December 7, 2013
This morning, the horizon shimmered with a low misty layer. The sea appeared to be exhaling in long slow sensuous breaths into the huge sky above. The contrast of this light show (orchestrated by the universe) to the raw, stubbly texture of the newly ‘cut’ hedges (massacred by man) was quite powerful. . . . .
. . . . although the colours of the landscape here in the Country Park, now are mostly earthy and restful, flashes of brilliance appear on the top of the gorse and from the berries of the stinking Gladwyn iris – poor plant to have to bear this detrimental tag . . .
. . . but holding its own against the encompassing mass of bracken fronds looking now like shredded brown paper bags. Attractive in appearance, the bracken masks its true nature - pernicious, invasive and opportunistic.
Scrub oaks and small sweet chestnut are more prominent visually on this sloping coastal terrain. A flock of birds showing as black specks add to the graphic quality of the composition. I feel a stranger in my surroundings. When I look to the horizon from this rather gentrified landscape, I want to know what is happening beyond and elsewhere in the world. I should feel lucky in comparison with those caught up in violent conflict as the poem intimates.
The seasons are sharp and divide the look and feel of the landscape. It becomes very different worlds when the seasons change. Elements are exposed; then covered, hidden and secret. I think again and again of Ravel’s sentence: Music is the silence hidden between the notes.
Was it widthways or lengthways,
a quarrel with the equator?
Did the rawness of the inside sparkle?
Only this is true:
there was an arm on one side
and a hand on the other,
a thought on one side
and a hush on the other.
And a luminous tear
carried on the back of a beetle
went backwards and forwards
from one side to the other. Monica Alvi How the World Split in Two
November 23, 2013
The Great Dixter Christmas Fair is held this weekend. After a wander around the stalls set up in the house, a chance to wander around the garden for the last time this year – for most of us anyway. In the Barn Garden, the fig, now bare, stretched out to take as much of the winter sun as possible is a thing of great beauty . . .
. . I find the piles of compost and mulches and the stacks of felled timber equally beautiful in a functional sense.
The clipped buxus by the front of the house have a melodious form. Fergus has tackled a hebe in a similar manner; I’m not sure about this aesthetically or is the formal European treatment of a New Zealander that disconcerts me? Interesting though. Looking through the archive, I find a post from last November (written a couple of weeks earlier in the month) where a shot of the oast and the border in the Blue Garden is almost identical . . .
. . . Dixter is a strange mix of the vernacular and the strength of form and texture in the planting – some contemporary. Very close to the hovel (above) in the Exotic Garden is a great explosion of foliage and vertical, soft and furry buds on a tetrapanax. No sign of the new dogs today, but Titch was around craving attention and receiving much affection. . .
. . across the Cat Garden, behind the Long Border, seedheads are slowly turning to biscuit tones . . .
. . but the Long Border itself still has spots of colourful fruits and lingering flowerheads – delicate in composition. And opposite, the mulberry too shows delicacy in its form and texture.
As does this grouping in the corner of the Vegetable Garden looking across the Orchard . . .
. . . by the Horse Pond, great stands of gunnera slowly collapsing after their performance. Applause and much appreciation.
What’s green is going, taking
with it the last hiding-places
of the light, its spills
The trunk of the one wild cherry
ink black, like the swan’s neck,
its leaves sharp scarlet beaks.
The land’s flayed bare by its reckonings
with the century –
torn off a strip,
like the sod that Private Harry Farr
The moon pins its white square
of flannel over the heart.
Dawn drips its slate-light
across the field,
scratches another name
on its sum of wonders. Alison Fell November (6) Lightyear
(Harry Farr was a young Yorkshire soldier shot in Flanders for so-called desertion)
November 15, 2013
At low tide, looking across Nook Drain, the tussocky forms of Atriplex portulacoides (sea purslane) are revealed carpeting the marsh extents of the River Rother. A hidden landscape at high tide. Foragers will collect the seed for pesto or something more complicated . .
. . looking to the west across the wader pool, an area of John Gooder’s saltmarsh habitat, the teazels retain their presence. Humans can consume the seeds as a remedy for Lyme Disease but they are much needed by winged foragers as the temperatures drop. Looking again at these photos taken early afternoon, I realise how deceptive they are. In reality the river path through the wildlife reserve was thick with folks enjoying a stroll in the sun – and why not – but my interest lay to the landscape and the eclectic elements within and also in the distance. The large built mass of the power station at Dungeness is just hovering on the horizon in the image below . . .
. . closer at hand is one of a pair of WW2 blockhouses and, of course, the much photographed red roofed hut. How many coats of paint or bitumen has this received over the years? The end of the path is blocked now as construction work is being carried out to the long timber river wall but it’s possible to trudge and slither down the pebbles on one side and gain access to the beach . . .
. . . and discover the groynes in many shapes, formats and materials.
Soft textures working their way across the steel and natural stone as well as sculptural man made hummocks of concrete. On the ground there are watery imprints of the tide as it leaves the last surface – sand.
November 10, 2013
We woke up to warm sun this Sunday and it was most welcome following torrential rain and a storm ten days ago. Standing in the attic window, I spied a swimmer doing a fast crawl towards the pier – wondered if the sea was warm too – and was a little relieved to see him exit the water about 30 minutes later.
The storm threw the pebbles over the lower promenade disguising the division between beach and tarmac . . .
. . . strong shadows on the soft, sandy, lower stretch . . .
. . . all the crunch is now higher up mixed with seaweed drying out and crisping up.
Taking this shot, I start to notice the cracks and fissures in the concrete oversail . . .
. . and conscious of Cornelia Parker, having watched and been influenced by her episode in What Do Artists Do All Day, started to take more detailed shots . . . .
. . and then I started to think what I was going to do with the photographs – time will tell.
Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Futile – the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!
Rowing in Eden -
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight -
In thee! Emily Dickinson Wild Nights
October 27, 2013
First glimpse of the harbour arm this morning down at The Stade and once passed the fishing boats the rainbow colours are left behind . . .
. . if I’d chosen B+W these images couldn’t be more graphic. Great turbulent sea.
Even the puddles have a marine quality – this one looks like a large turbot. Nipping into Sonny’s at Rock – a – Nore turbot wasn’t on offer but no matter as his display looked mouth watering as always.
Battling up the shallow incline of The Old Town High Street to see Drawings Inspired by Great Dixter Gardens which had some resonance with the bare bones of the stormy weather. Large charcoal compositions that ignore one of the attributes that Dixter is famous for – the variety of colour within the planting palette. So, a brave decision, but one that many are appreciative of.
Artist and gallery owner in deep conversation and an idea of the scale of ‘Echo’, the largest piece. Listen carefully and you might hear nightingales . . . .
. . I rather like these shots where other pieces are reflected to form layered compositions. I also rather like it when our garden clients come along and make a purchase. Very good choice, James.
It’s been a weekend devoted to gardens. And devoted to gardens with yew hedges that provide a still and calming presence. Yesterday was spent at Sissinghurst when we talked a lot about control. How to convey sense of place and mood when writing about gardens. How to describe the character of plants successfully. How to dig deeper and also how to edit. Today, there is no control and hence the choice of poem, but it was a close run thing with Robert Frost.
The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain’s side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow The Sound of the Sea
October 10, 2013
Meet under the canopy of the Shard – this was the instruction for the students studying garden design masterplan (BA Hons Garden Design) and place and culture and masterplanning (BA Hons Landscape Architecture). New start to the term and new project site: The Borough, Southwark. Cold, windy and hard environment here with major works happening to London Bridge station. The Wikipedia reference: Southwark is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Sudweca. The name means “southern defensive work” and is formed from the Old English sūth and weorc. The southern location is in reference to the City of London to the north, seemed appropriate to machinery machinations . . .
. . just a glimpse of a tree and a tempting offer on a station poster.
We intended to cover a semi circle – radius of 1000m centred on the station with first stop at more london . . black Kilkenny limestone defining the strong desire line . . . a busy ‘chunnel’ at 1pm on a working day. We talked about how the space would feel on a Sunday. We hoped/suggested that the students might make a visit then to note changes. I would if this was my major design site . . .
. . . some tumbling and some sitting about and some standing around on scaffolding. Great Fraxinus – they work better here than the more decorative birch . . .
Through Potters Field and on by the London City Mission, we crossed under the tunnels arriving at St Mary Magdelen Churchyard and then into Tanner Street Park. A group of Prunus sargentii were starting the fireworks display of autumn but, these poor trees showed the detrimental effect on plants trying to cope with badly laid paving + kerbs - terrifying hard landscaping. Through Leathermarket Gardens and Guy Street Park and on southwards to Tabard Gardens (lovely, potential here for detailed design – hint, hint) then east to Merrick Square and slowing down, a bit, to enjoy Trinity Church Square. .
. . . through Mint Street Park, we came across this community garden – green roof building and plenty of info for interested visitors. And yes, the baby came too.
On passed Cross Bones Cemetery and the ‘site with most potential’ that is currently a car park prior to development, we swung left down Southwark Street and into Neo Bankside. Many smiles spread across faces here. Maybe because the end was in sight but most likely as this landscape was deemed attractive by those studying – the staff more sceptical, which is their rightful position when analysing landscape projects, . . . . we’ll be doing it all again with the MA students – click here for this. We covered the semi circle ending at Tate Modern – another potential site – in just under 3 hours. So, looking forward to hearing and seeing the group survey presentation on this area, reading the A3 document and getting stuck into individual masterplanning at 1:500. All by the start of December – no pressure, of course. Exciting site will produce imaginative designs. And the poem, well for me it’s about not being precious about the past, allowing some respect but, mainly welcoming the future.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster. E Bishop One Art
October 3, 2013
We took the students to RHS Wisley to engage with, absorb and discuss end of summer planting as part of Advanced Planting Design module. From the fruit mound, we gazed across acres of orchard trees and marveled at the excellence of management and good house keeping that was on display. The dusters must be out at dawn to buff up the fruits on Malus ‘Bloody Ploughman’ . .
. . scanning down the glasshouse borders, more commonly referred to as the Oudolf borders, the bleached heads of Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ make striking and graphic statements at this time of year. And at close quarters, this upright grass looks glorious with Persicaria ‘Firedance’ . . .
. . . a sweeping brush stroke of Calamagrostis brachytricha – soft + tactile – forms yet another layer in a composition of form, habit and texture. Mass planting of echinacea, upright dark cones standing proud now, flows like a stream back into the woodland.
More C. brachytricha displaying its silky plumes that contrast well with the darker thistle heads of Eryngium giganteum. There’s a great sense of power now in the character of shrubs like Cotinus – a dramatic last burst of visual ‘fortissimo’ - while the fingers of Perovskia ‘Little Spire’, also in their last flourish, demand attention in a more ladylike and willowy manner.
In the perennial meadow, where the planting mix has been defined by James Hitchmough, we recognised Silphium perfoliatum, daisy heads on tall stems ranging away over lower planting in this interesting gritty landscape. We were a tad stumped however, identifying the architectural seed heads in the image above. Neither members of staff had a clue!
On Battleston Hill, a forest of gums caused discussion . . .
. . as did carpets of much smaller things. Even without the added bonus of flowers, cyclamen is a winner with foliage that is nigh perfection.
The following day, a trip to Great Dixter , without the students although encouraged to visit, to see Conifer (L) and Miscanthus (R) perform in the annual Dixter Dachshund Day. They did well. Thanks Perry? or is it Adele for the facebook page.
Signs of the changing season here too . . . .
. . but the dynamic structure of this garden is never masked by the seasonal planting . . .
. . . the one compliments the other.
Here the fruit is integrated with the decorative planting. Some of these pear trees are very old and make a charming knarled lattice frame through which to view other areas. And, the cotinus in the Long Border, is behaving just like its relation at Wisley as one would expect.
In the Exotic Garden, there is abundant growth this year. Carefully squeezing down the narrow paths is like a voyage of discovery . . .
. . . so good to see Mrs Oakley Fisher, once more, and still in flower too. It’s all about the plants, of course.
Out in the late amber afternoon,
Confused among chrysanthemums,
Her parasol, a pale balloon,
Like a waiting moon, in shadow swims.
Her furtive lace and misty hair
Over the garden dial distill
The sunlight,–then withdrawing, wear
Again the shadows at her will.
Gently yet suddenly, the sheen
Of stars inwraps her parasol.
She hears my step behind the green
Twilight, stiller than shadows, fall.
“Come, it is too late,–too late
To risk alone the light’s decline:
Now has the evening long to wait,”–
But her own words are night’s and mine. Hart Crane In Shadow
September 22, 2013
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 . . .
. . . 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.
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.
Scrub oak, arbutus, pistacia lentiscus and pine form the major structural planting with some cistus, rosemary, euphorbia and rambling lonicera in the sunny patches . . .
. . 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?
And moving on we find a built structure, not a cabanon that Cézanne might have used during his time drawing and painting here . . .
. . but a building that encouraged interaction and it had with a great view. Can’t take my eyes off the landscape.
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
September 9, 2013
Parque de la Memoria ( Memory Park) is unique in symbolism and unique among the eclectic mix of parks and green spaces in Buenos Aires. Carlos Thays planned most of the 19 – 20 C parks during the initial growth of this city as the capital of a large country facing industrialisation. In recent years, more contemporary open spaces have been slotted into post industrial developments such as Puerto Madero, along the Plata underlining the growth in the economy and changes in social requirements. Many of the new parks and urban spaces integrate abstract sculptures – this park has eight visually powerful pieces conceived and created within a broad collective theme of Human Rights. This is not only a park but also a monument to the tens of thousands of Argentines that disappeared during the military dictatorships that spanned 14 years. It’s fitting that the site chosen is by the river believed to be the final resting place of many of the disappeared and also that it is adjacent to the University that many victims were associated with.
The main access is uncompromising in its bleakness - an immediate wake up call to the rationale behind the design – but transforms itself well into a user friendly open classroom when the young inhabit the park . . . .
. . distant horizons are incorporated into the linear framework. The river is wide here but the sense of the opposite shore, Uruguay, is strong although too distant visually – the seen and the unseen. The personal memorial to those ‘lost’ is a series of concrete walls that vary in angle, height and length and define spaces that are sharply angled and sloping. The names of those that disappeared during the dictatorships are carved into bricks attached to the walls making a textured surface that contributes to a sense of discomfort, tension and sadness – all suitable.
The planting is chosen to underscore the symbolism as well as compliment the architectural feel of the park. A bosque of red budded Erythrina crista-galli, the national tree, and well able to cope with the harsh river side conditions plus the lack of management, stand in a asymmetrical group.
Areas of grass are left long perhaps to discourage active play – a creeping geranium tinged the sward with a flush of pink similar in tone to the spectacular flowers on the Ceiba speciosa . . . . .
. . . one installation that demands attention is the arc of 53 signs. Traffic signs that have become a visual language here display information as though on a route through Argentina’s recent history of state terrorism (Grupo de Arte Callejero). . . .
. . . and the dreaded Ford Falcon.
The park spreads out into the river in a wide arc enabling immediate connection with the water as well as opportunities to gaze, rest and reflect.
Pablo Miguez disappeared at the age of 14. This sculpture by Claudia Fontes was conceived specifically for this siting in the Rio de la Plata. If Pablo had survived he would be the same age today as the sculptor.
Libre de la memoria y de la esperanza,
ilimitado, abstracto, casi futuro,
el muerto no es un muerto: es la muerte.
Como el Díos de los místicos
de Quien deben negarse todos los predicados,
el muerto ubicuamente ajeno
no es sino la perdición y ausencia del mundo.
Todo se lo robamos,
no le dejamos ni un color ni una sílaba:
aquí está el patio que ya no comparten sus ojos,
allí la acera donde acechó su esperanza.
Aun lo que pensamos
podría estar pensándolo él;
nos hemos repartido como ladrones
el caudal de las noches y de los días.
Free of memory and of hope,
limitless, abstract, almost future,
the dead man is not a dead man: he is death.
Like the God of the mystics,
of Whom anything that could be said must be denied,
the dead one, alien everywhere,
is but the ruin and absence of the world.
We rob him of everything,
we leave him not so much as a color or syllable:
here, the courtyard which his eyes no longer see,
there, the sidewalk where his hope lay in wait.
Even what we are thinking,
he could be thinking;
we have divvied up like thieves
the booty of nights and days.
Jorge Luis Borges Remordimiento Por Cualquier Muerte
August 31, 2013
Small jetties stretch into Bahia Redondo of Lago Argentina laying west of the centre of El Calafate. The town is small in relation to the size of the lago – and nowhere near as interesting but then it doesn’t purport to be anything but a base for visitors exploring the glaciers. I’ve looked at these images many times and resisted using them in a post mainly as I have a feeling that pics are done and dusted when added to the narrative . . . don’t want to let these go . . .
. . . Laguna Nimez and Laguna Secondaria gently embrace the marshland and the dune landscape of the nature reserve in an organic formation and, in quiet contrast, to the urban grid of the paths, roads and the geometric building mass of the town. We came across this young lad smothered in a patch of anthemis covering land destined for development . . . .
. . . and then immersed ourselves in the wetland area - with these larger inhabitants.
Typical vegetation of Berberis heterophyllus and ‘neneo’ Mulinum spinosum. The small furry foliage of Senecio patagonicus forms the ground cover. El Calafate was named after the berberis (calafate) bush - the landmark plant where the stage coach stopped.
Calafate puro or jam is totally delicious and makes a good ingredient for ice cream. Song birds and small rodents feed on the berries too. So bog standard berberis that we use freely in supermarket planting schemes has, after all, a more personal quality. Good.
Without resorting to lists – Snipe, Chilean flamingoes and black necked swans pad about and dip their beaks and necks into this watery ecosystem and the rush bird is also active within the reeds. Finches, sparrows, wrens and mockingbirds find protection amongst the calafate bushes. It is a list of course.
Rather out of focus but fitting in with the colour background is a long tailed meadowlark. A pair of young buzzards scan the ground for promising food. Other things fly here . . .
. . and early snow cover sits on the peaks in the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the north.
Hummingbirds and blackbirds and two great poets. Poems to read and absorb in tough times.
And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so
One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.
Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,
Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.
And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time
From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth
Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,
A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.
Seamus Heaney St Kevin and the blackbird
is a water-spark,
an incandescent drip
the hummingbird is
in the air,
a body of pollen,
or hot coal,
I ask you:
What is your substance?
Perhaps during the blind age
of the Deluge,
when the rose
in an anthracite fist,
and metals matriculated
each one in
a secret gallery
from a wounded reptile
some fragment rolled,
a golden atom,
the last cosmic scale,
a drop of terrestrial fire
suspending your splendor,
on a nut,
fit into a diminutive blossom;
you are an arrow,
honey’s vibrato, pollen’s ray;
you are so stouthearted–
with his black plumage
does not daunt you:
a light within the light,
air within the air.
Wrapped in your wings,
you penetrate the sheath
of a quivering flower,
that her nuptial honey
may take off your head!
From scarlet to dusty gold,
to yellow flames,
to the rare
to the orange and black velvet
of our girdle gilded by sunflowers,
to the sketch
little supreme being,
you are a miracle,
from torrid California
to Patagonia’s whistling,
You are a sun-seed,
a petal of silenced nations,
of buried blood,
of an ancient heart,
submerged. Pablo Neruda Ode to the Humminbird