individual garden – hortulus –  has a raised level to catch as much sun as possible. A majority of the herbal plants had been introduced by the Romans but also brought back from The Holy Land by Crusaders so sun and warmth were a prerequisite in their growth and cultivation.

herbs

plan of certosa

The plan of another Certosa, Pavia, shows the uninterrupted rectilinear regulation of line and form. Inward looking and contemplative – nothing from the outside or larger world can interrupt. My thoughts on tending earth and growing plants are on the same level.

k garden

This was the area of the hortus catalogi, also part of the Cemetery Cloister, where plants were grown for food and healing. Grown in an ordered pattern, originally as a user friendly method of organisation,  with roots from ancient Muslim gardens.

hortus catalogi

long corridor

All circulation was through covered cloister walkways – repetition – harmoniously connecting functional spaces – inward views – geometric planes of light and shade – unified  – humility and piety – prayers offered up to save the human race.well

One necessary functional space was based round the water reservoir. The basin here built by Des Royers and covered later with an octagonal rotunda by Franque seems monumental and indicative of the power of the church . . . . so back firmly down to earth with Carol Ann Duffy:

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre. Carol Ann Duffy  Prayer

Some other posts on the research:

http://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/chronicling-the-day/

http://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/quietude/

http://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/land-of-the-saint-the-devil-and-the-monks/

http://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/a-room-without-a-ceiling/

(refs: drawings from The Enclosed Garden Aben + de Wit; Captured Landscape K Baker)

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