August 8, 2014
” I had the idea of creating different garden rooms but on a big scale” says Piet Oudolf. The walled garden at Scampston Hall is where this idea was carried out. Within a geometric structure, the informality of the planting spreads through and harmonizes the experience of the journey – from room to room. Rivers, drifts and flowing lines are the theme – just enough and, not so much, as to dampen or annihilate. Unfortunately, these images show clearly that the air was laden with Yorkshire moisture on this visit, so water is all around . . .
. . . . curving ribbons of Molinia caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’ are woven through the mown turf base layer in the Drift Garden. As the grasses grow, the dynamic changes into a soft meadow landscape – the initial pattern is hidden. Low seating beneath the Chinese cork trees (Phellodendron) is surrounded by Salvia ‘Purple Rain’ – all quite delicious and showing that simple’s best.
Mature beech hedging rings the exterior of the garden rooms – visible on one side of the Plantsman’s Walk as well as within in the Spring and Summer Box Borders . . . .
. . . Astrantia m. ‘Claret’ punctuates pink Geranium ‘Rose Clair’, or is it the other way round? Woodland plants froth and spill under the Cercidiphyllum trees. A well-known Oudolf device of a central geometric shape, in this case, an oval, is positioned here filled with Molinia ‘Transparent’ – the arching habit disguises the formality of the pattern. A sense of formality is retained all year however, in the Silent Garden, where columns of yew are firmly entrenched within square clipped bases – the only feel of movement here comes from the water surface which hardly ripples . . . a very poor photo. This is said to be a room with a calm atmosphere . . . I’ve made it look depressing.
Cherry trees and a flowery mead circle The Mount which is worth ‘mounting’ to appreciate the whole scheme and understand how the rooms connect and balance – just like looking at a master plan. Oudolf comes into his own with the Perennial Meadow – a traditional quincunx filled with naturalised planting. Groups of plants and individual species appear to be scattered in a graceful manner but rise up and blend into a powerful almost musical performance . . . even in the wet.
Rudbeckia occidentalis wafting around above yellow Thermopsis caroliniana and Salvia ‘Blauhugel’ – quite splendid. A pleasing little gate too from which to exit – Yat is Yorkshire dialect for gate.
One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee,
One lesson which in every wind is blown,
One lesson of two duties kept at one
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity–
Of toil unsever’d from tranquility!
Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplish’d in repose,
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.
Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring,
Man’s fitful uproar mingling with his toil,
Still do thy sleepless ministers move on,
Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting;
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil,
Laborers that shall not fail, when man is gone. Mathew Arnold Quiet Work
July 17, 2014
We are having a ‘new’ pier and word has it that the bent + distorted constructions at the far end of the burnt out structure are being dismantled this week. So maybe the last chance to appreciate the old lady? or chap? Do piers have genders attached? Whatever, this one has become an old friend. This is what happened to three years ago.
Low tide offers an opportunity to view a close quarters – not only the old supports but also the new steel work. The bones are revealed in all their honest geometric beauty like open rooms . . .
. . . and the the forms that shape the underskirts around the straight legs . . .
. . . are continuously washed and refreshed and wrapped with living things as well as dead detritus.
Moving away across the slippery mud to note the activities of a few . . .
. . . and vacant items awaiting use. Even out of use this broken pier affects many folks here.
If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try. Marianne Moore I may, I might, I must
July 4, 2014
Arching mounds of bramble, flowering spectacularly now, on the shingle beach landscape of Romney Marsh. Dipsacus too, form a different prickly statement – more upright but equally statuesque, around the lagoons of fresh and salt water. In July, echium erupts through the herb layer and Epilobium hirsutum shows off the small clear pink florescence on lanky stems in damp situations (at the water’s edge) but also seems at home in dry and inhospitable ground. Denge Marsh, a part of the whole, lies well sheltered behind the storm beaches of Dungeness Point and, houses man made and quite sculptural statements, sound mirrors, (click to find out more) not so visible from a distance . . .
A strange discovery on writing this post as 12 months ago to the day, I posted on Dungeness. No swimming on that day – weather looks a little hazy. But under clear skies on this visit, architectural forms stand out clearly. The coastguard look-out, covered in scaffolding, can be rented . . .
. . . and round the point a ‘bouillabaisse’ where gulls feed off the fish attracted by the outlet from Dungeness B – a motley collection of concrete forms without any architectural merit – totally brutal.
Winching cables make half hidden serpentine patterns by the east facing shoreline. Derelict boats and sheds are gently cast adrift over across the shingle . . .
. . . one vessel is anchored beside the black frame of Prospect Cottage. The seeded crambe makes a good composition . . .
. . . gorse is just green now and the cotton lavender a mass of yellow buttons.
Bye bye for this July 4th. Across the pond, a poem in celebration.
June 20, 2014
Occasionally, Great Dixter stays opens in the early evening when the garden is much less populated and so easier to absorb. The Front Garden is still in meadow mode with soft blue flowers of Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ dancing through the grassy herb layer. Occasionally Fergus gives an informal talk – last Saturday he talked to the Friends of Great Dixter about successional planting, supported by his mind maps which are something to behold, and introduced this year’s group of students from Germany, US, Japan, UK and Turkey who gave short but delightful explanations about their horticultural life pre Dixter. We could wander around the garden before and after and soak it all in. June is the time of reflection and review of the past combined with the chance to develop and fine tune intuitive skills. This garden in June . . . mmm . . .
We heard about staking methods and the bedding out of plants that are grown on from seed annual and biennials in seasonal batches often 6 months apart. Cornflowers, tall and precise, are a case in point in The Solar Garden.
In The Wall Garden, great contrasts to the ‘soft meadow look’ appear with the container plants. An expansive composition of form, texture, habit + confident use of colour. The domed head of Geranium madarense in flower (below) echoes the arch – clever. Looking at this grouping, foliage is to the fore.
Looking down on detailed combinations such as Ladybird poppies filtering through the honesty seeds and the fading tones of Smyrnium perfoliatum and then looking up and capturing a gutsy long view beyond the verbascum torch to the clipped gateway and the walnut in the Front Garden – these aren’t haphazard planting combinations but are all clearly thought through.
The light is dropping away so contrasting colours take centre stage but touches of delicacy are half hidden and so offer surprise on investigation such as this delicate pea wrapping itself through the thick stemmed tree peony.
Wandering through the garden rooms, the contrasts and, therefore the changes in character and mood, invite reflection – from my point of view anyway. Lessons to be learnt at every visit – a joy.
This month the variegated portuguese laurel throws fragrant flowers over the narrow path leading to the Orchard and High Garden. A modest shrub but does the business when required. Again contrasts flood the view-point . . .
Seeing what’s going on in the Vegetable Garden is a must on any visit here but this time my eye was taken with the elliptical spread of acid green Euphorbia in the prairie. Brush against the Leptospermum lanigerum in the High Garden – powerfully scented white flowers disguising the silver foliage at this time of year – and then look . . .
. . . through vertical strands of Thalictrum and Miscanthus and Stipa gigantea arching nicely all around with full stops of the odd Ferula flower . . .
. . . blood red flowers on a rose in the Long Border taken with a long lens from The Orchard stop the eye whereas a pretty spread of dwarf campanula gently washes the base of Lutyens curved steps.
Then a quick foray into the Exotic Garden where the winter coats and shawls around the bananas have been cast aside. Mostly a green foliage room with the occasional rose in flower prior to the big visual explosion that will happen here from July onwards. What have I learnt? So much; marvellous.
This must be the month when Mercury started it,
tongue in cheek, stirring his sky-pot,
scattering the winged languages.
First, the pictograph with its chiselled petals,
then its linear equivalent, syllabic –
the exact whistlestop shape of the swallow.
Philology: How sound falls in love with the script.
What I have to put my mind to
is June’s own rain-noise,
the talk that drowns out the traffic.
Fricatives and plosives, tree-language
learned in the schoolroom of the wind.
Translations from the rose-garden,
the half million sweet nothings you can’t make out.
blown husks like ripped envelopes
rowan-flowers white as folded-open letters.
And that black man
under the branch stock still with his ear
to the air and its underwater wash of shadows.
Alison Fell June Lightyear
June 16, 2014
The Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve has over 267 hectares of ancient woodland, heathland and grassland together with 3 miles (5km) of cliffs and coastline. Set within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most of the park has been designated a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a designated Local Nature Reserve. All this sets the scene for the peaceful and also should go someway to explain the problem that is occuring and identified at the end of this post. I thought to walk from Fairlight Place, down Barley Lane where the verges are full now of a natural tapestry (the dog rose are especially glorious now – the oaks always) offering views through to the pasture only occasionally . . .
. . . which make them special.
Warm weather following months of rain mean wonderful growth on all plants. The interface of verge to stream to grasslands and meadows merge sublimely. Pieces of construction that are manmade are mainly of galvanised material . . .
. . . but sculptural elements that emanate from nature are there too.
Some organised by man and some where nature is in control.
Ivy exploring the oak, ash and sycamore make interesting organic compositions in Covehurst Woods and then the big view
opens across Lee Ness Ledge to Dungeness.
Turning up the track into Long Shaw and the meandering incline to Dripping Well, clumps of ferns are looking spectacular. The ancestors of these were dug up, potted up and taken by train to Covent Garden market in Victorian and Edwardian times. The sound is of gushing and falling water. and the visual is lush foliage, dappled shade, patches of sun and, on this occasion, a single fox with a light brown coat, just pausing unperturbed on the path to watch and gauge before disappearing elegantly into the
The westerly end of the Country Park at Ecclesbourne Glen is less peaceful recently. The owners of Rocklands (caravan park) have erected a ‘bunker’, removed trees (which may have caused a landslip and therefore the closure of paths) and increased the number of mobile homes directly interfacing the park landscape. This has been done illegally but the owners have applied for retrospective planning which they may well obtain. The ‘bunker’ has been constructed on the footprint of a single storey building and so obstructs the pleasing views that locals and visitors were able to enjoy. As the council are custodians of the Country Park, we feel aggrieved and have received little useful communication. A peaceful protest in the form of a Sunday picnic was organised and enjoyed by 200 folk who love the park and appreciate not only nature but also this particular and special coastal environment. No representatives, elected council or from the government joined us. The ‘bunker’ is shown below and then an image of festive picnic. And someone made a video of the proceedings and the story to date (thank you Bob + Peter). Click and listen – it’s worth it. Ah, little stone – how simple life should be.
How happy is the little Stone
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn’t care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears –
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity — Emily Dickinson
May 18, 2014
104 acres of a local nature reserve sit high above Hastings; the area is known as St Helen’s Woods. Some of these woods belonged to the estate of Ore Place – with the open land grazed by ponies in the past and still grazed by a few today. We wandered down through the oaks to Bill Vint Meadow – one large specimen has succumbed to disease but the texture of the bark is there for all to touch and caress . . .
. . out in the sunlight, the campion rises within the new bracken. We were here to see the first orchids and the bright light of a sunny afternoon meant glaring images.
Yellow rattle, red bartsia, buttercup and clovers are well established with the green winged orchid and spotted – all beneficial and attractive for woodland moths. The large oaks and ash spread pools of shade over the wildflower landscape where streams in the valley link to the 5 ponds.
Back at Ore Place, there is a dwarf landscape on the roof – very little top soil, so a dry environment, where linum, succulents, verbascums, dianthus, armeria, sisyrinchiums and thymes and origanums flourish 2nd year on . . .
. . and a dwarf lupin bouncing over the stone mix looked great with the Eschscholzia californica. Interesting contrasts. Today, we talked about Cuba, fishing, dogs, gardens, horses, yoga, counselling and a dog called Psyche from A Life of Bliss – but most readers/visitors and my companions are too young to know about this! Ah, the time has come when one is the oldest of the group. Neruda might have understoond, I feel.
Goodbye, goodbye, to one place or another,
to every mouth, to every sorrow,
to the insolent moon, to weeks
which wound in the days and disappeared,
goodbye to this voice and that one stained
with amaranth, and goodbye
to the usual bed and plate,
to the twilit setting of all goddbyes,
to the chair that is part of the same twilight,
to the way made by my shoes.
I spread myself, no question;
I turned over whole lives,
changed skin, lamps, and hates,
it was something I had to do,
not by law or whim,
more of a chain reaction;
each new journey enchained me;
I took pleasure in places, in all places.
And, newly arrived, I promptly said goodbye
with still newborn tenderness
as if the bread were to open and suddnenly
flee from the world of the table.
So I left behind all languages,
repeated goodbyes like an old door,
changed cinemas, reasons, and tombs,
left everywhere for somewhere else;
I went on being, and being always
half undone with joy,
a bridegroom among sadnesses,
never knowing how or when,
ready to return, never returning.
It’s well known that he who returns never left,
so I traced and retraced my life,
changing clothes and planets,
growing used to the company,
to the great whirl of exile,
to the great solitude of bells tolling.
Oh adioses a una tierra y otra tierra,
a cada boca y a cada tristeza,
a la luna insolente, a las semanas
que enrollaron los días y desaparecieron,
adiós a esta y aquella voz teñida
de amaranto, y adiós
a la cama y al plato de costumbre,
al sitio vesperal de los adioses,
a la silla casada con el mismo crepúsculo,
al camino que hicieron mis zapatos.
Me defundí, no hay duda,
me cambié de existencias,
cambié de piel, de lámpara, de odios,
tuve que hacerlo
no por ley ni capricho,
sino que por cadena,
me encadenó cada nueva camino,
le tomé gusto a tierra a toda tierra.
Y pronto dije adiós, ricién llegado,
con la ternura aún recién partida
como si el pan se abriera y de repente
huyera todo el mundo de la mesa.
Así me fui de todos los idiomas,
repetí los adioses como una puerta vieja,
cambié de cine de razón, de tumba,
me fui de todas partes a otra parte,
seguí siendo y siguiendo
medio desmantelado en la alegría,
nupcial en la tristeza,
ni saber nunca cómo ni cuándo
listo para volver, mas no se vuelve.
Se sabe que el que vuelve no se fue,
y así la vida anduve y desanduve
mudándome de traje y de planeta,
acostumbrándome a la compañía,
a la gran muchedumbre del destierro,
a la gran soledad de las campanas. Neruda Adioses.
May 6, 2014
‘Finally’ is used in the title as I feel bad that this post didn’t make it on the day – very poor from the this blogger’s perspective. The alexanders are in full flower now and best to search for the young shoots if they can be found. It’s an acquired taste but would surely have been foraged at many hundreds, maybe thousands of May Day festivals. Background information and for previous posts on this colourful extravaganza that dominates Hastings Old Town every year on May Bank Holiday. click here
The crowd was thick down at Rock-a-Nore waiting for Jack to exit the net huts and see the light of day again 12 months on. Headdresses are the first thing that catch the eye with the usual mix – lots of foliage, horns, feathers, tat and more thoughtful compositions – which merge together when folks get closer and closer straining to see when the procession might start . . .
. . . a few look nervous about the whistling, loud bangs and unidentifiable noises. Or is he just bored? Some intricate costumes need close inspection and some couples just look so dapper without much decoration . . .
. . lots of green and relief to see some red – but who is he, or she? Finally we get underway and Jack appears festooned with ribbons and his neat crown ribbons.
For me, the day would not be the same without this couple. They appear in all previous posts and in many guises but all exquisitely designed and crafted. Today, he (Bob) becomes the pope in the foreground and his female companion just hidden behind – well, she shouldn’t be there anyway. A pope with a partner?
Her hat is something to wonder at – equally the footwear . . .
. . his mitre held many sprigs of spider plant and a mackerel for good measure. And he had a furry tail.
So a good deal of banging sticks from The Sweeps and some with garlands and clogs from somewhere more refined than Hastings surely? A very neat group . . .
. . . and the fire eater, nicknamed ‘the baby’ goodness knows why as this year the ‘baby’ has developed adult chest hair. He received applause quite rightly from the imbibers at The Dolphin when doing his stuff.
As the procession moves up All Saints Street and then crosses The Bourne to descend The Old Town High Street, I meandered around looking at a property that wasn’t quite right but it was very green and then on to stare at a few shop windows with the usual bits and pieces displayed outside. Also enjoyed the reflections that were offered up . . .
. . . and find a place by Café Maroc to see it all again.
And I can see and admire it all for the third viewing when they reach the top of Croft Road (the home of the famous allotment) before the procession turns left and then just makes a short flat run to the castle where jollifications, eating and drinking and making merry can really start. The pope is already looking forward to the final events. It’s a steep hill, a hot day and many struggle under the weight of costume and heavy musical instruments. Bye-bye Jack, until next year – goodness knows where I’ll be then.
If you were to think of painting May
you would think of a locus of appearances –
the nature-goddess yanked from the soil
like a snake from a hole and shaping herself
as a tortoise or a sheaf of barley.
You would look with a clear eye
of Aphrodite Kyanopeis at her washing day
and see the starched iris, the hyacinth,
the sickle-blade of every stainless shadow,
and you would dream of a going-into-blue
like a stippled brushwork of wisteria
and the blue glaze of the sky where the bees meet,
then also of its exact golden opposite,
for honey is the colour of sun through eyelids
and above all the pure food of the Oracle,
transparent as the truth her handmaids the Melissae
etch on the air by their way-of-buzzing,
their way-of-flying. Alison Fell 6 May from Lightyear