so superb

July 30, 2010

that they deserve a whole post  just to themselves. There surely is a self help group or a specialised counsellor that gives advice/listens to those people enduring building work. Into week 7 with a decrease in noise, thankfully I imagine  for the neighbours (very long-suffering), and on we go with works in the basement. The chaps are great, careful and respectful but home working and trying to live around the ‘invasion’ needs patience and a positive outlook. So, how wonderful to be emotionally supported by these beauties that have pealed out from their buds this morning – Lilium ‘Sumatra’  – to cheer us all. Oriental hybrid lilies with  a perfume from the East – frankincense, myrrh and frang pani – supplied by Peter Nyssen, my favourite, at the moment, bulb nursery.

The front patch is populated by Verbena bonariensis. It’s all quite girly really! I would think that about half the plants have been lost this summer but the guys have been really careful with them – tall and brittle in habit and close to the basement windows that are the access points for all builders and materials. Rather a nightmare but  I am grateful for the care shown  as they come to and fro. These views from above might explain . . .

There are a couple of pots of Geranium madarense too – both in their first year so only flowering in 2011. Well, hopefuly they will flower but with all this traffic passing in and out of the windows – surely we’ll have finished this project by next year!

These verbenas just seed on and make a forest most summers. The ‘ghost’ vertical,soft blue plant in the background in Campanula pyramidalis. These are in containers – copied from Great Dixter ( Anny Evason’s Great Dixter Garden Sketchbook has recent posts  – on my blogroll).  

As I finish this post. the perfume from the lilies is powering up to the first floor office window – and I can hear the strains of Handel’s ‘Giulio Cesare’ from the ground floor. Oh my, what a combination!!

lily has a rose
(i have none)
“don’t cry dear violet
you may take mine”

“o how how how
could i ever wear it now
when the boy who gave it to
you is the tallest of the boys”

“he’ll give me another
if i let him kiss me twice
but my lover has a brother
who is good and kind to all”

“o no no no
let the roses come and go
for kindness and goodness do
not make a fellow tall”

lily has a rose
no rose i’ve
and losing’s less than winning(but
love is more than love)

lily has a rose by E. E. Cummings

S. very kindly brought these round the other evening. I rearranged them in pairs (control, control!) as above, but  prefer them visually as she had set them out, as below . . .

. . . maybe S. had put them in their nests in the box chronologically as she gathered them ? I started to think a little about my action of re arranging the objects.  I don’t think I can blame it on the symmetry and asymmetry that I have to consider all the time workwise so, to test out these thoughts I looked around the close environment . . . . 

. . . very necessary pencils, held in perspex Muji boxes in compartments. Looks organised but it isn’t really. It’s almost impossible to select degrees of tone and, anyway, to select a tone from a Faber Castell pencil as against a Derwent pencil as against Karisma as against Caran D’Ache is all quite meaningless – individually they make differing marks with differing intensities. The group of pencils fall at differing angles too – they have a life of their own.

The mantel piece that receives very little attention. Items are set there and then forgotten about – maybe dusted around occasionally – until it gets too cluttered to hold anything more. Certain areas and items are sacrosanct – a drawing by Charlotte ( Judith and Holofernes), a postcard from Susie (the cat), a Christmas card from W + D (the lips) and a Mothers Day card ( the elephant)  from C. and the tiny jug of sweet peas. The rest will change as soon as more cards come through the door plus the odd invitation. 

A. has been to Dixter (don’t forget the plant fair here, in October, with many good small specialist  nurseries) this week and showed me her photos – some of these sparked a connection . . .

. . . here in the Yew topiary area – true ‘order and chaos’ with the control and static quality of the clipped yew forms and the randomness of the flowering Cotinus above  the natural ground layer of native flowering meadow mix. The cotinus billow out spreading their voluptuous clouds of inflorescence wherever in total abandonment.  Most wondrous.

Even more rampagious down near the pond, below the meadow, is the stand of Inula. Beautifully uncrontrollable – plant a very few and watch them go – and leave them alone!

More discreet but as amazing is Salpiglossis , from Southern Chile and a Lloyd favourite – grown from seed, in mixed colours, so never quite sure which, or what, will break forth here every summer. The growth is quite straggly  . . .

 . . . and not at all anything to write home about but, when the single flowers happen, it’s a day of rejoicing and total appreciation. William Morris and Pugin must have known about these beauties . .

So my message to myself is to  leave it well alone, relax and let it all waft over; lie back  and enjoy and breathe it in and remember!

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.  Nature is What We See – Emily Dickinson

celebrational landscapes

July 28, 2010

A  few days ago, there was a gathering to celebrate a loving partnership. Just before we all congregated in the leafy land behind the beach, the neighbours on the terrace decorated the couple’s house as part of the joyful proceedings but mainly to show their care and affection  . . .

. . most of the green and flowering material came from the small front gardens. Dorothy came out to see what was happening and also for some attention . . .

. . how could anyone resist?

The railings were also given a ceremonial outfit . . . vine, rose, fuchsia and alchemilla.

The wooded garden provided a rather magical environment for the event and since it’s discreetly hidden between the beach and the Sea Road, there was a choice to make on the last part of the journey by foot – across the fields climbing over stiles, or along the rough tree lined track or, just simply, along the beach . . .

. . . more and more guests gathered and set up their picnic or viewing space, the kids ran around amongst the trees . . .

 . . .  then the ceremony of the exchange of rings, the reading of poetry by Robert Macfarlane and songs from Sarah – Jane. The Shady Pines sang  ‘Born to be Wild’ – a lovely mix of romanticism and bonhomie – tears and laughter.

Some guests walked along the tracks lined with remnants of old walls to the pools left from the gravel excavation. The pools are lovely to swim in . . .

 . . . and on to the beach across the nature reserves.

So the journey of this event started with decorated facades and moved to shady woodland garden and finally concluded with natural, as far as possible nowadays, coastal shore. Congratulations!!!

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Phenomenal Woman Maya Angelou

Just a momentary slide show on the west facing wall of the courtyard

foliage from the bronze fennel and the standard fig (sorry about the brown bits but inevitable gull shit!)  + fennel flowers which reminds me to remove them before the seeds sprout up again like a forest next spring

the shadow of the fig looks like a line of dancers . . .

. . . and something Deborah might pick up on (14 Grande Parade  St Leonards) . . . up the steps more fennel

Herb Garden  
by Timothy Steele
 The lizard, an exemplar of the small,

Spreads fine, adhesive digits to perform

Vertical push-ups on a sunny wall;

Bees grapple spikes of lavender, or swarm

The dill’s gold umbels and low clumps of thyme.

Bored with its trellis, a resourceful rose

Has found a nearby cedar tree to climb

And to festoon with floral furbelows.

Though the great, heat-stunned sunflower looks half-dead

The way it, shepherd’s crook-like, hangs its head,

The herbs maintain their modest self-command:

Their fragrances and colors warmly mix

While, quarrying between the pathway’s bricks,

Ants build minute volcanoes out of sand.


And, at the front, those stalks and seed pods on the phormium are still making a great silhouette standing out dynamincally against the background.

to the west

July 26, 2010

passing the fishing boats going east to where they land on the Stade at Rock – a – Nore. The boats are often freckled with the gulls at the moment as all the new hungry baby gulls need feeding too. Their timetable at the moment is beach during the day and back to the roof tops and the old nests  for the night. There’s a constant ruckus at feeding times especially the early morning meal so not much chance of sleep after 5 am!  

Eagle eyed folks will notice a change in the tide and, yes, other stuff got in the way of taking these images so this post is in two episodes . . .  but the light changed so wonderfully in the afternoon that negatives were turned into positives. This is the beach at Bulverhythe and a very different landscape . . .

 . . . as the traffic routes change with the road set back away from the coastline allowing the railway and small industrial areas to form the buffer. So a slightly looser and wilder beach environment than The Stade even though this beach houses about 180 huts. One  has a promise of a green roof.

There’s a sense of the countryside meeting the shore here plus a sense of the history without clutter of seaside resort . . .

. . . the groynes are the fixed element in this landscape around which the moving elements are layered and contoured by the sea . . .

. . . and we move around, with the birds, and use the beach in individual ways at low tide . . .

. . a lug wormer; important to get the right bait for fishing . . .

. .  further west, Bexhill and the high land towards Beachy Head . . .

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.    John Donne

Saturday morning after a busy week, thought the water in the sweet pea bowl needed refreshing. Placing it back on the table and looking down into the still perfumed mass, a good 50 blooms, I decided to record the event visually. They looked so gorgeous.

Then my eye travelled a few inches to this cover by Fiona Rae  on last year’s  catalogue for the 75th anniversary of Glyndebourne  – that has some connections, for me, with the peas . . .

. . . now I was on a very pleasant little diversion as these two postcards (sent home from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile on December 17th ) on the table also had something to say to me.

Valley of the Moon with Licancobur Volcano above and Sunset at Atacama’s Great Salt Marsh below.

Above the bowl of sweet peas is a print by Gillian Ayres – so much to look at and so much to discover . . .

Even the stack of butterfly chairs just below gets me going . . .

. . . swinging around to look at the cornucopia on the mantelpiece, I rediscover the skeleton of a prickly pear from Asilah and some acacia twigs from the Little Karoo . . .

. .  which connect visually to something outside the window . . . all this within a couple of metres; and a couple of minutes.

It’s like the Light —
A fashionless Delight —
It’s like the Bee —
A dateless — Melody —

It’s like the Woods —
Private — Like the Breeze —
Phraseless — yet it stirs
The proudest Trees —

It’s like the Morning —
Best — when it’s done —
And the Everlasting Clocks —
Chime — Noon!  Emily Dickinson

Taking a break at 3.30pm yesterday  . . .

. . .  then later before supper  . . .

 . .  and finally the end of the evening and start of the night.

History of the Night

Jorge Luis Borges

Throughout the course of the generations
men constructed the night.
At first she was blindness;
thorns raking bare feet,
fear of wolves.
We shall never know who forged the word
for the interval of shadow
dividing the two twilights;
we shall never know in what age it came to mean
the starry hours.
Others created the myth.
They made her the mother of the unruffled Fates
that spin our destiny,
thev sacrificed black ewes to her, and the cock
who crows his own death.
The Chaldeans assigned to her twelve houses;
to Zeno, infinite words.
She took shape from Latin hexameters
and the terror of Pascal.
Luis de Leon saw in her the homeland
of his stricken soul.
Now we feel her to be inexhuastible
like an ancient wine
and no one can gaze on her without vertigo
and time has charged her with eternity.

And to think that she wouldn’t exist
except for those fragile instruments, the eyes.

Just cut the alchemilla and brought it into the house. It’s sitting in a green glass jug below a print by Gillian Ayres and looks great. After a private conflab with W., we hope we can cut enough to figure in next weekend’s decorations for a big event.

Cloe gave me this agave for Christmas 2008 – a difficult time as someone was passing away – and I was charmed with it.  The plant is totally self contained, requires little attention but is always interesting nonetheless. I’m fond of it for all these reasons.

Something so transitory, unexpected and beautiful has seeded itself in an ugly concrete tread on the back steps.

The ‘Giant Bronze’ fennel has already figured in the blog  – way out of scale for a small courtyard but that’s the point! The filigree texture is quite perfect – it’s fun to look deep down into the network of foliage.  Tastes good too! The osteospermums just nestle at the base of this monster and look brilliant in contrast and sort of cosy. The flower reminds me of a freshly painted surface – smart and  accommodating – the plants just get on with it and flower almost continuously. 

The tabulate aeonium seems to cause comment. Friends came to supper recently and we were chatting to one about work related things. I was conscious of the other as he walked into the courtyard, saw the plant on the table and said ‘Oh, my, that’s wooonderful’. He’s an actor!

Looking forward to seeing how Dahlia ‘David Howard’  (above) works with the ‘Karma Chocolate’. Both planted in pots (there’s very little available ground for planting here) which is a new way of growing dahlias to me. Both plants are dark, but not gloomy, one is majestic and the other is positive and that’s just the mood now. . . the arrangement of the petals is very pleasing.

Free, unpredictable, wild, uncontrollable could describe this duo of Californian poppy and Stipa tenuissima and that’s why I like them – individually they appear and flourish where and when  they please. Totally promiscuous and even better when nudging up together. This is the top of this site by the old gate. The ground is poor – hardly any top soil here as it used to be a path through – a twitten – but it has been blocked off years ago. So some reclaimed garden in a narrow channel with planting that the neighbour calls  ‘the seaside look’. Well,  it has to be self sustaining and has developed this year into an eco system in its own right. Hurrah! 

And some music here.

the long view

July 5, 2010

Too hot to work on the allotment – the tide was too low for a good swim – so an opportunity to walk between Fairlight and Pett along the coastal path, some of which is National Trust land. I’ve been drip feeding myself with Christopher Lloyd’s writing lately (always a pleasure)  and came across an article on views within the garden and beyond. The article is on ‘focal points’ – fairly scathing but very amusing – it’s titled The Long View and this was the basis for images and thoughts from the walk. The view to the east across uneven land with damp hollows where the sedge grows to the crest of the hill above Stumblet Wood. The hawthorns, punished by the south-westerly winds, make small gnarled silhouettes so the landscape out in the open is a marked contrast to .  . . .

. .  to that in Stream Lane. The ancient track appears true to its name and is often awash in winter months. Old sandstone blocks  support the land on either side so that the lane itself seems to be sunken. It was the track for the horse traffic while foot travellers kept to the raised path through the hornbeams, ferns and shady native plants. The sun pools through occasionally but it’s a damp and cool environment on a hot day in July. A few walkers, a jogger in lycra and a wobbly line of mountain bikers interrupting the peace for the permanent residents . . .

. . . a herd of about 40, mixed markings and tones. The bull, an old toffee coloured shaggy chap, was responsible for variety in skins. The path is quite constricted running along the edge of the field fencing but it cuts across to the top of the headland where  . . .

. .  viewing places are marked with seats. John enjoyed this view to the west.  Just visible is the saucer of stone that the disintegrating cliff has been given as a secondary line of defense from the sea . . .

. . and the view from Peter’s seat where the inscription reads: ‘Rest here awhile, enjoy the view and find the peace that he found too.’ He could see the sea defence work being carried out quite clearly from here.

Just 10 metres from Peter’s seat the south facing cove is tantalising but a dangerous, slippery descent even for mountain goats. Back to the footpath which is set back from the crumbling edge, the ferns are just at their peak of loveliness, still unfurling over the path so that you feel them on both sides. No sign of snakes this afternoon but real snake country . . . . .

. . looking through the willow-herb -early this year – to the sea and then straight ahead towards Cliff End and glimpses now of civilisation and the extensive view along Pett Level and Winchelsea beach . . .

. . important for me to keep focused on that long view and not to get involved in the fringe housing that has inserted itself on the left hand side of the path. Most of the owners of the surburbanised  gardens have erected tall blanket fencing that presumably cuts off their view but there are signs within the gardens of  just the sort of features and misplaced planting that Christopher Lloyd discusses in the article . . . some thatch with the bird on the ridge of the roof . . . no one around . . no one mowing . . all inside watching World Cup and Wimbledon which is good for me  . . .

. . the footpath tracks back across Pett Level road and through the open pastures of Old Marsham Farm. This gives the route quite a different character to the start of the walk. Now it’s necessary to focus on the small path signs on the other side of each field to proceed. The farmer’s around on his quad bike putting the dogs back into their pens after they’ve done their job with the sheep . . .

. . some of the land is low lying where sedges and thistles sprout up . . with field boundaries of poplars bending in the breeze . . .

. . still hot in the sun, so shade is sort after . . the final view to the east to the windfarm at Dungeness – still gives me a shock although I know perfectly well that it’s been there a while now.  The poem, Two Lighthouses, speaks of  the awareness, appreciation and the necessity for maintaining some distance in a relationship. I understand that it is  also a metaphor for terminal illness and death. To me, it talks too about the long view of evolving landscape and the need to step back or aside to consider and rationalise thoughts.

I would like us to live like two lighthouses
at the mouth of the river each with her own lamp.

We could see each other across the water,
which would be dangerous and uncrossable.

I could watch your shape, your warm shadow,
moving in the upper rooms. We would have jokes.

Jokes that were only ours, signs and secrets,
flares on birthdays, a rocket at Christmas.

Clouds would be cities, we would look for omens
and learn the impossible language of birds.

We would meet, of course, in cinemas, cafes,
but then we would return to our towers,

knowing the other was a light on the water,
a beam of alignment. It would never be broken.   Two Lighthouses   Julia Darling.

Postscript. The wildflower meadow at the farm the following evening where the mix has slowly changed visually into  midsummer tones – softer, more buttery – it seems to have absorbed the sunlight. The clouds gather and the gardeners amongst us were hopeful of rain . . .

. . .  8.30pm.

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