To Charleston to listen to Fatima Bhutto and William Dalrymple discuss the Sacred and Profane. Glad to have time to stroll around the garden beforehand and to note that this garden is probably looking its best at this time of year –  even more so in the early evening light. Birdsong in the air and cows making the right noises before milking time – Sussex at its best!  This  is a quintessential cottage garden and  is of a style that remains much sort after. The building was a farm house so the garden is naturally slightly grander and larger than a typical worker’s dwelling.

In many gardens at the moment, there’s a change between the spring and early summer plants. This is quite delightful if the colours work well, as they do here, where  the creamy, soft yellow and orange Erysimums are on the wane as the Iris sibirica buds thrust their blue torches skywards.

It’s been a great year for Aquilegias and many were to be seen at Chelsea this month which is a sure sign that they will be even more popular and so difficult to source  for next year’s planting.

A fabulous mix. This  garden is walled and, therefore, sheltered ensuring abundant growth of early summer plants. These form a complex tapestry that appears simple and achievable but, it isn’t either of these as this look  requires constant attention and good horticultural knowledge. It’s also a look that  works best with a degree of structure alongside that the floriferous mix can bounce off and look even better!  The bulbous box hedging splits the space here very well. It forms a secondary function too . . to house the quirky busts and sculptural items . . .

. . .  a  Bloomsbury bottom . . .  and an invitation to explore the larger garden beyond the walls . .

. .  just beyond the door in the wall, liked this golden hop scrambling over a light hedge . . . and a little further on someone has a go  at outdoor flower arranging . . . curious and creative . . .

. . . was taken with the layer of fig forming a fruitful fringe above the wall by the studio . . .

. . it was still quiet so the parking attendants looking sort of rustic could take some time out before the line of cars appeared around the bend.

Others relax and waited for the event. In the shop, just a few punters . . .

. . don’t know what Virginia would have made of this! Is this true fame?

Like some of the get ups that are often seen on the cat walk at this festival. But back to why we were all there – Fatima and Willie  had new books to promote – they read passages from these and talked individually about the rationale behind them. Their connection is a common  knowledge of Pakistan, India and religion in the sub Continent and the Middle East – culture, traditions, extremism and contemporary politics and, above all, corruption. Some interesting debate on first hand knowledge of the problems in Afghanistan too. 

On your breast lay
the deep scar of your enemy
but, you standing cypress did not fall
it is your way to die.

In you nestles songs of blood and sword
in you the migrating birds
in you the anthem of victory
Your eyes have never been so bright. From Poem of the Unknown. Golsurkhi

Listened and learnt  a little and came away into the dark hungry to learn more.

Chelsea flâneur

May 27, 2010

eastern avenue

Now before preceding any further, I should say that this post is about a flower show and not football nor bling nor anything remotely hip as Kings Road used to be. Those from the 60’s who flocked down Kings Road are the new grey heads. This post isn’t much about flowers and gardens either as others have already done that.  As we enter Eastern Avenue . . .  well, it must be rather like going through the turnstiles to a game and, of course, it is a game  of sorts. This show is about business and most of us love shopping . . .

. . not too busy on the lawn mower stand and someone who looks like a body-guard deterring any potential punters . . .

looking rather bleak on the cold frame stand too . . . but round the corner at the ladder stand, with the blokes, there’s some movement . . .

and potential customers. So these ladders must be special – for hedging? . .

. . other stuff to buy perhaps a pod for the garden  . .  but not really big enough to be any use, as demonstrated by the salesman . . .

. . and some discussion here about a ‘hanging chair’ in bronze but, I recall, when these arrived in the ’60’s they were made from  bamboo and so much more suited to gardens and the outdoors generally  . . .

. . now, I don’t know what the cup is all about  – could almost be the water seller in Djemaa el fna . . another building below made from plastic bottles, not obviously for sale although if you made an offer?   . . .

. . or a railway carriage, new and rather hideous, but note the hanging chair in RHS . .

. . this visitor appeared bemused . . and I’m not surprised when I glanced at this horrible ‘vision of a water feature’  . .

and another below . . .  note the token planting  . . . .

and another supposed feature that you might consider for your garden . .

. . personally I find this more preferable – good jumper . .

. . visitors need time to chill out  and use all facilities  – whether flopping in a commercial stand or just on the ground –  . . .

. . where’s the band? . . and no interest in this stall below as grey heads prefer tea, Pimms, champagne and ice creams . . .

. . always good to see the real inhabitants of this garden . .

. . and something similar from ‘Don’t Look Now’ perhaps . .

. . in  the Trailfinders Australian Garden. Many wonderful plants and stands in the Marquee – extremely well presented with solid, knowledgeable staff – don’t think this has changed dramatically in the 20 years that I have attended – hats off to the nurseries never given the TV time that they deserve . . .

. . this man (Tom Stuart-Smith) also deserve plaudits and he’s doing his own cleaning up . . and dead heading . .

. . images of his garden here with a party in the back ground while he was tidying up . .

. . Tom’s garden was beautiful – he’s raised the bar . . plant of the moment is Cenolophium denudatum, the cow parsley look-alike  . .

. . exquisite combinations of textures. The Telegraph Garden was given the ultimate accolade – images to follow –  . .  very interesting planting in dry environments . .  Andy Sturgeon has come to the party . . .

. . look forward to flanuering next year.

A stranger here

    Strange things doth meet, strange glories see;

    Strange treasures lodged in this fair world appear,

    Strange all and new to me;

    But that they mine should be, who nothing was,

    That strangest is of all, yet brought to pass. 

from The Salutation  by Thomas Trehearne.

Our terrace has eight dwellings; it’s set one block back from the sea front and only accessed by steps at each end which causes problems for the increasing number of deliveries (can’t find us), rubbish collections and those who’ve a had a little bit too much of the bottle etc. Our rear gardens are vertiginous as set into the cliff side. Most of us have small patches to garden along our side of the path, and, a few of us have started to take ownership of the other side too. At the west end, cellars and workshop below ground mean nos 7 + 8 rely on pots and a cornucopia of containers for vegetation. This is our immediate landscape at macro scale.

Early evening, yesterday, looking east. I always thought this terrace was quite unique and had admired its particular character long before moving here but, in Valparaiso, I discovered the cousin. Picture taken early afternoon last December – so just before full height of summer.

Most of us experiment with colour for the facades with varying degrees of success. Colours fade to something weak and pathetic within months due in part to the south-facing aspect – the door of no 2, a case in point!  The cousin, which I think is near Paseo Gervasoni and Atkinson (neither C, nor I, can remember accurately), has been given a rather beautiful swish through the colour palette. And  just take a look at the east -facing rear where the colours remain all singing and dancing! Cabling, laced and looped overhead was very noticeable in the areas of Chile that I visited . . .

but, hey, we can do cabling too (opposite nos 3 + 4)!  And our views of the sea stack up as well . . .

and just a few details from no 8 . .

. . and no 7 . . .

. . and poppies at no 6  . .

. . and aquilegias and chives at no 5 . .

. . and fennel at no 4 with a mix of softness on the other side of the path . . .

. . aquilegias at no 3 and also the bluebells rampant this year where the bed is quite wide  . .

. . and Gladiolus byzantinus out this morning at no 2 and some stones . .  and, as this post is also about Valparaiso, a little piece of Neruda too (Adioses or Goodbyes), just for me.

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 twilight setting of all goodbyes,
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 suddenly
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.  Pablo Neruda

We visit this large public (once private) garden quite often for site visits and meetings during the process of re designing the long Centenary Borders but, have never been here at this special time of the year. It was good to arrive this visit, with some time in hand, and get stuck into the Brentry Woodland where the main Magnolia and Rhododendron collections grow. This area is quite different in feel to the rest of the gardens, due mainly  to the sandy layer of  top soil over heavy clay and also the gentle sloping site which are ideal conditions for these plants.  There is an inkling of how this species would grow in their native environment.

Rhododendron ‘Lady Bessborough’ above. The stems almost as exotic as the blooms – quite wayward as the lady herself. Lady Bessborough, for example, had two children with her lover, Lord Granville Leveson Goser. He then went on to marry her niece Lady Harriet Cavendish who became stepmother to her own cousins.  Amanda Foreman The Georgians  A true age of sexual discovery.

Rhododendron fortunei hybrid – glorious perfume – some part of this plant arrived in the UK around  1850 with the plant hunter Robert Fortune. Sir Edmund Loder raised the parent of the plant below, Rhododendron loderi ‘Game Chick’ at Leonardslee in 1900.

More beautiful stems. Below is Acer rubescens . . .

with Rhododendron ‘Isabella Mangles’ RHS. Another great name and another Leonardslee hybrid . . whilst looking to the sky, the true magnificence of this species becomes clear . . .

 . . I admit to a great loathing for these plants mixed with a genuine fondness. Playing under a long length of huge, to me at 6 years old, run of magenta flowering rhodos in a rather special playground owned by Lord Petre, has remained a favourite memory (and now I realise that this was a Capability Brown landscape). But, seeing  the same plant in suburban front gardens, have to turn the other way  (clearly it isn’t the fault of the poor plant). At Hilliers, it all seemed apposite and rather exciting – the feeling of being dwarfed came rushing back.

Another stunner Pinus pseudostrobus . . . and below something completely different Malus hupehensis in Ten Acres East on the edge of the Centenary Borders. What a beauty!

A spread of Vinca difformis was looking rather good . .

. . close to as well . .

. . a bee and a plant, Paeonia delavayi, and a poem about love. So I rediscovered Rhododendrons and all was forgiven. There is another post on this garden. Click HERE

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,   

or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:   

I love you as one loves certain obscure things,   

secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries   

the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,   

and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose   

from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   

I love you directly without problems or pride:

I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   

so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   

so close that your eyes close with my dreams. Pablo Neruda



Wandering down from the West Hill towards the Old Town is always a delight but most especially during an early summer evening when the cow parsley stands tall on the verge. Pockets of urban woodland filled with badger sets are on the left  and the tall sandstone rock supporting the higher ground on the right. It’s much more pleasant doing the walk this way that huffing and puffing up the other direction!  There are small doors and gates set into the hill-side; one is the entry to a new allotment area just being refurbed by the council and others give access to goodness knows where! In the old days smugglers used the caves in the soft sandstone for their plunder. On the town side, both front gardens and closed rear entrances form the road side in a rather a particular way. The folks behind this wall  know quite a lot about gardens – the wisteria is well pruned and forms a very attractive frothy coping to their boundary – I find it very inviting as, for some bizarre reason, I like to look at the backside of plants. So for me, the rear of a wisteria is hugely more interesting than seeing it full frontal.

The erigeron is just starting to bud up – it loves crevices and chinks in walling and paving and seeds like mad.

Also like the back view of this clematis in Croft Road snaking its way around a simple wall pier – the energy of the stems and growth pattern is more obvious from this aspect.

Some of the gated entries are clearly not used but have their own charm  . . .

 . . and a few prohibit any voyeurism . . .

 . . these entrances remind me of theatre sets but I don’t know why. It’s also quite atmospheric in this narrow sloping  and intimate road  . . this aria from Rinaldo by Handel completes the experience

Looking up above the gated entrances, some gardens are being resurrected and show clearly  that they are loved . . .

. . as is the small ‘communal’ ?? garden at the bottom of the hill. Don’t know who looks after this patch but someone cares. As I turn the corner dropping right into town, I note that residents are at it!! C. looking after someone elses pots, watering just at the right time when the light drops away. She knows what she’s doing!

farm sunday

May 17, 2010

A balding of ducks – the correct collective noun? – at the farm. Know the Indian runner ducks but, blest if I can remember the other breeds . . they look quite matey together however . .

. . there are many varieties of chooks too – all bright and colourful – but far too busy and chatty – never stand still long enough to have their photo taken.  This is the door of the tennis court where there are housed over night in very well made, and comfortable coops, away from the fox. They were all very excited to show us their living quarters and they had their own boy band too (private joke)!

The sheep graze the orchards some of the time. These are old pear orchards  – Comice and Conference – which we thought were over 50 years old. Many orchards in this area are not used for their original purpose. These are beautifully kept and the sheep appreciate the pears as they drop and even climb into the trees if they can’t be bothered to wait.

Lambs are arriving at a pace now . .

. . this is a special lamb  – named Zinino and, I think, it looks as though the adoption has taken place! . . . Not sure how many lambs can claim to be named after a Brazilian footballer – especially ewes!

There are some stunning areas of woodland here. Hornbeam, chestnut and. of course oaks, with smaller stands of alder and some white poplar. It’s a gently rolling landscaping with brooks and streams curving through the lower land. The perfume from the bluebells was quite exotic and the bees thought we smelt good too, flying into our hair and clothing.

Split stem oaks soar up to the light while the base of their trunks made a wide saucer to collect rain – all quite magical. It started to get cold again as we clambered up out of the wood and we had a good old moan about the weather. Thought about this childhood poem from ‘Now We Are Six’ as memories of playing free in woods, fields and Thorndon Park flickered through my mind:

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes…
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

 Wind on the Hill. A.A.Milne

The garden is still nicely natural – quite modest and refreshingly understated.

After a few posts, now comes the time for some self-reflection so, here I am gazing to the horizon – something I can do from my studio window too, thank goodness . . .

. . If you look  here there is a reference to teaching.  J. and I believe that encouraging students to analyse their own, and others, work will help them progress possibly even more than listening to us! All designers benefit from appraising their work and evaluating it against parameters. However, it’s easy to let this slip.

So, must make sure not to lapse into post rationalisation and simply review past posts against the sub heading of the title:  inspirations, ideas and commentary on landscapes – physical, mental and spiritual. Well, have been inspired to date and also the concentration of really looking, thinking about what my eyes are seeing and absorbing the experience has been exciting. ‘commentary’, hhmmm, this needs more effort, as A. has been saying, so will try to describe and discuss to a greater degree. This pic above conveys the analogy of information and experience flooding in, being absorbed before the tide turns,  then letting go and floating with the high tide. Think liquidity!

This blog is not based on work carried out, unlike Clive‘s and Anny‘s (see links) – to me this is more difficult, although I’m sure they’ll disagree with that comment! I’m trying to use this blog as a visual sketchbook that will develop and lead on to somewhere or something unknown – stimulating, perhaps a little intellectual and definitely fluid. So the pics above and below convey how I see this happening – layers and lines, never barriers,to investigate and experience and weave in and out of in all directions.

Someone commented that I should consider explaining the connection between text, visuals and poems within the blog. I understand the comment but, the selection of poetry is purely subjective at the moment.  The poems are analagous and often conceptual however, I can offer a hint about this poem, ‘Nevertheless’ by Marianne Moore, to me, it’s a horticultural take on perseverance and perseverance is the key to the success of the blog for me!

you've seen a strawberry
that's had a struggle; yet
was, where the fragments met,

a hedgehog or a star-
fish for the multitude
of seeds. What better food

than apple seeds -  the fruit
within the fruit - locked in
like counter-curved twin

hazelnuts? Frost that kills
the little rubber-plant -
leaves of kok-sagyyz-stalks, can't

harm the roots; they still grow
in frozen ground. Once where
there was a prickley-pear - 

leaf clinging to a barbed wire,
a root shot down to grow
in earth two feet below;

as carrots from mandrakes
or a ram's-horn root some-
times. Victory won't come

to me unless I go
to it; a grape tendril
ties a knot in knots till

knotted thirty times - so
the bound twig that's under-
gone and over-gone, can't stir.

The weak overcomes its
menace, the strong over-
comes itself. What is there

like fortitude! What sap
went through that little thread
to make the cherry red!

 Back to the first paragraph – as a designer and, at the moment, a teacher, I confess to be obsessed by concepts. Tomorrow I’m doing a bit of CPD by attending an event run by SoCo Arts  on Obsessions and Concepts. Charlotte is running this and as her work fills me with delight, it will be inspirational for sure. How one works through ideas that are never finalised and never should be finished off, but morph into a whole new world is the perfect conundrum. All to be embraced.

Will report back. The Atacama Desert December 2009

And now, details and textures – some unfolding and some just hinting of the summer to come – lightness of touch and perhaps sublimity and those very special moments – blink and you’ve missed them . . .

 . . . the fronds more visible due to heath fire . . .

. . now the orchards look like young girls . . . .

. . even some of the mature ladies look fresh and pure . . .

. . delicate broderie anglaise can also be seen at the water’s edge . .

. . and young plants can seek a tender caress before they develop into monsters, such as the gunnera above  . . .

 . . while some look delicate but assured. Last night, listening to the Bach’s B Minor Mass, I thought how similar the experiences of exquisite control in music and in the growth of plants must be.

 Admittedly, the Monteverdi Choir under John Eliot Gardiner, peform this piece with the most delicate touch and do complete justice to Bach’s quiet control and composition of notes.

Man is composed here of a twofold part;
The first of nature, and the next of art;
Art presupposes nature; nature, she
Prepares the way for man’s docility. Robert Herrick  Upon Man

floods of colour

May 9, 2010

This post has grown from an awareness of the spreads of bold colour that are appearing in vegetation. I am not concerned with detail and texture but basically celebrating the performance at this time of year.  So, oak above . . .

 . . . beech above and ivy hedge below . .

agricultural colour above and woodland floor below . . .

and woodland edge . . .

 . . . spreading carpet of forget – me – not and a sheet of berberis below  aaarrggh!!! . . . but smells great . .

 . .  a brief respite . . . before something more domestic like wallowing in the foliage and flower of the crab apple . . .

. . and then totally suburban . . . blimey! . . . can’t possibly position  U A Fanthorpe next to this . . . might need to retreat back to nature and enjoy the gorse in the dark low light of this weekend in May . . . .

May 8th: How to recognise it  U.A.Fanthorpe

The tulips have finished their showy conversation.

Night’s officers came briefly to report,

And took their heads off.

 The limes have a look of someone Who has been silent for a very long time,

And is about to say a very good thing.

 Roses grow taller, leafier,

Duller. They have star parts.

Like great actors, they hang about humbly in the wings.

 On the lawn, daisies sustain their candid

Childish shout. Hippy dandelions are stoned

Out of their golden minds. And always

 The rub-a-dub-dub recapitulation

Of grass blades growing. The plum tree is resting

Between blossom and fruit. Like a poker-player,

 She doesn’t show her hand. Daffodils

Are a matter of graceless brown leaves and rubber bands.

Wallflowers have turned bony.

 This is not the shining childhood of spring,

But its homely adolescence, angular, hypothetical.

How one regrets the blue fingertips staggering

Up from the still dank earth.

the last light of the evening bounces of the stone . . .

. . . the eye naturally looks skyward to the grandeur of the minarets and onion domes but, in fact, the building and the gardens are domestic in scale – with great charm – a piece of Eastern architecture sitting quite naturally within a piece of  English Landscape design (first restoration 1823)  . . .

 . . round by ‘the front’,  is it? the rather subtle and good lighting comes on and I am conscious of . .

 . . the large open piece of ground which looks sort of purposeful but also feels a bit unsure – the surface is a tad bumpy but maybe that’s part of the ethos of recreating the grounds in period and managing these under good organic principles. Originally these were Regency pleasure gardens for promenading. The forms and shapes would have been curving and flowing with paths gently waving through beds full of ‘natural’ planting. The gardens are empty at 8pm and quite ghostly . . .

 . . the entrance through which all the carriages arrived . . .

. . and a phormium which arrived in England before 1830 and, although it looks totally out of sorts within the other planting, it has a right to be here!

Looking more closely at the decoration on the building, foliage and branches in the foreground seem to merge into the background to create a totally filigree composition.

The evening light is dropping fast – quite ethereal – magical images in my brain and off to the Dome to listen to some ‘oud’ and ‘the silence between the notes’. Claude Debussy.

%d bloggers like this: